One of my little pre match rituals that I go through before every game we play is to try to gauge a flavour of the lay of the land from a pundit perspective. I know they are often just doing it to get clicks, there is usually not a lot of thoughtful analysis that goes in to the pundit predictions you get from ex-players, etc. But I still like to see what the view is from a potentially ‘neutral’ source and often when you look at around 10 different online pundit views, you get a good idea of a straw poll on what the expectations are and more often than not when you have a sample size that big, it’s usually pretty accurate.

So reading that basically every single site I have read is backing Man City to win today doesn’t exactly fill me with giddy excitement for today initially, I have to say, and I can also see why so many pundits are expecting us to fall down today. After all, we’ve lost the last 12 games in a row against Oil Whores FC and the last 15 in 16 games in total, if you want to have yourself another depressing stat. I have also read a fair few City blogs and sites and it will come as no surprise that they too are all predicting a City win. And who can blame them? They have the best team in the world, they won a treble last season, they’ve picked up six wins out of seven and if we’re all honest, they’re probably going to win the league again this season, further dispelling the myth that the Premier League is the best and most competitive in the world. It isn’t; it’s the German Bundesliga with a load more money pumped in to it.

So my initial impression upon some of this early morning reading is that there aren’t many people – Arsenal fans aside – who give us much of a hope. I’m yet to read anybody giving a convincing argument as to why we will. And it all seems to hinge on the fact that we have Saka and Martinelli out, from what all of these pundits are saying. Which I understand again, to be fair; Saka has been our highest goal contributor this season and Martinelli is a direct runner who has the ability to hurt any team. With them both in the side you’d fancy that we have a pretty good shot, but if both are out from the start then it kind of feels like we have a hand tied behind our backs. In midweek Vieira and Trossard failed to convince and both are players who want to play on the inside rather than stretch teams by staying wide, which is what Mikel prefers to do to give more space to some of our other players like Odegaard. If he is unable to field Saka today then he will need to find a different solution to Vieira and Trossard both on the wings.

Perhaps that means shifting Havertz through the middle and playing Jesus and Trossard wide? That’s an approach I’ve seen a few people advocate and I wouldn’t be averse to this, especially if it means Partey is fit and can come in to midfield in the six with Rice operating in the left eight. Havertz centrally was better in the community shield and after a couple of nondescript performances from Eddie Nketiah playing centrally, I think I’d rather try that that having Eddie centrally and Jesus and Trossard in the wide positions.

Of course all of this is still speculation and up in the air, because the noises were again coming out that Saka has been cleared to play and could very well start. Hey, if he really is ok to play then that is massive, providing he’s fit, but if there is any doubts then I think we’d all rather not risk him. I know he is going away with England and that carries its own risks, but we can’t afford to have our best player at 50% risking a long term injury.

There was also a few ripples of speculation that Martinelli could also be available to be in the squad today, with some journo’s saying in the last 48 hours that his recovery has accelerated. It is a weird one because nobody actually asked Arteta about him in the press conference I don’t think, which shows how everyone in football clearly thought he was still out. Even having him on the bench would be a boost today; and if we can give him 10 – 15 minutes at the end then that could really help us too. Fingers crossed.

As you can tell from the fact I have no idea how we are going to line up and I’m not even trying to post a line up I think Arteta will go for, there are still a lot of unanswered variables and that is why this game is very difficult to call. City without De Bruyne and Rodri is a big plus for us, but they are a side with so many good players in it, it almost feels as though that isn’t as big a deal as it is for us with the likes of Saka and Martinelli out. Partey back is good, the fact we have a stable back line is good, but we’ve been conceding goals at home left, right and centre so far this season, so I think we have to acknowledge that we’re almost certainly giving at least one up today. That means we’ll need a minimum of two, possibly three, if we want anything from today and given that City have conceded just five goals all season so far, it kind of feels like this is already a mountain of a challenge that might be one we will struggle to overcome.

Honestly, if you give me the choice right now, I’d take a draw, despite City being down two of their best players. We have a wretched record against them, we never seem to be able to play them with a fully fit squad, we’re up against a side who are an absolute juggernaut and we’re also having to deal with the Scum being top of the league and everyone fawning over ‘Angeball’. It just feels like one of those weekends that you ‘get through’ more than anything else, after last weekend when loads of stuff pretty much went our way in almost all of the games.

I will be making my usual pilgrimage to North London in a few hours time, then we’ll be dissecting the performance this evening on the Same Old Arsenal podcast, but for now I think i’ll put a pin in my musings ahead of this game, go buy a lucky rabbits foot, see if I can find a four leaf clover, avoid stepping on three drains or walking under any ladders, whilst crossing absolutely everything I can.

See you on the other side folks.