Here we go folks. The Big Weekend is amongst us and tomorrow we face off against a historical big foe in Man United, knowing that only victory gives us a slim chance of winning the Premier League.

And let’s be honest here, it is a ‘slim’ chance. I’m not trying to be deliberately negative or melodramatic by the way; this is a City team who routinely do the business at the end of every season and if they win their next three games will have won nine in a row and won every game (barring us at home and Liverpool away) in the league since the middle of February. They did it last season as well by the way. Almost to the day. This season they drew with Chelsea on 17th February and then have dropped ‘W’s ever since other than at Anfield or against us (in the league). Last season they drew with Forest on 18th February 2023 and then basically won every game until they drew with Brighton on 24th May, by which time we’d already dropped a bunch of points and they had the league won with a game to spare.

That’s what we’ve been up against.

And to be fair in Mikel’s presser yesterday he touched on that when prompted; he knows that we are up against a ‘Mike Tyson’ style monster as it was mentioned yesterday and whilst he played an expectedly straight bat with the answer in his presser, he will know the big task that lays in front of us tomorrow. At the press conference yesterday he seemed his usual calm self, but I wonder if the mega butterflies are churning in his stomach? How much of the nerves are kicking in inside of his gut? We’ll never know, his cool and steely exterior will ensure that we don’t find out, but I’d love to know just how much of him is feeling like we’re feeling right now. It’s exciting, no doubt, but it’s also bloody terrifying.

He did talk about this season ‘going to another level that I haven’t seen before’ and I wonder how true that is? Pep also mentioned it yesterday and said that it  was the most difficult season in his whole career and on previous years and I do find that debate somewhat interesting. After all Man City faced off against Liverpool in that season in which two teams went north of 95 points and that feels just mental. But if you think about it, what does it say about the quality – or lack thereof – of the league if two teams can get close to 100 points? Was the competition just not really that great and that’s what enabled Liverpool and City to amass that many points? Is the league more competitive now that you have City, Arsenal and Liverpool at fighting but not managing to get to that level?

I’m not sure. I guess you have to take the word of the guys that are managing the two best teams in the league but there’s probably part of that discourse that is living in the now rather than a reality of the difficulty of this season compared to that season in 2018/19. But perhaps the fact that it was three teams in this race as little as two weeks ago probably shows that the competitive nature is better. Ultimately though it has comedown to two teams in the end with us and City, although if we don’t win tomorrow I suspect it will be just one team that has itself an exciting final day of the season next weekend.

Because let’s face it, Fulham are getting nothing from the game today, with the media liking to see if they could fan some flames about the fact their players were kite flying during the week. It was easy fodder for the press to ask both Pep and Arteta about that and clearly it evokes feelings of literally being on a UK beach; the symbolism isn’t exactly subtle. But Arteta (and Pep to be fair) was having none of it and he simply said that sometimes team bonding takes different shapes and that he himself has experienced something as simple as a meal out with the team that has sparked a winning run. I’d love a bit of kite flying to spark a Fulham run – for the rest of the season of course (you never know, I don’t to jinx it and talk about a long Fulham run and then find out we play them on the first game of next season!) – but I’d be surprised if we get that today. But as Mikel said in his press conference we need to focus on ourselves and just do our job; if we don’t do that tomorrow then the hopes of other teams doing  us favours over the next eight days are kind of irrelevant.

Team news wise Arteta said that we seemed ok but that there was another training session today and I think given his response to the question about player availability (Saka was in strapping and Tomi wasn’t seen in the official pictures of training), we don’t have to worry too much about any major injury – touch wood as we speak of course – but it’s sounding ok at the moment, which is positive. It does feel as though injury surprises aside, we’ll have the same XI again tomorrow and against Everton and I think if you ask most Arsenal fans they’d tell you they’re ok with that.

And I’m certainly in that camp. I don’t think there’s any point in changing things that are working so well and I suspect that unless we get any unwelcome team news emerging tomorrow, that’s the XI that will start in Manchester tomorrow afternoon, which is good with me. We need to banish a horrible hoodoo there and that’s a whole other story that I’ll save for tomorrow, so for now I’ll tell you to have yourselves a wonderful Saturday, cross everything for a miracle in West London at Craven Cottage, then hopefully we can do our business against Ten Haag’s reprobates in the North West tomorrow.

Later’s peeps.