You might be surprised to learn that Manchester City have only picked up three more points than Arsenal since 20 August. I know I was.
Arsenal, of course, started their season with back-to-back defeats to City and Chelsea but since then, something’s gone wrong for Pep Guardiola’s men that has allowed Liverpool to take an unforgivable lead at the top of the table.
But none of this matters in the heads of Arsenal players who have to deal with a PTSD flair-up every time they start the drive north.
It’s hard to explain the depth of terror gripping Arsenal fans ahead of their trip to Manchester this weekend.
Manchester City may not be playing their best football at the minute but that still doesn’t mean a trip to the city isn’t a sickening prospect for Arsenal fans everywhere.
I was at there when City beat us 6-3. I know a lot of people who were at Old Trafford for the 8-2. These scores don’t leave you. Ever. Especially not when you consider Arsenal’s appalling record in Manchester this decade.
They’ve played 19 games in the city against United and City since the start of 2010, winning just three, drawing another three and losing an embarrassing 13. Arsenal’s last Premier League win in either the blue or red part of Manchester was in January 2015 (2-0 v City). They also won once in 2010. The other win was in the FA Cup.
Of course, much has changed over the last nine years, but has it changed enough that Arsenal fans can start to contemplate travelling to Manchester without worrying about how bad it’s going to get?
We saw what happened earlier in the season when Jose Mourinho couldn’t buy a performance until Arsenal rolled into town. Same old, same old. At least we didn’t lose that one.
With no Laurent Koscielny, Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin, or Sokratis, Arsenal know they must try and contain City with a defence that will include Shkodran Mustafi at its heart. Against a side that has scored 40 at home in 12 league games, that hardly seems fair.
Arsenal will, of course, have a new addition in their ranks for this weekend’s game. The club looked far and wide for a player identical to Aaron Ramsey, in looks if not ability, and Denis Suarez was the man they identified. Unai Emery thinks that the Spaniard will find adapting to the Premier League’s physicality a ‘challenge’ but thankfully City are one of the least kicky teams in the division.
There is much to be positive about in how Arsenal have faced top six sides at home this season under Emery. Away from home, however, it has been a familiar story for the most part. 11 played, and only four wins, conceding 22 (double our home total) to match the 22 we’ve scored.
On the flip side, City have won 11 of their 12 at home, scoring the aforementioned 40 while conceding just 10.
City also go into the game knowing they have little room for error if they want to stop the travesty that would be Liverpool winning the league. Those of us who grew up in the 80s remember how intolerable Scousers are when they’re winning leagues. Just think how bad they are at the minute and they’re only on top of the table.
Whatever happens on Sunday, at the end of the 90 minutes Arsenal fans can perhaps reach for a small bit of solace in the fact that their drubbing might help stop a greater evil, one that one would inflict pain on 19 out of 20 sets of supporters in the league.
In a season of small gains and marginal improvements, we must find our silver linings where we can.
That looks to be the only one on the horizon for this Sunday for Arsenal fans.
This article was written for Paddy Power