Souness plots end of Arsenal record run

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The Independent Football

Graeme Souness last night labelled Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest team of the late 1970s as "dour" and claimed "there is no comparison" with Arsène Wenger's "spectacular" Arsenal side of today.

Graeme Souness last night labelled Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest team of the late 1970s as "dour" and claimed "there is no comparison" with Arsène Wenger's "spectacular" Arsenal side of today.

The Blackburn manager tonight faces the daunting task of trying to stop a seemingly invincible Arsenal team who are just 90 minutes away from a place in football's record books. Wenger's side equalled the 42-game unbeaten top-flight record set by Clough's twice-European Cup winners with Sunday's 5-3 demolition of Middlesbrough at Highbury. It would appear Arsenal do not know how to lose, as they demonstrated against Boro when they trailed 3-1 early in the second half, only to find an extra gear as they then ran in four goals.

Souness has the opportunity of stopping Arsenal in their tracks, just as he did 25 years ago when he was part of the Liverpool team which brought to an end Forest's glorious run with a 2-0 victory at Anfield. While many experts might have a view as to which team is the greatest, Souness is in the ideal position to comment, and he is in no doubt which team is the best.

"The Forest team then were dour, hard to beat and dug out results," reflected Souness. "Whereas this Arsenal team, anybody who knows anything about football enjoys watching them play.

"They're spectacular, exciting and everything I would want in a team. That's without taking anything away from the Forest side who originally set the record.

"They have fantastic personnel and as good as any team you want to mention... If you are a football manager you would want your team to play like that."

There are many who feel Arsenal will not join the pantheon of great teams until they win the Champions' League, but for Souness does not agree.

"I suppose there's an argument that until they win the European Cup they won't be regarded with the very best," added Souness.

"But I would certainly put them up there with any other club side you want to name in the time I've been involved in football.

"What they've done is a fantastic achievement. But I'm not interested in records, and anyway, it must end some time.

"All we're interested in is trying to get some points on the board for our club."

Souness knows he needs luck on his side if Arsenal are finally to taste defeat, adding: "Middlesbrough caught them on a day when a couple of their players made mistakes which cost them goals.

"Hopefully, there will be more of the same tomorrow. We will have a go and if we get a few breaks on the night then anything can happen."

The Blackburn left-back Michael Gray is eager to avoid being a part of Arsenal's record bid, although he concedes that, as a player, it is impossible not to stand back and admire what they have achieved.

"With them, it seems to be a case of 'if you score nine, we'll score 10'," said Gray.

"Attacking wise they are a joy to watch, and when you know they're playing on the television you want to sit back and watch because of how exciting they are.

"Teams go to try to beat them every week and they haven't been able to do it over the last 42 games. It's a fantastic achievement.

"But it has to stop eventually, and why not tomorrow? It would be nice to stop them breaking that record.

"We don't want go down as the 43rd team against which they broke the record. We don't want to be a part of them breaking that record.

"So that's in the back of your mind, and I'm sure the manager will be drilling that into us."

Souness's plans will not be helped, however, by the fact that his captain, Barry Ferguson, is suspended after receiving two yellow cards in Saturday's 3-2 defeat at Southampton, despite the Scotland midfielder not being sent off following a mistake by the referee Andy D'Urso.