It’s February and The Premier League has begun its final approach. Tray tables have been stacked away and seats returned to upright positions, as the glittering approach lights of the season’s finale begin to twinkle in the distance. Much like that metaphor, the title race has become stale and predictable. Chelsea look set to win by a mile. They are exceptional, slick and ruthless, moving further and further away from their fellow table toppers while, down below- where the real drama is- relegation has become a possibility for everyone from Sunderland all the way up to Middlesbrough.
As I acknowledge the brilliance of Chelsea, the resurgence of Mourinho’s United, the quiet consistency of West Brom and the stubborn, fighting spirit of Swansea, I find myself wondering- as I do at this stage of every season- where are Arsenal in all of this? Rather than play focussed, incisive football this is a team that would rather strut and preen for its worldwide fan base of millions than challenge for a shot at glory. Arsenal fans, I know you agree with me.
Here, in South Africa, it is not uncommon to see Arsenal shirts worn by everyone from beggars to hipsters. Such is the power of the Arsenal brand. When I ask these people why the Arsenal shirt and not a Chelsea blue or United red, they reply, “we like the way that Arsenal plays.” There is a belief that this team has a certain flair- that there is something beautiful and 1970s Brazilian about their style. All I can say is that these people were clearly not watching on Saturday when Chelsea showed them just how it should be done.
For neutrals, like me, the massive popularity of the Arsenal brand means that the team is always, inescapably on the telly and I am bored with having to watch them. Mercifully, I have found a way to deal with this broadcasting trend and now can safely say that I now enjoy the magical mediocrity of the Gunners every week. The solution was simple: I devised my very own Arsenal drinking game.
Here is how it works. A drink must be sipped on each of the following occasions:
1) When any of the Arsenal players looks more interested in modelling that tight-fitting kit that getting it dirty or (shock) near the opponent’s goal.
2) When Ramsey gets injured.
3) When Welbeck comes on as a substitute or does not.
4) When the crowd intones ‘Arsenaw, Arsenaw’ morosely, to the distain of the VIPs and directors on their heated chairs.
5) Whenever they string ten passes together without going anywhere.
6) Whenever Arsene Wenger says ‘errrr’ in his pre or post match interviews.
7) Whenever you hear the sound of wasted money
8) Whenever you catch yourself waking suddenly and violently, having glided from the sofa to the floor and onto the dog.
Since the adoption of these simple rules, Arsenal have become a much more entertaining team to watch. Their characteristic underperformances have become something that I now look forward to every week. I now no longer care about how good Ozil is supposed to be or whether Arsene Wenger could look more like a corpse in a coat, I just sit back and drink.
The best part about this game is that it does not discriminate; it is open to Arsenal fans and Arsenal endurers alike. We can sit back together and enjoy their toothless, overpriced antics as they challenge for another Champions League place finish at best. They play Hull on Saturday and that should be a good one. I’m off to buy my bottle of Whisky now.