Howdy folks and welcome to Tuesday. It’s funny because last night when we were chatting on the Same Old Arsenal podcast about the different stages of emotions we go through in the week leading up to a game. This was in reference to the Palace game and I admitted that when I do my musings on this blog in the morning, the tone of voice will often shift during the week. For example, in the post-game euphoria of the Fulham win, I think I had a good solid two days (Monday and Tuesday) in which I was pretty bullish, looking ahead to Sporting Lisbon and Palace and thinking we could get another couple of wins before the international tedium set in. If I take the midweek game out of the equation and just focus on the Premier League for this instance, by Thursday I was already thinking about Palace, by Friday I was starting to look at their situation and how they’d sacked Vieira ahead of our game, then by Saturday the nerves had kicked in and I was starting to convince myself that they were going to get a ‘new manager bounce’ in the shape of their caretaker boss Paddy McCarthy.

Then after the first 15 minutes, when they’d hit the post through Zaha, that feeling of dread had reached a heightened state, before we eventually kicked in to gear, took control of the game and in reality after the first goal was scored by Martinelli on 28 minutes we never really looked back. But we mused on the pod last night that it is so amazing how different people experience the same instance in different ways. People deal with situations very differently. I listen to other Arsenal podcasts and they look at the cold hard facts and state that – in truth – this Arsenal could and should have too much about it to be overcome by a Palace side absolutely in the doldrums and dropping points all over the shop. It was the same ahead of the trip to Leicester; I listened to a couple of pods from Arsenal fans saying that Leicester City weren’t a great side, that they don’t create too much and that Arsenal should easily have enough to beat them. The result on paper would suggest not, but as I wrote about at the time, it was the easiest 1-0 win I think I’ve ever seen an Arsenal team get away from home.

And I suspect I’ll be the same when the Leeds match comes around in 11 days time. As it stands right now I’m looking backwards at six wins in a row, I’m looking at a Leeds side with two wins, two defeats and a draw in its last five matches, thinking that if we do our business then we should easily have enough to beat them. I’m finding myself talking to myself saying “win all of our home games and we need to probably win two out of our five away games and we could be champions”, but as soon as any match rolls around, it has suddenly become the most difficult fixture in the season. As it stands right now I’m looking at that Liverpool game after Leeds and wondering how we are going to get anything at Anfield, but as Mikel and the players have been saying all season, the mantra must be “one game at a time” and the one directly in front of us is Leeds. I’m looking ahead of that now as if we’ve already won the game, but I can assure you this much, in a week’s time my feelings will very much start to change the closer we get to that game at the Emirates. By the time Thursday hits I’ll be talking about the fact that Rodrigo has just two goals less than Martinelli all season, about how Leeds have hardly had any penalties all season so they’re bound to get one against us, or how there is some kind of other underlying data metric that suggests that Leeds will have the run of us come kick off.

And it is all because it means something right now. It feels like it is something that we are so close to with ten games to go, yet with our difficulty of fixtures it feels like our lead at the top (just the eight points!) is so precarious that every single match against whatever opponent feels so massive. I almost don’t really listen to comments like Odegaard made when he talked last week about here being “11 cup finals to go” because I’ve heard it every season from a team in the relegation scrap, or fighting for top four, but the reality is that each of the games that are coming up for us could have a profound impact on whether we get silverware or not. Each game, each opponent, each week leading up to it with preparation, needs to be treated in the same way that a team prepares for a cup final. That’s how important it is at this stage of the season.

I’m so desperate for data points that I’m looking up websites like this one to see who has the hardest run of games between now and the end of the season. I know deep down that these types of websites should always be taken with a pinch of salt, but this stage of the season when there is a potential title on the line, feels like I need to find some sort of comfort from somewhere – anywhere – to give me hope that it isn’t going to implode with just a few games to go.

On the pod last night we were asked if Arsenal were going to win the league. I couldn’t answer it. Because I am that superstitious that I believe that the second that comment comes out of my mouth, I’ll have jinxed us. Me. Some random guy in West London would have a bearing on a football team with whom I have absolutely no control over whatsoever. But this is what title runs do to grown adults. When we won our last league title in 2004 I was 21. I’d been supporting an Arsenal team that since 1998 had basically fought for a title every season. So from the age of 16 – 21 I had gotten used to it and I didn’t feel the same levels of worry and stress that I do now. But here I am with more stresses than back then. With more worry. With more fear and superstition than I ever had. Man City fans aren’t feeling what we are feeling because they’ve become battle-hardened like I was back in the early 2000s. They know that whatever happens they’ll be fighting for a title next year and the year after. For us this is new; for some young Gooners this is all they know and they haven’t experienced a title win before. Let me tell you now, if you are one of those people, this feels a lot more nerve-racking to me than it did back then, honestly.

10 games feels like an age. It will all be over very quickly indeed. But right now, it feels like forever. But let’s keep that mantra that the team keep trotting out:

One. Game. At. A. Time.