Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal would have had April 26 marked in their calendars for some time, but would have hoped to take a great deal more of their once-eight point lead into tomorrow’s meeting with Manchester City.

The Gunners still lead the Champions by five points, but have now played two further matches. Various acts of self-harm against Liverpool, West Ham and Southampton have seen them manage just three points from their last three fixtures, allowing the City machine to chomp remorselessly into its deficit.

‘I’ve been trying to resist the (bottling) term because it’s too easy, but I’m not really sure there is another term for it now’, The Guardian’s Jonathan Wilson told Box2Box ahead of Arsenal’s decisive trip to the Etihad.

‘To be two-nil up against Liverpool and West Ham, and in different circumstances to not take three points in either of those games, and then to let in two goals as soft as they were in the first twenty minutes against Southampton: that is a mental issue, that’s a psychological frailty.

‘There’s been that creeping anxiety through the side. They’re still five points clear of City, but they should have been eleven clear going into the game – if they had, the pressure on City is then very different. City now, you feel, are the team with wiggle room.’

For City the carrot is a fifth League title in six seasons under Pep Guardiola, and the chance to join Manchester United as the only club to win three consecutive titles in the Premier League era. Questions over Erling Haaland’s integration into the side have been buried by 32 goals from the Norwegian, including the sealer in their February fixture at the Emirates.

‘Even if Arsenal take the lead, when you haven’t been able to hold a lead against Liverpool or West Ham, how do you hold a lead against City, who are the best team in the world at building pressure?

‘If you’re an Arsenal fan trying to find positives you’d say Nathan Ake being out is a good thing. That leaves City slightly weak in the fullback areas and with Saka and Martinelli, their attacking strength has been down the flanks.’

It speaks to City’s power that while Arsenal have slowly become paralysed by the pressure of leading the league, it may not even be City’s main priority. There remains a Champions League-shaped hole in their trophy cabinet, and last week booked their place in the FA Cup final.

‘If it weren’t for history you’d say City are really comfortable, because they look like the best team in the world at the minute. But, we have seen them throw away promising positions before, although particularly in Europe rather than the League.

‘Guardiola has used essentially twelve-to-thirteen players over the last two months, so it is possible fatigue starts to set in in May. I think Guardiola deliberately tries to get his teams to peak in March-April, but if you look at the League fixtures they have left, they’re just not that testing.’