Louis van Gaal and Arsene Wenger need Sunday to be a good day. They need it for different reasons, but need it they do.

With Manchester City and Tottenham winning on Saturday and Leicester drawing, Arsenal will need at least a point from Stoke City at The Britannia Stadium to return to the summit.

They currently sit third, one point behind the leaders Leicester and level on points with City. Although their goal difference is inferior to City’s it is superior to Leicester’s so they would go top with a draw. Obviously it would be better from an Arsenal point of view if they could get all three points, that way they could at least put a little daylight between themselves and the pursuers.

A loss to Stoke would not be disastrous, however it would encourage Tottenham Hotspur who are currently only four points behind them in fourth place.

For Manchester United only a win will lift them above West Ham into fifth place. More importantly it would keep them within two points of Tottenham. What they certainly don’t need to be doing is allowing a gap to develop between fourth place and the rest.

The problem for both Arsenal and United is how open the Premier League is this season. There are certainly incentives for Stoke City and Liverpool to win the games tomorrow. If Liverpool win and Stoke lose, then Liverpool would go above Stoke into seventh position. If Liverpool win by ten goals, (ha ha!), then they would go above United into sixth.

If Stoke win and United lose then Stoke will go above United into sixth, unless they win by seven goals, in which case they will go above West Ham into fifth. It isn’t such a long time since Stoke City scored six against Liverpool at the Britannia, so scoring seven against Arsenal is not beyond the realms of possibility. It is, however, well beyond the realms of probability. I hope you are still awake after that barrage of statistics!

What to expect from the two elder statesmen of the Premier League tomorrow is anybody’s guess. In midweek, both played some scintillating football but both conceded three goals and both let a winning lead slip in the very last minutes.

For van Gaal this would usually mean that he spends the rest of the week on defensive training and the following game is a boring 0-0 draw. The reason being that United either defend well, or they attack well, they very rarely do both, not in the same game anyway. He would have been pleased with the goals scored against Newcastle but disappointed that they couldn’t hold on to, firstly a 2-0 lead and secondly, a 3-2 lead.

Arsene Wenger is a little more difficult to read. His initial reaction would be the same as van Gaal, which is to tighten up defensively. The problem for Wenger is that his team don’t really do boring 0-0 draws and, if they tried to play that way, would probably lose. He is less likely to change anything than van Gaal. He will rely on his defenders being better against Stoke but play a similar game to the Liverpool one.

So there are prizes for any successful teams tomorrow. All winning teams will climb at least one rung of the Premier League ladder, whereas defeat, without being calamitous, would put a slight dent in the momentum all these clubs have been gathering recently.

Unfortunately, the overwhelming desire tomorrow will definitely be not to lose. Consequently, much as I don’t like the thought, both games will probably end in a draw which only really helps the teams who won today.

Arsene Wenger and Louis van Gaal, whatever happens, will live to fight another day. I can’t see that failing to beat Liverpool at Anfield will result in van Gaal being dismissed and Wenger certainly won’t be retiring before the end of the season, which is unfortunate for all the Arsenal fans who wish he would!


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