Not having The Arsenal on this weekend meant a jeopardy-free weekend in terms of how I was feeling when looking at both Premier League and FA Cup games, but despite that, there were still a few preferred outcomes that I was looking for.

In the Premier League, for example, Villa and the Scum dropping points was good, because it puts more distance between us and them. I know it sounds crazy given that all the talk is how we can overcome City and Liverpool, but I still bear the battle scars of many years as an Arsenal fan and so I’m conditioned a little bit to look at those below us and make sure we’ve hit milestones. With both Liverpool and City in FA Cup action, the Premier League milestones I was looking for were gaining – or at least not losing – ground on the consolidation to ensure that we are a Champions League side next season. The Scum losing comprehensively to Fulham ticked the first box, then Villa being held by West Ham sort of did another. Villa have now played a game more than us and are eight points away from us. That’s a lead that could easily be eroded away if we going on a bit of a bad run of form, but if we win our game in hand, it’d mean that we’d be 11 clear of them with nine matches to play. That’d mean they’d need to win four and us lose four from our final nine matches. That’s also the situation we have with The Scum in fifth place; they have played the same number of games as us and we’re 11 points clear. Man United are 17 off us in sixth place on 47 points, which means there would need to be a six game swing for us to drop down in to sixth. If the European coefficients work in the favour of the Premier League then it’s top five for the Champions League next season and so if you’re talking about ‘mini objectives’ that are, as Arteta would say a ‘non-negotiable’, you’d think qualifying for the Champions League for the second consecutive season would be it. Based on looking at the table with 10 games to go you’d think that we might be close to achieving that already.

There’s a bunch of really hard games left though. Like, super hard, if I think about it, with the North London Derby, two away days in Manchester, a trip to Brighton (who will be tough despite their form – they are still a good side), games against Villa at home and an organised and well-drilled Wolves away. You’ve also got the bag of Revels that is Chelsea and you never know which side of that team will show its face on the day. So for us despite the fact I’m looking at where we are at and thinking another two or three wins should secure Champions League football for next season, there are a plethora of banana skins that are waiting for us.

That’s kind of also why I wanted City and Liverpool to progress in the FA Cup this weekend. That competition is one that a Liverpool v City final would have been fine by me; it would have meant extra games and would have seen their fixture list to continue to pile up. But given Coventry got through against Wolves this weekend, it also means that whoever won from Liverpool and United would have a relatively easy semi final leg that you could imagine would have been a fairly easy one to rotate. As we all know it wasn’t to be for Liverpool and Klopp and the only annoying thing about the fact that it went to extra time and 120 minutes, is that there aren’t any Premier League games for Liverpool to slip up in for a couple of weeks. I mean yeah, the players will go away with their respective national teams, but those national team managers will probably be very understanding of the amount of minutes in those Liverpool players legs, so they probably won’t all play tonnes of football whilst on an international friendly weekend.

So not an ideal for us, where we want City and Liverpool to have as many games as possible, but at least they will still have the Europa League to occupy them and in Atlanta they probably don’t have a team that they can do mass resting and rotation. At least I hope not. They’ll play a strong side much like we will have to against Bayern. And who knows, maybe them going out of the FA Cup in the way they did will also impact their confidence? We can but hope.

Apologies, there’s not really been a lot of Arsenal chatter today, but that’s just because we’ve played no football and I think Arteta has even given the players this weekend off. That will hopefully stand them in good stead ahead of going away on International duty, whilst Arteta and his coaching staff can start to work out how the devil we’re going to win all of our remaining games this season. There was one slightly Arsenal-related bit, which was Ten Haag referencing us in his press conference yesterday. He seemed to suggest that it was that game in which we won in stoppage time that had an impact on their season and that they were unlucky to lose, which is amusing, because if you re-watch that game as we all know we absolutely battered them. But hey, if he wants to make those kind of excuses for the fact that they’re 17 points off top at this stage of the season, then that’s his prerogative. If it means he keeps on doing what he’s doing and United keep on playing like they’ve played all season, that’s a-ok with me.

Right, I’ll leave it there for today. Enjoy your Monday and I’ll be back tomorrow with some more Arsenal musings of some kind.