Arsène Wenger looked relaxed enough as he talked about the visit of Newcastle United to the Emirates Stadium on Monday night but his words did more than enough to convey the drama of the situation and, indeed, how excruciating his touchline existence must be at the moment.
The Arsenal manager said that "every game is kill or be killed" and when he brought up the notion of "Russian roulette", he offered a sobering insight into how he was treating the final showdowns of what has been a draining season.
Arsenal would appear to have an extra unloaded chamber after Everton's defeat at Southampton on Saturday. They now need two wins from their remaining three Premier League fixtures to ensure a top-four finish and qualification to the Champions League for a remarkable 17th season in succession. And yet tension and tightness are likely to remain companions for Wenger.
"It's easier to be calm in September than in March," he said. "Because every game is kill or be killed. This period of the season, you feel much more under pressure as a manager. In September, you think, 'OK, we lost this game but we still have time to catch up'. Now, it's one, two, three games to go and you look at the table, at the bottom and the top, and everybody plays a bit Russian roulette."
Wenger's counterpart at Newcastle, Alan Pardew, has been liable to combust at any time of the season and he will be back in the dugout at the Emirates, having completed his seven-match ban for head-butting Hull City's David Meyler on 1 March. Wenger believes Pardew will be a reformed character after the ugliest scrape of his colourful touchline career, although the pressure on managers is so extreme that nobody can make predictions with any certainty.
Wenger has history with Pardew from when the latter was in charge at West Ham United and he celebrated a last-minute winner for his team at Upton Park in 2006 with gusto. Wenger felt that Pardew had goaded him and he came across to shove him. He was fined £10,000 for improper conduct, while Pardew was cleared of a similar charge. Yet there is little likelihood of any repeat because the technical areas for the managers are so far apart at the Emirates. Wenger actually had them designed that way.
"Yes, they were designed like that and I think it's better for the incidents," Wenger said. "At the Emirates, we had no incidents because the distance between the two managers is big. It's a job where you are under huge pressure and sometimes you get upset because you hear what the other manager is saying.
"You go, 'What is he doing? Why is he talking to the referee and the fourth official?' At Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs … you basically are very close. It's when other managers have a go at your players or they are against the referees."
Wenger said it was better for managers to be on the touchline than in the stands because it felt more natural and it enabled messages to be communicated more swiftly. But he admitted that he had tried to spend less time in his technical area and more on the bench.
"It depends on the game but sometimes I try, consciously," Wenger said. "Because when you get up there [in the technical area], you know you are tensed. I try to sit down when I feel I am in a negative mood. Because then, on the touchline, you can become a handicap. You can have a negative influence [on the players]."
Newcastle have lost six of the seven games for which Pardew has not been on the bench while Arsenal are enjoying an upswing. The picture looks a lot rosier than it did two weeks ago when, having taken nine points from nine league matches, they trailed Wigan Athletic 1-0 in the FA Cup semi-final. They fought back to win on penalties and they have since beaten West Ham and Hull in the league with something approaching comfort.
"Winning the cup semi-final has been a relief because we knew it was a tricky game," Wenger said. "We came out of a bad period and we had to play the semi-final. Did we have a bad period because we had to play the semi-final? I don't think so. I just think, coming out of a bad period, we knew that losing the semi-final would have been terrible for us. That's why there was more at stake."
Olivier Giroud said: "If we finish fourth, it will be a good season. And if we also win the FA Cup, it will be a very good season. To finish fourth is almost crucial for the club."
Arsenal v Newcastle United, SkySports 1 and theguardian.com, kick-off 8pm today