It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times,
it was the age of Wengerball,
it was the age of self-destruction, it was the epoch of disbelief,
it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light,
it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope,
it was the winter of despair.
The amended words there of renowned Gooner Charles Dickens, who would have perhaps regarded last evening’s football match against the brigands of Madrid with the requisite mix of frustration and irritation. Some of the football played was the perhaps the best of the last half-decade. Played with vim, vigour and desire, in front of an unusually passionate crowd, it seemed like a new manager had started already. Welé played like a man possessed.
It was unusual to witness what at the time seemed to be the beginnings of both a military-grade whipping and a hilarious spectacle of self-destruction from a team other than Arsenal. The excellent referee, Clement Turpin, with his name that sounds like I’ve made it up, was having none of the violent thuggery of Sime Vrsaljko, a man who is in need of a lesson in manners as he is of some vowels in his surname.
Off he went, with hot-headed pignut Diego Simeone barking that he was a ‘Hijo de puta’, which translates to ‘son of a bitch’. As we all know, the only allowable use of this phrase is when it is directed at the current Tottenham Hotspur manager. He was sent to the stands in his cheap synthetic suit, which he had unforgivably paired with a shirt and tie of similar hue. No doubt he tied his tie in a full Windsor; final confirmation of his criminal caddishness.
What with the early sending off, and the realisation that their midfielder’s name was pronounced “PAR-TAY”, the signs were jolly. We only had two things to overcome; their superlative Irish glove butler, John O’Black, and our own incompetence and immaturity.
Even before Vrsaljko took a long walk to a short bath we should have been ahead, with the fizzing Lakeshead picked out by Welé, but the volley was wide and O’Black made a point- blank save moments later. Unbelievably, considering the number of chances we had generated, and yet believably, as it is Arsenal we’re discussing, we went in to oranges without a goal.
Then finally came the breakthrough on the hour, with Jacques Wilshére sending over the artillery and Mr. Lakeshead rising to meet the cross. I was reminded of a trip to Scotland in the fifties, to The Falls of Shin in Sutherland, in our wonderful Highlands. In late summer you can watch as salmon leap majestically into the air on their way to the upper reaches of the River Shin. 1-0 to the Arsenal!
A more mature club would have built from this and ended the match without our foe scoring an away goal, and perhaps even two or three goals to the good. The mythical handbrake would have been warmly welcomed. And as sure as night follows day, our punishment came in hilarious fashion. Mr. Costerley performed what is known as a Sunderland Nosejob, kicking the ball into his own face, allowing Mr. Greysman onto goal, and our other centre-half, Mr. Masterson, having taken the controversial decision to wear his clown shoes onto the pitch, fell over at the crucial moment for one-one.
To the Wanda Metropolitano then, where Athletic are unbeaten at home in the league this season. A glimmer of hope is that west London mediocrities FC Chelsea 2003 beat them in the Champions’ League, and Seville in the cup. Yet I think we know what is going to happen.
The second leg has honourable failure written all over it.