Sport Comment: Don’t write off steady Gunners for the title

John Inverdale
YOU ARE carrying a shopping bag along a road near Oxford Street and Jose Mourinho is coming towards you. It is eight years ago and Chelsea have just won the title for the first time in six decades. Boldly you stop and congratulate him. He smiles graciously and asks what is in the bag. You say a sweater. He says sweaters are hard to buy because they have to complement the shirt. You agree, and because there is nothing else to say, you go your way and he goes his, and that is the only time in my life that I have met The Special One.

So the question six days before the start of the Premier League, is what kind of sweater Wayne Rooney might be if he finally ends up at Stamford Bridge. A cashmere deluxe offering to sit alongside the array of bright and sparkling shirts that Jose has at his disposal – or a threadbare fashion disaster? Is the future of England’s most famous current player the key to the destination of the Premier League crown, as many pre-season pundits would have us believe, or an irrelevant sideshow?

Is Rooney now not more at home in the Royal Box at Wimbledon than at the coal face of the penalty box?

The new season promises so much, not least because there are more imponderables than for many a year.

It is not unreasonable to expect the post-Ferguson Manchester United to be more vulnerable than for a while, and Manchester City’s managerial upheaval smacks more of hope than expectation. Liverpool’s failure to confront the extraordinary behaviour of Suarez, which has overtones of City’s lamentable dealing with Carlos Tevez, may cast a considerable cloud over their immediate prospects, for while mavericks on and off the field are good for column inches, they don’t necessarily produce the goods when the trophies are handed out.

Which is why my prediction to be Premier League champions come next May are the steady conservatives of the Emirates Stadium.

With so many question marks over the other leading contenders, it doesn’t take too much of a leap of faith to see the Gunners – who know exactly what they’ve got in their wardrobe – finally ending their trophy drought.

Mourinho may have been lured by the comfort of an old raincoat at the Bridge, but with or without Rooney, he’ll have to accept Arsene Wenger wearing the Premier League trousers in nine months’ time.