We all know that injuries have played a significant part in Arsenal’s stop-start season. That is indisputable. It has a significant effect every season, to be honest, given the propensity of our players to keel over at any juncture.
But injuries don’t really explain the enduringly frustrating, and damning, stat that we have not beaten Man City, Chelsea or Man Utd away since October 2011.
In fact, we have not beaten any of those teams home or away (in the Premier League) since April 2012 – almost three years.
It’s boring to hear it, but it does matter. It’s not a blip. We’ve been unlucky in some of those games, abject in others, but the bottom line is that we fall short every time against those sides.
And until that changes, it’s impossible to take us seriously. “They’ve Arsenaled it up again”. “The most Arsenal thing ever”. “Same old Arsenal”.
These things have a habit of self-perpetuating, both on the pitch and off it. Look at the body language of the players when we play one of those teams. They often look inhibited.
Ask most Arsenal fans what they think ahead of today’s game and they’ll probably veer towards pessimism. It’s just the way it has become.
Bucking that trend, jettisoning that miserable stat that places Arsenal in the shadow of those sides, is crucial. Which is why a win today would arguably be the most important in the league for three years.
Am I confident? Not really. For all the reasons stated above. But my inner self is going all Kevin Keegan circa ’96.
I’ll tell you, honestly, I will love it if we beat them. Love it. It really has got to me.