Happy Good Friday to you and yours. Hope you have nice things planned with the family. I’m spending the day doing jobs before sauntering over to the Mother-in-Laws so I can vegetate for a few days and just spend my time relaxing.

Except I won’t really ever ‘relax’ properly, because of what looms on the horizon in Liverpool on Sunday late afternoon. I might be at a family dinner around that time so I might not even be able to watch the whole match, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to spend all of the build up and tomorrow too thinking about this massive test for The Arsenal in the North West.

And we don’t really like going up there, do we? What is it about the North West, eh? This season we’ve gone up there for our annual defeat against United, we’ve once again succumbed to a pretty poor Everton side, as well as being knocked out against Man City in the FA Cup. I had a look at last season too and we drew 0-0 at Anfield in the League Cup Semi Final, we lose 2-1 to Everton in December 2021, we lost 3-2 to United the week before that, as well as a 4-0 defeat to Liverpool in the November, then before that there was that difficult start to the season where we lost our first three games and in that was the 5-0 defeat at the Etihad. In fact, even the season before that the only win we got up there was that game during lockdown with no fans where we beat United 1-0 with an Aubameyang penalty.

Is it some kind of psychological thing? Do they put something in the water up there that messes with the players minds?

Probably not. But it is a pretty rubbish record for a team like ours with a club the stature of ours, to so consistently play poorly and come away with defeats. Actually scrap that, because some times we’ve played really well, but we’ve still ended up losing. Sometimes it is because we’re being shafted, so you naturally look to the refereeing performance and this weekend we’ve got a Greater Manchester-based referee in Paul Tierney. He’s a shocking ref and I’m expecting a solid 70-30 split in terms of decisions going Liverpool’s way, but with a home crowd sure to make some noise at least initially, we are going to have to start and start well to quieten them down.

And I’ve seen it quiet before. I watched a bit of the Liverpool v Chelsea lunchtime kick off a month or so back and that bore fest of a 0-0 had the home support barely mustering a chant. We need to be able to deliver the same against Liverpool and if we do, then we stand a really good chance of maybe picking up a point or three. But if we give them something to cheer about, then it could be problematic for us.

There was no press conference yesterday, so I suspect it’ll be today, which means we’ll get team news later and also see what kind of mood Arteta is in. I wonder if the journo’s will ask him about the All of Nothing experiment of speakers playing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ will get another outing. Given we were eventually humbled, I suspect the answer to that is a firm ‘no’, but I suspect it wouldn’t be something he’d do again even if it did work. What the documentary last season did show us is that when it comes to motivating his team he’s normally quite inventive; there was the brain and heart image he drew, the lightbulb moment, etc. But with all of those things you can really only use them once, so I suspect he’ll have a different discussion and approach to this game, much like he had against Leeds last week and Palace before the international break.

Or maybe he doesn’t need to do that kind of stuff as much any more? After all we are hearing so much now about how the players are so demanding of each other already, that maybe Arteta can just sit back and let them motivate each other without him having to drive them forward. When you build a team with a strong mentality, sometimes you need to let them do their own thing and although this team is still quite young, I do wonder whether Arteta is letting them solve their own problems a little more. Arsene Wenger arrived at Arsenal and had a back line of old pro’s who had been together for years. He didn’t need to come in and tell them what to do, because they already knew; they had won trophies, league titles, etc, so he allowed that back line to motivate themselves and their teammates a lot and that helped us to a title in 1998 that at Christmas time looked pretty unlikely (in November and December we’d lost to Derby, Sheff Weds, Liverpool and then Blackburn at home).

So maybe Arteta will reserve something special for some of the biggest game and right now – regardless of what people think about Liverpool this season – it feels like easily the biggest game of the season, just because of the proximity we have to the end of the season and the fact that every win feels absolutely massive.

There’s no real other team news as I type right now so I think I’ll hold fire on any more thoughts until tomorrow. We’ll know by then what shape Liverpool are in, as well as what shape Arsenal are in, so it’ll give us a good indication on what tools Arteta will have at his disposal come 4.30pm on Sunday.

Catch you all tomorrow.