‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a football club in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a way in which to fuck things up,’ to paraphrase one of our greatest novelists, Jane Austen. And so we saw at Vicarage Road this weekend last, as Arsenal’s aeipathy for wrenching comedic humiliation from the jaws of adequacy.
To point the finger toward the referee is the last recourse of a scoundrel, but to be a scoundrel once in a while is no bad thing, so we shall address the issue of the clear dive in good time. First we should pay homage to our Club Captain, Lord Peregrine Meatlocker, as fine a sentinel as we have had at Woolwich in many a year. Making his first top level start since April 2016. Does he have the speed of Terry Silver of Paris or Steve Ram of Royal Madrid? No. He doesn’t really even have the speed of Michael Silvester. But what he does have is a sixth sense, the height of Jack’s giant and a fortitude that would be the envy of Ramesses II. And a talent for a noggin bobbler. It was one of these, and his first for 1400 days, that put Arsenal upon 39 minutes in a deathly dull first half in which he rarely put a size thirteen wrong.
That is until the arrival of Sheriff Fatman, Troy Deeney. ‘Try Deeney’ of course means ‘Three Dinners’ in latin and looking at his corpulent gut it is easy to see why. All seventeen stone of this pugnacious, teterrimous lump is devoted to annoying the living ordure out of Arsenal. In his post-match comments, the fatty implied that it was his physicality that caused problems. “It’s having a bit of cojones”, he said, failing to mention that when Troy Deeney has cojones, he has two dozen of them covered in breadcrumbs and deep-fried.
The only problem his physicality causes are when the caterers run out of cream pies after the match and he has a hissy fit. No, Mr. Deeney, it is not your physicality. It is because you are as irritating as El Hadji Diouf or Lee Bowyer. You are a jumble sale Diego Costa. Prior to this you hadn’t scored for 13 games, so pipe down and let your belt out another notch. And sure enough, when old Tubby Tits converted the penalty with just a shade under a score of minutes left we all knew what was going to happen.
The penalty then, incorrectly given, was the result of Mr. Richarlison diving and therefore betrumping the referee. Would we have won the game otherwise? Perhaps not. Against such dreary opposition we should be two or three goals clear by the sixtieth minute. As it was, come the 92nd minute, we allowed Cleverly to waltz in unmarked to take the winner. We faced three shots on target and conceded twice. This is not the form of a top three, four, five or six club. It is not as if we are a side stuffed with sillytonians or wastrels. We were simply outplayed by a more annoying and cannier side.
To Crvena Zvezda in Serbia, then, with the ‘B’ team, and the Europa League of Champions, Europe’s super elite competition. Fast becoming something of a tonic for Arsenal, rather like a good cigar or a fine glass of port, it lifts the spirits and does not tremblable like the Champions League used to do. We’re tip-top of the standings, five points ahead of the mighty BATE Borisov, with four away wins and a first clean sheet away since 2015. The knockout round beckons.
The Marakana is one of those dreary, vulgar and loud stadiums where ‘atmosphere’ has to make up for lack of overall quality. You know the sort of spot, flags by the thousand, shiny-headed thugs wherever you look, and the constant threat of a smoke bomb. All jolly good things in one’s local after hours drinking establishment but all very uncouth in a football match.
Not an easy win, The Helmet being called upon to put down his pipe on a couple of occasions, it took the reborn Wilshère, who conjured the move that lead to The Brigadier’s glorious goal, a rash of solid performances from whippersnappers Horatio Nelson, Ainsley Maitland-Niles (of the Berkshire Maitland- Niles) and Joseph Willoque and a more than satisfactory return for Matthew Matthews.
On the bench, alongside Chubby Atkins, we had rare glimpses of Oswald Tooting, Edward Necktie among others. They will have enjoyed their visit to Serbia immensely, especially the goal. It was one of those sumptuous moments that reminds us of what this most frustrating of footballers is capable of.
Let us hope he is in full possession of his mastery when we visit Everton, a football club where in one hand you carry a fist and in the other an infant.