Morning all.

Remember the ‘Arsenal don’t like it up ‘em’ comments or the ‘southern softies’ which usually came from the likes of Pulis, Big Sam – or any manager of a club based up north. The pundits loved it of course and would often join in on a match day. Well, scrub that label these days because Mikel Arteta has build a squad which doesn’t roll over – apart from one of our three Brazilians who tends to go to ground a little bit too easily. I don’t know what Pep will be telling his players before he goes head to head with his old mate at the end of March or indeed what Frank is saying to his players before the weekend but I very much doubt it’s along the lines of ‘get at them and they will crumble’.

I’d even go as far to suggest it’s Arsenal these days who are the bullies but we do it through our football. We don’t need to be overly or unnecessarily aggressive in challenges because invariably we’re in control of the ball. Don’t get me wrong, out of possession, Arsenal can be brutal in the way they press, harry and apply pressure and it’s that which regains possession – legally.

Arsenal have recorded high possession statistics in many games for a little while now but it’s only since the break in Dubai that we’re turning possession into goals. I don’t agree with Thierry Henry though about our weakness being our defending. We’ve conceded just two goals in 2024 so why he thinks that I don’t know. Newcastle Utd, West Ham and Liverpool aren’t exactly short on goal scorers yet between them, they managed to breach our defence just three times. That’s not to say we won’t concede goals in the future but for how, we’re not conceding many because our defence and our defensive work has been good.

There was something the commentary team on Sky Sports said on Monday night which rang true. The Ramsdale/Raya has silenced. Perhaps it has been because he’s not made any bloopers and his teammates in front of him have been fantastic. Like, absolutely fantastic.

We’re in the best form we could be and I doubt there’s a side in England which really fancies playing us right now. We have players coming back who will make us stronger as a unit with a deeper bench for Mikel Arteta to turn to. Partey, although his rustiness was quite evident on Monday night, is a terrific player to have available at the ‘business’ end of the season, not to mention Tomiyasu who can play anywhere across the back line. Timber too when he returns which might be after the international break.

This time last season, injuries had derailed our Premier League challenge, maybe this time, those returning will make the difference. Not necessarily because they’ll drop straight into the starting eleven but because they can if they’re needed. And they will be needed, especially if we get past Porto in the Champions League.

I’m certainly not trying to such Mikel Arteta has cracked it or that his team will go unbeaten until the 12th of never, but we’re doing well. Too well for things to suddenly go terribly wrong surely? Can we win the league? Of course we can but whether we will is another thing altogether. City and Liverpool have been here before, we as a club haven’t, not with this manager or this squad.

This weekend we play Brentford. This time Ivan Toney, a player many an Arsenal fan hoped to see move to Arsenal during the transfer window, will be up against us. The footballing world will be watching how our defenders deal with him. Yes, they’re just waiting for us to limp out of the title race.

We won the away fixture earlier in the season but boy, did we make hard work of it. Ramsdale was in goal that day, just as he will be on Saturday because of Raya’s illegitimately so all eyes will be on him too. Kai Havertz scored the only goal of the game back in November after he’d come on from the bench but these days, he’s a starter rather than a substitute. A bit like Jakub Kiwior really as he too has gone from sitting on the bench to being a vital cog in our defensive wheel.

Much chatter relates to Arsenal’s Dubai break which, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure all the players benefited from, but a tweak in personnel has played its part too I’m sure. We’ve seen more of Jorginho, a lot more of Kiwior, yet very rarely has a ‘striker’ been in sight.

Catch up in the comments…