I don’t particularly want to dwell on Man City too much today, but given it is they who are currently in the way of a first league title for us since god knows when, perhaps it is inevitable that I – like many Arsenal fans I converse with online – are paying particular attention to everything they do. So when they progress to the semi finals of the Champions League like they did by drawing with Bayern last night, the first question that every Arsenal fan has on their lips is:

“What does that do to their fixture list? Could they drop points somewhere?”

It would perhaps be a little more comforting if they had a series of difficult away trips in the league to contend with, but their fixture list is quite kind for this crucial run run in, which probably lends itself to an advantage on their part because despite the fixture congestion they will have in May, they play games in which you’d expect Pep to rotate and still pick up victories.

But their fixture list in May as it stands will have eight football matches in it over 31 days. That is a game just under every four days and as one Arsenal fan I follow put it on Twitter last night “if they win every single one of those games, then fair f*cks to them”.

They look like they probably will right now, but before any of that becomes a concern we have a pivotal April that could be the difference between them having a leisurely procession towards a treble, or a squeaky bum time period in which they have to be flawless. For us April has Southampton at home in which I have been getting weird butterflies of nervousness in the last 24 hours. Then we have the game at the Etihad which I don’t hold out much hope for, followed by a Chelsea team who you just know will suddenly realise they aren’t a complete bag of dogs d*icks for one night, before turning back in to muppets for when City play them. Then we have an away trip to Newcastle who are fighting for top four, will give a raucous atmosphere and could well signal the death-knell of our title charge.

Yes folks, we are reaching the climax of nervousness for Arsenal fans right now, with the fear of failure or ecstasy of success feeling like they have just a thin veil between the two. Which side will we fall down on though?

That will all be decided soon enough, but for now the team have been back at London Colney and yesterday there were some training pics released. As is now the norm for these pictures, the ones that were chosen for release were clearly carefully vetted by the club no doubt, but I’m kind of ok about that these days. We all know the format with Arteta, the training pictures, as well as his comments for his press conference, which I suspect will be played out at some stage today given that we play tomorrow.

He’ll no doubt be asked about Saliba, for which he’ll be very non-committal, but I was listening to a podcast on my run this morning and I heard one of the podcasters saying that Saliba has been spotted on a bike with Mo Elneny. Now, Elneny is out for the season and the bikes are minimal strain on the joints, so you can’t read too much in to it I guess, but as a fan desparately clinging to the hope he can be back fit with us asap, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. My hope upon hearing that he is doing light training is that his fitness is still ticking over, that he’s had a month where the club have been monitoring his progress, that they’ve earmarked that City game and that he is an outside chance of getting some time. At this point even if he’s in the squad that would be a massive bonus; in the FA Cup game against City at the Etihad we had Holding start and he basically wrestled Haaland for 45 minutes, before coming off and letting Saliba handle him thereafter. If you offer me that same option right now, I’d take it. I mean of course I’d prefer Saliba did the full 90 and was 100% fit, but as it stands and going by what Arteta said a week ago when he said Saliba was “a few weeks away”, that said to me that he would have no chance of making the City game. Even if he can only do 45 minutes because of his lack of match sharpness, I’d absolutely take that, then hope that Holding can at least go 45 minutes without succumbing to the inevitable Haaland beasting that he’d get.

What else is new then? Well there was some stuff around the fact that Michael Oliver will be the ref for the City game next week, but I almost don’t want to think about that stuff yet, because we have a Southampton side tomorrow night fighting for their lives. They will come to the Emirates with nothing to lose and that is a dangerous situation for us to be in tomorrow because we can’t afford the same complacency as we’ve shown in our last two matches. So whilst talk of that game on the horizon continues, I am concerning myself solely on Southampton at home. Because if we lose or draw that game then the City match at the Etihad will feel kind of redundant to me; City will know that they don’t have to win against us, that they can focus on their game in hands, it will play in to their hands and that will probably end up with us coming a-cropper in Manchester. Which we always do, as I wrote about last week when reflecting on how we always seem to do terribly in the North West.

So all eyes must be on Southampton. All eyes need to be focused on the now. Do your job at home and then if you manage to beat the Saints – no game is a banker in this league – then you can start worrying about how thick the grass is cut in Manchester, who is refereeing the game, how many Arsenal players are able to even play, etc.

That’s me done for today. Back tomorrow with a preview ahead of the game and on what Arteta said in his presser today.

Have a good one folks.