As I tap away at my laptop this morning, hurtling at speed on the Met Line to a day in the office, my mind is essentially doing a ‘countdown to midnight a la ‘The Watchmen’ as we rapidly approach the North London Derby. And today my time will be taken up – in between meetings – with reading to every piece of Arsenal content out there on the internet, to try to get some kind of insight or Nostradamus-esque prediction from somebody who can tell me something I don’t know that tries to give some semblance of comfort ahead of by far the biggest game of the season tomorrow evening.
Honestly, I’m looking for any crumb of hope that might make me feel like we have an additional advantage, I’m even Googling Tottenham’s injury situation in the hope of finding out that a bunch of players have come down with some kind of mystery NORO virus. That’s how much of a bag of nerves I am right now.
I went on a pod last night in the hope that it would make me feel better. It did to an extent; Danny was in bullish mood, but Amanda and James were just like me – nervous wrecks seeking solace in the virtual arms of some kindred spirits. But I imagine that Arsenal homes across the globe are all in the same dilemma right now and it ain’t the most fun time, let’s be honest.
But I have to give some props to the chaps on the Arsecast Extra – James and Andrew – because as they wrapped up their Monday show James mentioned that for all of the worry and nerves that we are feeling right now, the Scum fans are probably equally, perhaps more, nervous. That’s because they HAVE to win. You get the feeling that unless they do, it really does give us a massive opportunity to qualify for the Champions League even if it’s a draw. That’s because we have to win one of Newcastle away or Everton at home. It would be two bites of the Champions League cherry if we get a draw and so as much as we’re all chewing our fingers down to stubby tips, they must be the same.
And this is where it gets mental; because I’m even starting to look at Scum blogs to see what they are thinking. Are they as nervous as us? Are they bullish because they are at home? Is there an expectation, given their good home record against us (haven’t lost in their last seven games) that they are more than likely to get the result, or are they all worried about getting done over by their old enemy?
So as much as I’m seeking comfort in Arsenal content, I’m also slightly oddly seeking similar levels of comfort to see if their fans are feeling the same. But what’s mental is that I bet neither sets of players on either side of the divide are going as stir crazy as we are as fans. To the players this is an opportunity to play in a big game and that’s what big players want to do. Ramsdale said as much in the post-match Leeds result, that the game on Thursday would be ‘fun’. I can say a lot of things about the NLD Ramsdale my boy, but ‘fun’ isn’t one of a selection of words I’d use to describe it.
I also think of the fact we haven’t won there in seven games, that they have such a good record, then I remember about this team and how young and new they all are. Is that a benefit for us? Or is it a drawback because they don’t have the experience? I don’t know. I want to believe that because they haven’t played in many of these that they will not be overly intimidated of the atmosphere and gravity of the situation, but at this point in this young teams development, we just don’t know. They’ve shown a propensity to have a few cracks appear with some of the performances and the Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton games seemed to show this. But the way in which they dealt with the Chelski, United and West Ham games, lends me to think that maybe they can handle it.
Let’s also hope that the confidence of winning the last four in a row will play a part in the way we play tomorrow night. Before the three defeats I mentioned above, the team had got in to quite a groove and we started to see some performances with some real swagger about them. I don’t think we’ve seen the same swagger in some of the games on this four match winning streak, but I think a lot of that is down to the game state itself, as well as the opponents we were up against. All teams who were either up towards the top of the league with a battle on their hands, or in relegation desperation, facing similar levels of battle needed to avoid the drop. Tomorrow evening will be much of the same so I don’t expect to see the swagger of a confident team happy to swat aside an inferior opponent, but I just hope the confidence of this team can hold out and those four wins we’ve just had will give them an extra few percent belief that they can achieve something tomorrow night.
But we now have a wait to find out how – and if – that confidence can manifest itself in some good performances against an old and very much hated rival.
I think I’ll stop it here for today. There are no doubt countless more pieces of Arsenal information on the internet I need to consume before I speak to you again tomorrow. So I’ll catch you then.
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