Greetings fellow Gooners from the temporary home of Flo Balogun: Reims. I’m here because The Management has always wanted to visit the champagne region and it is for that reason that I’ll probably only be temporarily checking in here for the next few days.

But as an Arsenal-obsessive like you, our beloved team are never far from my thoughts and so today even though I can’t watch the game, I’ll be spending the latter part of the afternoon furiously refreshing my phone whilst I walk through tasting tours. The friends I’m with won’t understand, but The Management will, so that’s fine by me.

And it’s a tough one today, I gotta say. The kind of ‘tough one’ in which I’m once again struggling to see how we get what we need to get to keep any kind of dreams alive of the Premier League. If I’m honest those kind of disappeared after the defeat at the Etihad; Man City won again yesterday and they’ve now done 10 victories in a row and it means they’re four points clear and if/when we drop points today, they’ll even have themselves a buffer.

So what we need to do this afternoon is something that only one team has done so far this season: beat Newcastle on their own patch. They’ve lost just once at home all season, they’ve conceded just 11 goals, and three of those was in one game when they drew with Man City.

Under Eddie Howe they have become a very difficult side to beat. Defensively strong, a compact unit, masters of time wasting and sh*thousery. They are a side who time wasted about a third of the game at the Emirates and if they get ahead today I expect more of the same, because clearly the referees aren’t going to deal with it, such is the shocking lack of authority that we have within our domestic game.

As for what we need to do, well, for me the performance against Chelsea was great, but we can’t bust out the same players, because I don’t think it’ll work. Jorginho had a lovely ol’ time against his former side on Tuesday, but that’s because they didn’t bother to press us at all and we could dominate the ball. We might see more of the ball against Newcastle today, but they’ll aim to work in transition and that won’t work with the Italian in the team; he is not a transition player. So we need to bring Partey back in to the fold.

And I think he’ll bring Martinelli back in too. My hope is that a rested Partey and Martinelli are fired up for this game and if we can find gaps in behind Trippier and Burn then hopefully Saka and Martinelli can exploit. But it’s going to be a big ask. Newcastle are in form at the moment and have started to add goals, as well as be solid defensively. Isak is a fine player and I think he’ll go on to do good things at Newcastle; you could see why we were supposedly interested. Wilson is a hard working, hard pressing, good centre forward. Willock too can help to lead and press but along with Joelinton he will help to double up on our forwards and nullify our wide forwards just as they did at The Emirates.

So Arteta has to find an answer to that. Since that game we have added Trossard and Gabriel Jesus is now fit, so hopefully he can cause them more problems than Nketiah did in January, as I thought he struggled and never really got anywhere with the Newcastle centre halves. We need to have players who can wriggle out of situations where there are Newcastle bodies getting through and so I suspect there will also come a time in the game in which Trossard will be needed.

Then, at the back of Gabriel is fit and good to play, we have to wheel him out alongside Kiwior. No more Holding; we need more pace, better distribution, a stronger presence in there and whilst he will face a much stronger opposition than he did against Chelsea during midweek, I think it’s something that we just have to give a shot. We know what Holding does/doesn’t give us, but we’re now at ‘rolling the dice’ stage of the season and even if it doesn’t work I still think that we have to give it a go.

What kind of Arsenal will we see today? Will it be one buoyed by the confidence of a midweek win and determined to not let the recent slips define what has been a great season? Or will we see one overawed by the occasion, the crowd, the situation, that falls up just short. Obviously I am hoping for the former, but I gotta admit to you that I’m very afraid that the latter is the case today.

Because I’m in Reims I’m not going to be podding tonight, but if you fancy tuning in and getting involved in the post mortem of the game, Amanda and James have a couple of guests on tonight’s Same Old Arsenal pod.

I may or may not be back tomorrow – depends on how hungover I am – but fingers crossed for a positive result today and three points.

Catch you all tomorrow.