Morning folks and welcome to Wednesday.

It’s funny because football has reached such a tense part of the season now that we’re actually in it right at the end, that watching other football has kind of put me off. I almost want complete respite from the stresses of the jeopardy, even when there is nothing riding on it because it’s teams I’m not invested in. Last night I didn’t bother watching the Champions League, but as I flipped my TV on to finish off some dinner, I saw a little bit of Bolton at home to Barnsley. I watched about 15 minutes and then had to switch it off, because all I kept thinking was:

“If Fulham even get a draw, then it could mean that a win at Old Trafford puts it almost exclusively in our hands on the last game of the season”

Before I’d even flipped it over to Sky Sports in my kitchen last night I had not even thought about football for at least a couple of hours, yet the second it came on and I saw the ball being moved around by a team in white against a team in red, the nerves started jangling in my stomach.

I think what also is contributing towards this is that Arsenal so good. We’ve been like really, REALLY good in 2024 and when you look at any metrics and numbers, we’re basically the best team in the league:

  • Most wins of any team this season (although City’s game in hand and eventual win against the Scum does bring us level to be fair)
  • Most goals scored this season by any team
  • Fewest goals conceded by any team
  • Best goal difference
  • Fewest expected goals allowed against us (i.e. we give away the least amount of big chances in difficult positions
  • Most clean sheets this season
  • Most number of players with more than 10 goals this season in the league (Trossard, Saka and Havertz – City have two with Foden and Haaland, Liverpool have two with Nunez and Salah).

We look like we’re playing the best football. We look like a confident team. We showed against Bournemouth and the Scum and Chelsea that we are handling pressure than last season.

And yet……and yet…..

We are still sucking on that Hopium that the machine that is City will somehow drop points against three sets of teams that are all on the beach with nothing to play for. You could – if you were not an Arsenal fan – look at Man United and their position in the league (they’re eighth and the best they can do this season is fifth, although if the Scum go and beat Burnley this weekend that should all but do it for United) and be saying that we too will play a side that is on the beach in United, but those players are still playing for an FA Cup place and on top of that, they have a great record to defend against us at Old Trafford that – if you don’t count the fanless COVID season – stretches to zero wins in 18 years (2006 and an Adebayor goal) on their patch. So to me it doesn’t feel at all like a dead rubber, as much as we’d like that.

As Arsenal fan we’ve had so much disappointment up there that even the data and the eye test from watching our Arsenal and that Man United should tell me that we should be absolutely going up there feeling extremely confident. But I remember us going up there when they had Carrick as their caretaker manager. I remember us peppering them under David Moyes and somehow contriving to lose. I remember seeing van Persie tuck away a goal against us. I have so much PTSD from this upcoming fixture that even when everything points in one direction, I STILL can’t fully believe that we are going to absolutely batter them.

Oh I hope we do though. We have so many instances where revenge must be sought and I am hopeful that it happens again this weekend. United have good results against Liverpool to show for their season though, so we need to be mindful that we could still see a team that remembers what badge it is wearing and shows up on Sunday.

And yet….and yet….

By that time we’ll most likely be in chasing mode again, as City will have found a way to beat Fulham to rack up what will be 14th win of 2024. We have all spoken about the great run we’ve been on in January but City have picked up 45 points in 2024 to our 43. We’ve been absolutely brilliant and yet they’ve still bettered us by the simple virtue of not losing a single game. We’ve lost to Villa. That’s it. It’s crazy when you think about it like that. We’ve been amazing and yet still on the most important numbers it’s City who have bested. And they’ve drawn three games in that time – to us, to Liverpool away, to Chelsea at home. So it’s not as if there have been any team towards the bottom of the division in which could be viewed as a proper slip up. And if you think about our ‘slip up’, in which we created enough chances in that first half versus Villa to win the game, before being ‘smash and grabbed’, it just hits home even more how much you need to strive for perfection.

I wonder how it feels psychologically for these teams? Last season we’d fallen away so you could kind of see that we’d ran out of gas, so it wasn’t so much of a psychological hit because Arteta, Edu and the team knew that they had a great team, but also knew what to do to for this upcoming season because it was clear what tweaks needed to be made. But it is going to be so much harder this summer. They’ve just presided over a side that has taken as many points this season as we have, who have been almost perfect in the second half of the season, who have been bagging goals and keeping them out, so how do you find the right additional pieces to build even bigger than the almost perfection that we already have seen? There will be some that will of course be saying “It’s obvious! we need a Partey replacement! We need another goalscoring centre forward! We need another full back!”, etc, etc and I get it – I want us to improve too, but we’re talking 0.1% improvements at this stage, because this team we have is already so good. So I guess all I’m saying is that the reality is very different to the ‘on paper’ improvements that we’d all love to see to nudge us those extra few points. And even that might not be enough.

But I don’t want to end today’s blog on a negative. Let’s focus on the amazing team we have, the amazing run we’ve been on, the fact that most of the time we’re watching the Arsenal win right now, which in itself makes for much happier weekends for most of us!

Catch you all tomorrow.