In the wake of some prime Arsenality on Thursday night I am afraid I somewhat overdid the pharmaceutical commiserations. I should have known better when Parpy Winthorne, Tickles McGinty, John, Purple Margaret and Lord Digby Wigby decided to descend on Gentleman Towers.
Let’s have an ale, Gent! Just the one!
Ah yes, just the one. In terms of impending disasters, is there a greater early signal than ‘just the one’? It’s certainly up there with (until recently, please see below) ‘Mustafi starts’. Never trust a man named after a book of the bible or a disciple, my dear old Grandmother used to say, and she was proven entirely correct yet again with my enigmatically named pal John. I am sure sleep will come, although the dental grade cocaine Benzoylmethylecgonine did not help. Neither did the seventeen Negronis.
When one needs to numb, one needs to numb, and heavens to Murgatroyd did we need to numb last night. The chaps and I intended to have a bit of a giggle about The Earl of Elgin’s splendid and entirely legal purchase of those Parthenon sculptures but it was Arsenal who lost their marbles yestereve.
It was like an encyclopaedia of Arsenal’s enduring failings of the last few years. Glaring misses coupled with a lack of shots on target. The game management of a team of hyperactive six- year-olds. The set piece defending of Messrs Larry, Curly and Moe. A set of crosses which were less scary than those on an Easter bun. Against a side who came to sit deep and in numbers we showed the penetrative ability similar to attempting to insert an oyster in a parking meter despite a forward line which scanned through the checkout at £215 million. A set of crosses which were easily dealt with by our Greek opponents.
Considering the freefall in which we found ourselves under He Who Shall Not Be Named, the deep and painful disappointment we felt is surely testament to how far we’ve come in a short period of time under Arkwright. We weren’t going to win the competition anyway – the likes of United, Roma, Inter, Bayer Leverkusen and Getafe lurk like a gang of street toughs, waiting to take our wallets, shoes and jewellery.
Yes, we lost consecutive home games in European competition for the first time since 2015. But this comes off the back of a very promising run of matches, notable for the individual improvements observed in particular players, Danny Sibbles, Luke Torrance, David Lewis, Graham Shackleton and of course the flowering of left-back Barclay Sackville, but it is the extraordinary lift in form of Seamus Masterson (nicknamed ‘Shkodran Mustafi’), the likes of which has not been seen since the events of John 5:8 at the Pool of Bethesda, which I shall now detail.
If this were a film, we would be standing over his graveside sobbing, when we hear a scratching sound. Can it be? No, it is our ears playing tricks. But there it is again. Can it be? The crowd mutters to itself. Two players look at each other. A jacket is removed. A crowbar is obtained. Someone jumps down onto the casket. They lever off the top to reveal MUSTAFI GRINNING LIKE A LOON. Pronounced dead by doctors some months before, he is very much alive, alive-oh, and his rebirth means we do now not necessarily need to jump into the market for another centre-half in the summer.
The reason for this dramatic improvement? In his own words, “the manager speaks about things I have never heard before… simple things, but simple things you have to remember.”
So there we are. Those moments of extreme Mustafiness have been dramatically reduced in frequency because the manager explained that a defender needs to… defend. All hail logic. And all hail Arkwright.
I am convinced that he is the right man for the job, despite last evening’s tribulations. For if he can raise the footballing dead, imagine where we’ll be in a year’s time. Keep the faith.
Now, to my bed!