It’s match day in North London today! And that brings with it equal measures of excitement and trepidation. Always has, always will, but come 3pm Arteta and his players need to be ready to step up and do the business against a Fulham team smarting from a home 3-0 defeat last weekend against Brentford, as well as having lost Mitrovic to the Saudi cash and Tim Ream to suspension. Those two are a big loss for them I think, but they welcome back Palhinha in to anchor the midfield and every time I’ve seen him I’ve been impressed, so he will offer more cover and a more combative approach than were he not available, so Fulham fans will be hopeful of a better screen in front of their back line as a result.

As usual I did a bit of behind-enemy-lines snooping on some Fulham pods to see what their vibe is that ‘stranger things have happened’ when it comes to Fulham getting a result today. That is true, this is football, which is why even though the odds appear in our favour, even though we have a pretty decent squad to call upon (including the return of Gabby Jesus), even though Fulham have injuries, suspensions and players who have just been sold, it takes a bit of inspiration and fortune for this to turn out to be a grim day for us.

For example, on one blog I read that it said that Bernd Leno has already faced ten one-on-ones this season alone. TEN! That suggests an open defence that can get cut through easily, but I don’t expect Marco Silva to go too expansive today with how he sets up his team. Why would he? He’s going away from home, with players missing, against a team that competed for the title last season and have won their first two games. He’s going to want to ensure he has the protection and a compact unit that can hopefully spring traps if we are too aggressive. But that is what we are; an aggressive compact pressing team who will look to squeeze Fulham high up the pitch and win the ball in their half, forcing turnovers when Fulham have the ball, which you wouldn’t expect to be that often.

Fulham are missing Ream, but this Calvin Bassey chap looks good and by the sounds of it Fulham have him earmarked him as the Ream replacement, it wouldn’t surprise me to see he has the debut of his life in defence, then behind him a returning Leno is inspired and essentially becomes The Octopus for a day against us.

So it is incumbent on Arsenal to ensure even thought the inevitable amazing performance from ‘keeper and centre halves is incoming, we still have enough to get the goals. And in our team you’d hope we do. Which is why I initial I thought Arteta isn’t changing too much today, but now when I think about options available I’m not so sure. I think Zinchenko comes in because of the absence of Timber and Tomiyasu, which I suspect means Gabriel returns to the side, with Saliba and White occupying a back four. In front of them I suspect Partey comes back in to midfield, but that poses a conundrum because I’m not sure it would mean Rice sitting in the base of the midfield either. So I suspect Rice gets moved forward in to the left eight role, then Havertz gets moved forward in to the central striker role, because I think Arteta loves Havertz and I think with the physicality of the likes of Issa Diop in the heart of the Fulham defence, he wants somebody who will be able to hold up the ball. There’s no way that Saka or Martinelli aren’t starting and so for me that means Eddie loses his place. That’s incredibly harsh on a player who scored on the opening weekend, looked lively last weekend, plus was the man who won us the penalty against Palace, but I just have that sneaky feeling that Arteta will prefer Havertz.

Personally I wouldn’t go that way. I’d have Eddie in and drop Havertz to the bench. If Fulham are leaving themselves open to one-on-ones, then you don’t want Havertz getting in behind, because he ain’t exactly a great finisher. You want Eddie and his pace and more natural predatory instincts inside the penalty box for those chances to be falling to. So my hope is that Arteta runs with that because I don’t think you can be dropping Rice or Partey today and if Zinchenko is coming in, it feels a little weird and gung-ho to be having two inverted fullbacks on the pitch at the same time.

Every game in the Premier League is tough and there will be times today when we need to be prepared to do some solid defending, Monday’s game against Palace has shown that when this Arsenal team are focused, they can be solid. I expect us to have a lot of ball today, to dominate the territory and be looking to unpick a stubborn lock. It won’t be easy but patience might be the virtue, unless we score early of course. Then it could – fingers crossed – be a fun ol’ afternoon.

I’m unfortunately not there today as I am away in Gloucestershire for the weekend with friends, but I’ll be glued to the TV watching the game and scaring the sh*t out of my non-football loving friends from 3pm onwards. Fingers crossed my weekend isn’t ruined.

Catch you all tomorrow with some more of the usual ramblings.