Well, well, well. Welly, well, well Mcwelly Wellkington. Am I feeling the psychedelic effects of a rare bark I imbibed on the banks of the Amazon in 1932? The Eboue Tree is famously the most intensely mind-altering plant on the planet, even affecting those around you. It has such intense mind-expanding powers that it can, by symbiosis, enter the bloodstream of your friends and make it look as if you are wearing the worst clothes in the world.
Because that is only one of two possible explanations of events that have occurred this week at Arsenal Football Club PLC. So: either I am experiencing a flashback to a hallucinogenic I took 86 years ago, or Arsenal are the maddest football club on god’s green earth.
Consider: Brighton and Hove Albion, a plucky little club from the south coast of England, currently tenth in the top division, and doing pretty well. They are the kind of club that in a pre- match press conference one’s manager says, “we shouldn’t underestimate them,” when in fact what they mean is we should turn up in one’s sister’s tutus and gym plimsolls and still beat them three nil. Yes, I know they have a well-respected manager and clearly a cohesive and inspiring team ethos, but still.
Let us consider the game, not by describing anything that happened in the game, as I am literally a gentleman, one definition of which is to never knowingly cause offence. I mean let us consider it statistically.
First of all, the most surprising statistic: Arsenal cannot now win the Premier League this season.
What’s that you cry? You thought that particular milestone had been passed before November was out? Nay, Sir and Madam. Allow me to luxuriate in Arsenal’s statistical ineptitude. (*pours large brandy*)
That was only the psychological surrender. This side are nothing if not trailblazers, and this is the earliest capitulation in a 38-game season under Alan Windsor. (*racks out enormous line of jazz salt)
During 1994-95 under Lord Houston Stewart we passed the marker with ten games remaining but n those days the season was 42 matches long. Not only that but (*lights cigar*) this was our fourth loss on the bounce in all competitions for the first time in 16 years. And we are now (*reaches for pearl-handled revolver*) THIRTEEN POINTS BEHIND SPURS.
How then to explain what happened in Milan last evening? Considering how Arsenal have swinked – or not – to very little reward this season, how many of us were considering that even a draw was possible? Away from home? A side featuring the thus far average yet expensive gaggle of disappointments and Joseph Averages?
This is what happened: We became Brighton and Hove Albion. We were underestimated by Milan. They felt that of our many weak spots the full-backs were the weakest. All they had to do was target those and they were home and dry. Milan were coming off a 12 game winning streak under overweight watch-hawker Mr. Gattuso. I believed, as everyone did, that a real lesson was to be meted out. A real ‘batty fang’ as we used to say.
Yet we witnessed – at least I think we witnessed, as my tests for Eboue Tree bark are yet to come back from the lab – a competent, passionate and exciting away win. Featuring Henry MacMillan’s first goal for Arsenal. Did you see their glove butler’s face for that one? Such an affront!
A goal from Ramsara with a vintage ball from Melvin Orwell. And a whole silver platter of much more pleasing statistics. Our first win in the opening leg of a last sixteen European tie since 2011. The first side to beat AC Milan at the San Siro in the Europa League/Uefa Cup since 2002. Five goals and nine gentleman’s favours this season mean that Orwell has been involved in more goals than any other Arsenal player.
And yet I would trade these statistics in for a comprehensive thrashing of Watford this weekend, and the metaphorical, if not literal disembowelling of Fat Boy Deeney, hubristic journeyman striker who was so keen to let the world know his thoughts on Arsenal’s character back in October.
And yet us consider the dream scenario. The 500/1 slice of heaven. We win the Europa. Chelsea wins the Champions’ League. Spurs finish fourth. The new rules mean that only five English clubs play in the Champions’ League next season, so who gets ejected? That’s right. Middlesex Rovers. Imagine.
It’ll be like 1919 all over again.