Nine years without a trophy means you better mind the gap, Arsène Wenger

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Lose today and Arsenal will be as far off the top as at any time since 2004

Nine years ago last Thursday, Arsenal won the Premier League at White Hart Lane, held to a 2-2 draw but continuing the unbeaten record they then maintained for the remaining four games of the season to inscribe themselves in football history as The Invincibles.

The notion that they would finish 12 points behind Chelsea the following season, even with a brash new upstart called Jose Mourinho coming on to the scene, seemed far-fetched; as for reaching 2013 having won one FA Cup final on penalties and no more trophies at all... "unthinkable" hardly covers it.

Yet here is Arsène Wenger, still in charge and trying to talk away his team's latest deficit behind the League leaders, currently standing at 21 points. If Manchester United were to win at the Emirates this afternoon, the margin of 24 would equal the furthest that Arsenal have finished in arrears since their last success. In that time they have only once (in 2008) ended up within 10 points of the winners, and the average gap has been 15 points.

Wenger frequently argues that there has been another sort of consistency. "What we have managed during this period is not finishing 12th or 16th in one season, we have always been in the top four," he said on Friday. "I don't know if you read the statement of John Terry when [Chelsea] played in the Europa League. He said: 'There is only one thing that matters for us – to finish in the top four'. That is a real target. We have always been in there. We missed something, we were short a few times to win the title. And I am sure we will be back again."

Certainly, 15 successive seasons in the Champions' League is a fine record. On the other hand, Terry has lifted 11 major trophies but no Arsenal captain has lifted any since Patrick Vieira. With four games left, Arsenal's only target is to extend that European run, preferably by taking third and avoiding qualifying in August. Lose today and they would be vulnerable to Chelsea, at home to Swansea today, and Tottenham.

There have several talented players who served the club well but did not win a trophy, while Robin van Persie only won an FA Cup medal before moving on to better his chances. Wenger would like it known that for all his United goals, Arsenal have managed almost as many as last season, with four players having reached double figures. In Olivier Giroud's three-match absence, he now needs Theo Walcott (18 goals) or Lukas Podolski (14) to keep up the ratio.

As for the Dutchman's impact at Old Trafford, Wenger says: "Look, Man United won 20 championships. They won a few without Robin van Persie. They lost only on goal difference last year and if QPR did not know that they were safe [towards the end of the final match], they would have won it last year. You can say that Robin had an impact but do you really think that I am surprised?"

Sir Alex Ferguson, meanwhile, has listed Van Persie among a team of 11 great strikers he has had at United from Mark Hughes and Brian McClair onwards, and praised him as a man as well as a footballer. "It took him three or four months to get his personality into the training sessions, but he lives the right way, he trains the right way," Ferguson said. He mentioned United's victory over Arsenal in the Champions' league semi-final of 2009. "The boy [Kieran] Gibbs slipped for one of the goals. The only Arsenal player who went up to Gibbs was Van Persie. He put his arm round his shoulder – and he's getting that influence on the young players here."

With 24 League goals after last Monday's hat-trick against Aston Villa, Van Persie has been a key element this season – whatever Wenger believes.

Arsenal v Manchester United is on Sky Sports 1 today, kick-off 4pm

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Sport
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
transfers
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
transfersColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn