Are you aware of the moving picture Withnail and I? A most bittersweet viewing experience, in technicolour, which tells the story of two pals, temporarily unemployed players on the stage. The titular Withnail is an angry man. We are to assume that at one point in his career he was somewhat celebrated. And yet when we meet him upon the silver screen he is seeking temporary refuge from his poverty struck life via psychoactive substances. He finds himself in much reduced circumstances, and complains that he is “a trained actor, reduced to the status of a bum.” Ladies and Gentlemen, Arsenal in 2019 are Withnail.
We travelled northwards, much like our duo in the film. And it became clear fairly early on in the match that we had, to paraphrase another line in the film, come to Old Trafford by mistake. In the picture, the duo arrive at their destination, a stone cottage of very basic standard, the keys of which they had purloined from their lustful benefactor, Uncle Monty, and find that there is no light, no heat and no food. Just as we arrived in Manchester with no clue, no strategy and no hope of any improvement in the league for the foreseeable future.
In straitened times such as this the only real comfort is that Manchester United are in a similar state of decline. If we are Withnail, they are Norma Desmond, faded silent movie star who won’t accept that her looks and fame are well behind her. So there we have it: In this upper mid-table clash, Norma Desmond FC v Withnail and I FC ended in a bone marrow crushing draw.
It was a game notable for three things: The Gurnard’s excellent display in goal is one. Where would we be without him? Well, as it happens we would be fine as out backup glove butler Mr. Martin is certainly his equal but regardless this was a superb display. Number two was the cowardice of our number 34, who moved his face away from Scott McTominay’s shot with the reaction time worthy of Ryan Giggs when his brother returned home to his missus and looked in through the window. In days gone past he would have been substituted immediately, and in the Chapman era he would have been put on latrine duty for a month. And number three was the performance of our young Turks, Glen McDoozy and Barclay Sackville, the latter of whom has been involved in four goals in three starts – one goal and three gentleman’s favours.
Norma Desmond FC’s haul of nine points after seven is their worst start since 1989-1990.I was driven, much as Withnail is in the picture, to push my bath chair into the rain on the south terrace and howl at the sky:
“I have of late, (but wherefore I know not) lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition; that this goodly frame the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy the air, look you, this brave o’er hanging firmament, this majestical roof, fretted with golden fire: why, it appeareth no other thing to me, than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is man, How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, In form and moving how express and admirable, In action how like an Angel, In apprehension how like a god, The beauty of the world, The paragon of animals. And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me; no, nor Woman neither; though by your smiling you seem to say so.”
What Mr. Shakespeare is getting at here is how different is the Arsenal that Mr. Emery talks of in his press conferences to the one that we see on the pitch.
Some relief then in the form of a four nil drubbing of some Belgians last evening. If this was Standard Liege, I’d love to see what substandard Liege looked like. They turned up at St Pancras causing an almighty ruckus. Or perhaps they knew what was coming, considering they were letting off distress flares? Young Gabriel Martin-Elleray certainly showed that he has absolutely the right attributes for that centre-forward berth and he should be considered for such in the league. The goals were wonderful, but more pleasing was the return of Harry Bell at right back and the appearance of our young Japanese left back Kazuma Takahiro. He will be an upgrade on Mr. Steven Collingwood in the same way that an Aston Martin is an upgrade from a tractor.
We hope he is in contention for the Bournemouth banana skin matchup this Sunday. Otherwise we will be like Withnail and Marwood when observing a sign relating to road traffic deaths: “Accident black spot! These aren’t accidents! They’re throwing themselves into the road gladly! Throwing themselves into the road to escape all this hideousness!”