The first task for the panel was to make sense of the fog surrounding who will be the Chelsea boss next season. Paul Hayward (Observer) rationalised why Guus Hiddink is now the fans’ favourite to stay on at the Bridge, however the hack conceded that Chelsea remain the play-thing of Roman Abramovich and accordingly it is virtually impossible to second guess the future. Martin Samuel agreed that Abramovich had been clouded by bad advice in the past, arguing that the Blues need to be steered by the manager.
Next was a forensic analysis of the Gunners and Arsene Wenger’s current evaluation of the Arsenal squad. John Dillon (Daily Express) discussed how Wenger has made himself the victim of his own principles, particularly in the transfer market. Paul Hayward interrupted to argue that Wenger has often chosen to play “ice-hockey” football instead of buying “gladiators” like Alonso or Barry, suffering as a consequence. Martin Samuel concluded that when Wenger is wrong, “he is often wrong for the right reasons.”
The final topic of debate was a discussion of the war of words between Ferguson and Benitez. Martin Samuel picked on the role of the media in creating a story where none really exists saying the top four is actually quite boring and the public need this clash of personalities to spice things up. Paul Hayward countered that Benitez has intentionally tried to verbally gnaw away at Manchester United although he had not done it successfully.