I went for my afternoon run first thing this morning, which has its benefits because rather than speculate on what Arteta has to say in his press conference today, it’s happening literally as I type out today’s ramblings. So I have a bity of a real time reaction opportunity this Friday morn, which is novel.

So first things first, on the team news, which we all know the drill by now. Saka he said he is not sure, but said that the coaching staff would know more after the training session that the team has today. Given the tone and words he used, I suspect that Saka will be fine, that he’s been able to rest up and hopefully we’ll be seeing him from the start tomorrow evening. Nelson came in and was fine as an understudy, but watching the game live on Wednesday night from my usual seat in block five as I did, it did feel as though the team was avoiding the right hand side a little more than usual. Nelson was fine, he did nothing wrong, but there wasn’t the usual spark that we normally have when Saka is down that side and you could tell that it impacted our fluidity; for Saliba, White and Odegaard; so we really want Saka back asap but given how Mikel responded I have a feeling he should be fine. He’s even said that he’s so strong, he was feeling super positive and that it’s normal to have little ‘niggles and kicks’ so I think we can read that he should be good to go this weekend. Which is great news.

And even if he’s not fine and able to start tomorrow, I don’t think Arteta will look to replicate that same front line for the trip to Brighton. I would hazard a guess that Jesus would come in and given Martinelli got on the pitch too, I’d expect him to be available. Arteta still said nice things about Reiss this morning – called him a “good example” along with Emile Smith Rowe, who I think the general consensus amongst most of us Gooners was that he played really well for an hour, getting the assist for the own goal and also forcing a turnover in the middle of the park for Odegaard’s goal.

He was also asked a question about Thomas Partey and where his head was at, which I think is interesting because clearly come the summer there will be speculation, but Arteta was pretty blunt in saying “he’d better have his head here because we are playing for big things”. I know there are a few people amongst our fanbase who are ‘done’ with Partey, but not me, not yet. I feel like the more minutes he gets in the tank, the better he’ll be and a big question for tomorrow is how many minutes Arteta gives him for Brighton away. Do you start him twice in a week? probably not, but if he’s able to get on the pitch in the second half tomorrow and maybe give us 20 – 30 minutes, that’s a strong player to be able to bring on and deliver for us in the middle of the park. There are some players with whom absence makes the heart grow fonder and for me Partey is one of those footballers because of his ability to evade the press and also his distribution from that deeper-lying role. When you combine that with the running power of Rice it just feels like that could be a match made in heaven and whilst I agree that come the summer we probably need to get somebody in a little younger and a lot more robust, between now and the end of the season I’d love to see Rice and Partey on the field together more often.

There was an interesting question asked about the away games we have and how difficult they are going to be. We have Brighton, Wolves, Man United and The Scum. It does feel as though our season could be defined by those away games. Each one is tough and when Arteta was asked that question he chuckled a bit before saying “yes but we have Champions League and those tough home games too”. I think he knows that it’ll be those away games that could define it all and with Liverpool almost certain to beat the absolute car crash that is United at Old Trafford on Sunday, he knows that we’re now at the stage of the season in which it’ll be win or bust for his team. The question was about Arsenal having to be ‘perfect’ for the remaining eight domestic games remaining this season. It really feels like we need to be.

And so we go again tomorrow. There will be a De Zerbi presser at some stage today and then I’ll be back tomorrow with some thoughts on how we’ll set up, how they will set up, as well as any interesting titbits that De Zerbi came up with when he eventually does his presser.

I’ll catch up with you wonderful people tomorrow. Have a good one.