It’s Good Friday, we’ve just finished off a bit of a preview pod on the Same Old Arsenal podcast (you can have a look here), we’ve got ourselves a press conference from Mikel Arteta coming up at some stage today and then he’ll give us a low down on where the team is at and whether any players are definitely out (yeah right!).

It’s fair to say the build up for Sunday’s mega showdown is well underway.

And I’ve started to immerse myself on the #Content online already. This morning before we went live on the pod I started to have a look at a few City forums to see how they are feeling. Suffice to say they are extremely confident, but I didn’t see many “we’ll smash them” conversations going on; City fans know we are a decent outfit and we aren’t going there to be pulverised on Sunday like we have in recent years. Even when you look at the team that played last season, it feels very different. Depending on player availability, we could have a starting XI that is six or seven players different to the one that lost last season up there and effectively ended any last-gasp hopes of clawing back a title challenge from City’s grasp. It is an Arsenal team who have shown this season that they have a very different mettle about them; we have the lowest number of expected goals against us, we concede the fewest chances, we have a trio in the heart of our defence in Gabriel, Saliba and Rice that mean that we feel more secure, plus we can’t be overrun like we were at times towards the end of last season.

I still don’t think we’re going to win the league, because our fixtures are so difficult, especially away from home. But I do think we have a steel about us that means we’ll stay within touching distance of City or Liverpool. And given some of the injuries, the integration period of players like Havertz and Rice, plus the finding of players like Kiwior, etc, I think that gives cause for optimism in this Arsenal team. We go in to this big away game not feeling like we’re going there to have our arses handed back to us all battered and bruised. It’s an oddly comforting feeling.

And even now, as I write this, I feel fine. Perhaps that’s because there’s a whole Friday ahead of me, plus Saturday, before the nerves will properly kick in, but if I base this on how I am usually feeling on a Friday ahead of a Sunday game this season, the nerves don’t feel as bad as they normally do. Is that arrogance? Is that naivety? Maybe it’s a little of both, but the confidence that this Arsenal team has instilled in me is really nice; I like not feeling like I want to chew my arm off with nervous energy.

We have a really REALLY good team. No, we have a really REALLY good squad. Assuming we haven’t had a massive breakdown of those players who are reportedly touch and go for Sunday, we’re going to have a bench that could include any of Ramsdale, Tomiyasu, Partey, Trossard, Smith Rowe, Vieira, etc. That’s impressive. That feels strong. It feels like it means something to have that depth. And I am all here for it. I was out for a run during the week and listening to one of the many different Arsenal podcasts I listen to and the gents talking on it (apologies, I can’t remember which one now!) was talking about how when you look in the tunnel you see these big, powerful, imposing players. And it made me think “yeah, that’s right. When was the last time I looked at the Arsenal players in the tunnel and thought ‘wow, that’s some presence that team has right there”?

I can’t really remember. But now not only do we have that in our starting XI, but we have it on the bench as well, which is probably also adding to my sense of ease that I am feeling this morning. Long may it continue. I’ll most likely feel totally different when I wake up tomorrow, but right now it is feeling good and it is feeling like we go up to Manchester with an opportunity to make some history. It’s been too long since we’ve tasted victory in the blue side of Manchester and there is a psychological demon that one feels must be slain. We’ve been knocking down those psychological barriers over the last 18 months and this one feels like the biggest and hardest. It’s like reaching the last level of boss on that N64 that you’ve been trying to overcome for months. It’s what we need to graduate and be seen as being up there with the big boys. We’ve completed the other levels like the Scum away, Liverpool at home, Newcastle, Man City at home, etc. But this one final obstacle stands in Arteta and his Arsenal players’ way. City at the Etihad.

Go and do it boys. Knock down that final boss level.

Back tomorrow with some post-presser thoughts.