Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s clash of TItans (well, at least one titan…), Pep Guardiola admitted that he and his players will be “a little bit nervous”—his own words—as they prepare to face Arsenal in what could very well coronate a champion. To be honest, Man City have an inside track on an inside track here; should they win or even draw, their chance at winning the Prem skyrocket. Should we achieve the impossible, we improve our chances modestly. Still, the idea that the likes of Haaland or Rodri or De Bruyne are nervous might give us an edge.
Let’s be honest with ourselves before we get ahead of ourselves, though. Pep knows just what he’s doing. Don’t take his words at face value. In the past, we’ve explored the possibility that he enjoys seeing Arteta succeed as if our manager is his (better-coifed) mini-me, his protégé, his disciple. Every Arteta success is one that Pep can claim as further proof of his own genius. Heck, he may even seize the notion that Arteta’s doing Guardiola-ball with young, developing players as further proof of his own magnificence.
To be even more direct, City’s players have little if anything to fear. They’ve manhandled us twice already this season, and we haven’t won at the Etihad since 2015, getting outscored 20-5 in our last eight visits. Then again, we cut last season’s 5-0 loss down to just 1-0 in the FA Cup, so, if my maths are correct, we should win this one by a comfortable 0-3 scoreline. I’m pretty sure that’s how it works. Heck, at that rate, it won’t be long before we’re winning these things 0-11 and more.
Back to reality. Pep continued to hold forth, saying, “After three games dropping points it will be much, much more difficult,” he said. “I would have preferred it if they had come here with better results than the last three.” That’s somewhat easier to take at face value. While it’s true that the manner of our last draw—fighting back twice from two-goal deficits—we did so against cellar-dwelling Southampton. For as much as I’d love to see this as Rocky VI: The Rockening, in which we bravely rally against America’s latest geopolitical rival and win at the death in dramatic fashion, we really are on the ropes here, and it has to feel like someone like Haaland is winding up a knockout punch strong enough to send One-Punch Mickey plunging underwater.
If we’re to be anything like One-Punch Mick, the script has already written itself, and the fear and nerves that Guardiola spoke of will only be compounded by his assets knocking us back. I know it sounds bizarre and far-fetched, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. We are—whether we like it or not—definite underdogs. We’re going to take some blows, but wouldn’t it be something to see us climb back up off the mat to deliver a hammer-blow square on the chin of this Rolls Royce of a club? Forget bending a fender or scraping the paint.
This is Little Joe against MIke Tyson. David against Goliath. Anyone against Man City. Should we win, we’d hammer out a warning all over. Let’s hope the lads have the minerals.
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