New Blue Threat That Should Fire Up These Old Foes; Wenger and Ferguson Can Use FA Cup Final to Put Down Marker for Next Season

Article excerpt

Byline: MICHAEL HART

Arsenal v Man Utd

THE FA CUP FINAL

ARSENE WENGER bristles with indignation at the suggestion that Chelsea's dominance of the domestic game has reduced tomorrow's FA Cup Final to an end-of-season sideshow.

For the best part of a decade, before the arrival of Roman Abramovich and his considerable fortune, Arsenal and Manchester United carved up each season's goodies with undisguised glee and little regard for those simply unable to compete at the highest level.

Times have changed. Chelsea are now the dominant force and, while they luxuriate in the glow of their remarkable success, the FA Cup Final will provide us with the chance to assess where their main challenge will come from next season.

Arsenal finished 12 points behind the champions with United 18 points adrift. "We have a third competitor in there now," said Wenger. "I expected for a long time that it was going to be Liverpool. They have won 18 League titles in their history so they will certainly come back some day.

"But Chelsea look to be the third force, if not the first, at the moment.

It will make it very interesting next season. I feel they could dominate because they are financially a 'doped' club. They have unlimited financial resources to enhance their level of performance. It's a kind of doping.

"It puts a pressure on the market that is not very healthy. They can go to Steven Gerrard or Rio Ferdinand and offer twice what they earn."

Arsenal and United are faced with a choice; they can either shrug with indifference and moan about an uneven playing field or they can accept Chelsea's challenge.

There's no doubt that they both have the players and the experience to sustain a head-to-head fight with Chelsea for the title. …

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