We travel to Highbury for a crucial Barclays Premiership encounter televised live on Sky as we continue our pursuit of European football.
So while the focus might fall on whether we can hammer the final nail in Arsenal’s championship coffin (anything less than victory against us and it’s Chelsea’s title), midfield maestro Michael is firmly focused on our goals.
“I’m sure the fans will be looking at the title situation but as players, we want to get into Europe and we’ve now put ourselves in a good position to do just that,” said Michael.
“We’ve probably played it down in the last few months but now, with four games to go, we’re in seventh place and we have to be realistic — if we don’t get it now, we’ll all be disappointed.
“We’re going to Highbury to get a result for ourselves and if that means anything regarding the title, so be it. We’re all determined to go there and do the business for our own targets and to give our fans the win that they want.
“We’ve done well away from home over the last few weeks and if we go there with the same attitude and work ethic, we capable of getting a result. We’re good enough.”
Anyway, Michael has plenty to think about himself — a battle with Patrick Vieira, his first derby for us at Highbury and a determination to put right the 5-4 reverse at the Lane earlier in the season.
Noureddine Naybet put us ahead in that incredible Lane clash back in November, Arsenal recovered to lead 3-1 but we wouldn’t give it up as the scoring went 3-2, 4-2, 4-3, 5-3 and finally 5-4 with Ledley King, Jermain Defoe and Fredi Kanoute also on target.
“That will be one everyone will remember for quite a while,” reflected Michael. “It was my first taste of the North London derby and certainly one I’ll never forget. Hopefully we’ll put things right on Monday.”
Michael has been in fine form of late with big performances in big games — Newcastle at the Lane, Liverpool at Anfield — but it doesn’t get bigger than Vieira and Arsenal at Highbury.
“You live for these games,” Michael insisted. “When you are young you see games like this on television and you want to play in them and we’re no different.
“I’ve always enjoyed playing against the best players and you want to test yourself against the best. To be honest, we always seem to do well against the top teams and it’s the so-called lesser teams we tend to struggle against. This is a local derby and it’s massive for everyone involved.”
So is he in the form of his life? “I don’t know really,” he smiled. “I just try to play my game, try to learn from everyone around me, particularly the coaching staff , and hopefully I’ll keep on improving. I’m enjoying my football and have done since I got here and if that’s the case, you play freely and to your best. On the other hand, if you are not enjoying it, you tend not to get the best out of yourself.
“It’s easy to produce a one-off performance. To get more recognition you need to do it week in, week out. You want to see consistency and we’ve had that in recent months.”
As for Arsenal, Michael doesn’t think much has changed in N5 — unfortunately for them, Chelsea have arrived.
“To be fair, they are as good as any other Arsenal team over the years but Chelsea have come on so much this season,” he added. “Arsenal and Manchester United haven’t exactly changed from great teams into lesser teams, it’s just that Chelsea have improved so much and taken the game to another level. That is now the benchmark. For me, Arsenal are just as good as they have been — but we’re all confident and looking forward to Monday.”
Michael Carrick is well aware of all the different strands that make a North London derby so special — but he’s only interested in one thing on Monday.