In what is for me a, well, ‘quirky’ situation as a London based Arsenal fan, we play tomorrow, but actually for our fans in the West, it is actually today. Which makes my ramblings for today a…I guess…match preview of some sort?

It’s all a bit odd but I guess for those fans Stateside who have to endure the mega early kick offs (I had to be in a San Francisco bar at 5am in November last season to watch us play Forest at home, so got to experience that for the first time) it is a more sociable time to be watching our beloved Arsenal, so I am happy that they don’t have to endure another early one – just yet.

But for me it means I won’t be watching. Not at 3.30am in the morning when I get up for work at six o’clock tomorrow. That won’t help me in my working day in the slightest.

It does mean that Arteta did his usual pre game presser and I’m quite surprised that nobody asked about why Balogun was seen training alone. Was it a fitness issue? Did he want to get extra training in because he is trying to force his way up the pecking order in the team? Is he being isolated because we want to sell him? All of these questions have been going through myt head and many of us since we heard the news that broke via The Athletic, but upon scouring the Internet (well, spending two minutes on a Google search) for news, all I got was an entire article on Football London based around a Twitter message Balogun posted of himself with a diamond emoji and a picture of himself in the Arsenal kit.

Not exactly the ‘scoop’ I was hoping to read but never mind. I guess until there is anything concrete that comes out we’re going to keep getting this radio silence, but even though Arteta might find it tedious, I do hope he keeps getting asked about the Balogun situation. I personally think we should be investing more minutes in him; I like Eddie, but I’m not convinced he has all of the attributes to be successful at The Arsenal, whereas Balogun has shown physical prowess, he has an eye for goal, he is a good runner and I feel like he’s got more to his all round game than Eddie, who is a predatior inside the 18-yard boc but I’m not sure how much he offers us elsewhere.

I’m not going to dwell on it too much though, as there’s not a lot of noises other than that training alone situation which I’m sure you guys have already read about it anyway. So instead let’s look to what Mikel and Gabby Jesus said and completely over-analyse their words in the context of this upcoming game and where we are this pre season. Rather than just repeat everything they talked about though (you can read the transcript on the official site here), I thought I’d pick our a few bits that stuck out to me.

They spent a lot of time talking about Pep Guardiola, which is interesting given that we weren’t playing Man City, but it goes to show just how much influence he has had in that he is still so revered at Barca. I do wonder if one day he’ll go back to Barca and to be honest with you if that day came sooner rather than later it would be great! City are adopting an interesting strategy this summer and if Kyle Walker leaves then under normal circumstances you’d probably say that they are taking a big risk in dismantling a treble winning team so soon after its greatest triumph, but because it is Guardiola, nobody is under any illusions just how good – and still favourites – City will be next season. And rightly so. But whilst Arteta and Gabby J did talk up and clearly show their fondness for Pep, it was pleasing it didn’t become too much more of a love in and I thought Arteta’s comments about the differences between the two matches – Man United at the weekend and Barca in a few hours time – and he admitted that it will be a different game. Perhaps I’m just trying to justify everything in my mind, but the more I think about it, the more I am pleased that this team is being presented with different challenges to last summer. Last summer we dispatched Chelsea, Everton and Sevilla. That was a confidence booster and set us on the path to a great season. This time around it does feel as though the opposition has been a little more carefully selected. We have a bigger squad, we need to overcome different types of playing styles this coming season and Arteta has been experimenting with how we can be less predictable. What you got won’t get you where you want to go is clearly in his mind and Man United provided the sort of opposition that caused us problems last season i.e. long ball, pressing in certain spaces, etc. Barca will now provide a test as a passing team who will press and look to control possession and move us around by them controlling the football. It will be interesting to see how we cope with that and hopefully it’ll be better than how we dealt with the long ball from United.

I also wonder if, as a result, we’ll have a different line up. Does Arteta keep the midfield three together as he tries to get more minutes in their collective tank and get them ready for playing more games together? Or does he change it because that’s what we’re going to need to do this season based on who we are facing?

I don’t really mind either way, but what I do want to see is small signs of improvement from us as a team compared to the United game, where sloppy mistakes cost us. If we can play in a way that shows we are as good – or better than – the Spanish Champions, then regardless of the result, I would be more than happy.

I think I’ll leave it there for today. We’ve got our last Same Old Arsenal summer podcast which is going out this evening at 7.30pm and if you fancy joining me and a couple of guests then you can do so here.