So this is it. The Big One. A genuine six pointer against our closest league rivals. It's the big face-off between Man City and Arsenal, with the hotly contested prize of 4th place at stake.
Does anyone else feel a bit deflated? Our biggest competition at the moment is from Man City, and the biggest "prize" we can sensibly expect is 4th place and Champions League qualification. It's a bit of a come down from the days when we were duking it out with Man Utd for the Premier League.
Our team isn't looking too bad. We've swapped Toure for Vermaelen, and it looks good so far. Adebayor hasn't been replaced, but the switch to 4-3-3 brings Arshavin and Eduardo closer to goal and (hopefully) we'll be able to replace Adebayor's goals with contributions from our outside forwards. We're playing well, and given the right circumstances we would have three wins from three going into this match.
Man City have spent heavily, as they're flying. Toure, Adebayor, Barry, Tevez, Lescott, Santa Cruz.... have I left anyone out? Adebayor's scored 3 goals in 3 games and is feeling the love from Citeh fans, and Toure's been appointed captain. It seems like Man City's started to click, and that could mean trouble for us.
But I digress.
Myles Palmer mentioned that this match isn't going to decided by big-name signings of the past summer. Instead, it's going to be down to our respective goalkeepers. It's a good point. Given has almost 100 caps for Ireland and has been one of the best Premier League keepers for almost 10 years. Almunia has no international caps and generally gives good performances, but he also makes the occasional mistake. Sometimes Almunia's mistakes come back to haunt us, and sometimes they don't. I'm just crossing my fingers that Almunia pulls in a blinder.
It's a big game for us, but I'm not nervous, or excited. I'm kind of resigned to fate. I foresee a positive start to the season, with our form fading through the winter and then a brief uplift in spring. 4th seems about right, and I don't think we'll budge much from that position. Even if Man City are better than everyone expected, we can still spend our way back into 4th during summer. I don't think the board expects anything more than that, and I don't think Wenger's team can do better than that.
So let's go the Arsenal. I hope we win, but if we don't it's still a long season and anything can happen.... except for us winning the league.
Predictions: 3-1 to the Arsenal, Almunia to start wearing a fake ponytail and 'mo to channel his inner Seamen, and Bendtner to tell Adebayor that "we only sold you because you're shit".