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Man Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea should all be ashamed to be in fight for fourth

“You don’t know what you’re doing” was the suggestion the angry and frustrated Chelsea fans flung at Maurizio Sarri.

It was understandable, too.


Yes, Sarri has guided his side past bitter rivals Spurs to reach the Carabao Cup Final — a penalty shoot-out that will long be remembered at Stamford Bridge.

But four Premier League matches into 2019, and Chelsea have scored just twice — both against Newcastle — in 360 minutes of action.

They are playing with drift and inertia, rather that intensity.

They look like a collection of players prepared to turn their toes in at any opportunity, rather than digging deep.

And yet, despite all that, despite the fear factor, despite the sense of a season on the brink of the abyss, Chelsea are only out of the top four on goals scored.

While Spurs are still missing Harry Kane and Dele Alli – and are certainly not convincing – their hold on third, and ambitions of maybe edging themselves back into the title race, strengthened appreciably over the course of the last few days.

That seven-point gap is a big one.

Not unbridgeable, of course, but still decent with only 14 games to go.

And, in what has to be seen as a savage indictment of the past six months in London and Manchester, it means the third, eighth and ninth wealthiest clubs in the world look to be scrapping for the fourth and final place at Europe’s high table for next season.

Clubs that have spent, collectively, almost £1.3BILLION over the past three seasons, fighting for “the fourth place trophy”.

And not very well, either.

United are 16 points adrift of Liverpool but only 10 ahead of seventh placed Wolves. Chelsea and Arsenal, too, are closer to Wolves than the summit.

The Big Six table, of results between the Prem’s biggest clubs, might look more healthy. Not the table that actually counts.

The reasons are many.

But boil down to a simple truth – United, Chelsea and Arsenal all have fundamental flaws.

Just look at the teams they have failed to beat this season.

Unai Emery’s men may have had a 22-game unbeaten run through the autumn but they have also lost against Southampton and West Ham and dropped points to Crystal Palace, Wolves and Brighton.

Chelsea’s humiliation at Bournemouth followed defeats by Wolves and Leicester as well as draws with West Ham, Everton and Southampton.

And while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has brought back a feel-good factor at Old Trafford, he is only repairing some of the damage caused as Jose Mourinho’s men lost to Brighton and the Hammers and were held by Wolves, Palace, Southampton and now Burnley.

More crucially, all three appear to be playing with confidence that is, at times, gossamer thin.

To be fair to Solskjaer, he has picked his players off the floor, given them a renewed sense of identity and determination.

The results have followed, although, in truth, without David De Gea’s wondershow at Wembley the picture would be looking somewhat bleaker.

United are the one side of the three you could say have something approaching momentum, although the impressive recent run has only got them back into a contest that was in danger of leaving them behind before Mourinho was sacked.

And even at Old Trafford, there are still huge doubts over Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku, Fred and the entire defence in front of De Gea.

Clarity, and hard decisions, will be needed whoever ends up in the dug-out next season.

Arsenal took advantage of the slips of their two rivals to steal a march on both, although the Emirates did not exactly resound to victory chants on Tuesday evening.

On another night, Cardiff would have come away with something.

The desperate run of defensive injuries has, in truth, destabilised Project Unai but it is the Spaniard who has chosen to fall out with Mesut Ozil.

Can Arsenal really allow a £350,000-per-week player to hang around on the fringes?

And the weaknesses of Emery’s squad were displayed for all to see in that FA Cup defeat by United last Friday.

They never looked like getting back into the game after they were caught cold on the counter once again for Anthony Martial’s killer third.

As for Chelsea, the issues arguably run deeper.

Twice now, in under a fortnight, Sarri has publicly slammed the mentality of his players.

When previous Chelsea managers went down that path, they did not last long.

Eden Hazard seems disaffected, nobody outside the Italian manager appears to have any faith in Jorginho, N’Golo Kante looks like a Shakespearean actor asked to play a bit-part in a Brian Rix farce and the defence is thrown out of kilter if David Luiz is not 100 per cent on his game from the first few seconds.

Had Everton got their act together, Leicester actually wanted to play for Claude Puel or Wolves been in their second year back in the top flight, the big-name trio might have been facing real embarrassment of fighting for fifth.

Nobody has a right to win games. You have to earn it.

But for Arsenal, Chelsea and United, with all their wealth and resources, it is simply nowhere near good enough.

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