Here we are folks. This has felt like a ridiculously long week for me, excruciatingly so, but we’ve arrived at the worst day of the football calendar in my opinion: North London Derby Day – away from home.

At home it’s a horrible feeling of nerves, but that is tempered somewhat by our record at home. It’s good. Really good. And towards the beginning of this season it was another good day out that had the highs and jubilation of victory and a 3-1 win over the old enemy, the Scum, themthat lot. And it was a superb performance which felt like one of a number of kick starters to our season. And it has been a good season up to this point. We sit in fourth, four points clear, with three games to play and given where we were after three games, regardless of what happens tonight, when the dust settles after this evening and this season, we should still be looking at the season as a whole as one in which we have made positive strides forward. We were looking for sixth or possibly fifth if the season goes well when Arsenal fans made their predictions before the season started. We know we have secured fifth. But a bigger prize could be in store if the Arsenal players turn up tonight.

That is going to be a tough ask though, because our record at the Toilet Bowl isn’t good. No win in eight years, no win in seven matches, dating back to March 2014 when a Tomas Rosicky howitzer flew past Lloris after two minutes and we hung on for victory. That word, victory, used to be something we could more frequently say and experience against them in the 90s and early 2000s, but away from home it has become a rarity in recent years and it’s the reason that I’m not overly confident about tonight.

Perhaps it is my natural pessimism for these types of matches, but I can’t say that I can see us going there and getting all three points. I think there is just too much riding on it for the Scum and I think they will absolutely go at us from minute one this evening. And if they score first, with our record of only once coming from behind to win under Arteta in the Premier League, it will almost feel like game over for us. Even if we score first, it will be more of the same pressure and we can all expect a long and painful evening. As long as we are not losing, those minutes are going to feel like they are stretching out in to eternity. If we go behind it will feel like th 90 will flash before our eyes.

And there are yet more doubts this morning about some players. Arteta says they are assessing Bukayo Saka and Ben White is also still a doubt. That is a big blow because the thought of Cedric coming up against Son or Kulesevski is a terrifying one. I hope White is fit and able to play and if he is then he has to start with Holding, Gabriel and Tomiyasu at left back. It would give us aerial prowess against those longer Tottenham raking balls, plus it would be our best four defenders on the pitch against an impressive Scum front three.

Those first 20 minutes feel like everything. If we can ride out those and remain compact, maybe we can start to frustrate the home crowd. I’d love us to do to the Scum exactly what they did to Liverpool by just tucking in, being compact and hitting on the counter. Which is why I am torn between Martinelli and Smith Rowe being the best options to start. If we’re looking for lightning counters with pace then you go Martinelli, Nketiah and if Saka isn’t fit you play Pepe because he has the pace to run in behind. There’s been some speculation amongst a few Arsenal fans because the club showed a video of shooting practice and Pepe was featured heavily, but I don’t think that we can read too much in to that. If Saka is not deemed fit enough to start I do wonder if he’ll move Martinelli to the right and play Smith Rowe on the left. Or he could swap it and have two players better in possession in Smith Rowe and Odegaard closer together. But whatever he does, we’re going to need to see the best from our forward players, because I don’t think we’re going to get tonnes of chances tonight.

But can Arsenal ‘rope-a-dope’ in a game like this? That’s how so many teams have beaten Tottenham this season; they set up compact and give them the ball, sitting everyone behind it and letting Tottenham play with all of their players having it in front of them. Burnley have done that, Wolves did it, so many teams have been able to frustrate them but I’m not sure we can, not in a derby game like this, anyway.

Today is going to feel like a long day. Then this evening is going to feel like a long evening. But the prize is there for all to see. If somebody could offer me the most disgustingly turgid 0-0 I would bite your hand off and totally relish every minute. But this game never finishes 0-0 and we have to recognise that the Scum will score. It’s inevitable. So it is about how we respond and how we step up when the inevitable happens. I hope our young players can do just that.

And if they don’t and the horrible happens and we are defeated this evening, the players need to wipe that from their memories instantly, because there will be no time to feel sorry for ourselves. Newcastle await at St James’ Park and that will be super difficult on Monday night. But regardless of what happens this evening we can still qualify from the Champions League with a win in the North East on Monday and a victory at home against Everton on the final day. That should not escape anyone’s memory and the players need to keep that in their minds. Who knows, knowing that regardless of this result we still have it in our own hands, might just release those Arsenal players to play with more freedom this evening and truly express themselves. I certainly hope so.

Cross everything folks. And I’ll see you on the other side.

Catch you all tomorrow.