THERE is an Arsenal fan sitting just to the left of the Emirates press box and everyone in the football media knows him.
As Mikel Arteta’s leaders racked up 50 points in half a season and recently won seven league games, Shouty Sweary Man screamed and cursed until he was red in the face.
He did it to opposing players and coaching staff, Arsenal’s players, match officials and the media, who are involved in a wide-ranging conspiracy to destroy his club.
For the uninitiated, imagine Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream with a soundtrack by the small-mouthed Viz character Roger Mellie: The Man On The Telly. This is our man.
And we marveled at the extreme anger shown by some who had paid well to watch a wonderful young team stage a wonderful attack on the title.
But then, as Arsenal threw away a two-goal lead to draw against Liverpool and West Ham, leaving the title-race initiative to Manchester City, we thought of Shouty Sweary Man.
And we realized he wasn’t some maniac in dire need of a chill pill and an anger management class.
In fact, he had been the only sane man in the building – a wise mystic who knew what was preordained.
While the media hailed every performance by Arteta’s team as a ‘champion mark’ and even the cold-hearted bookies declared them favourites, he always knew Arsenal wouldn’t win it.
City have a lot more money and know-how, a deeper squad and a more experienced manager, an easier run-in and it was ridiculous that Arsenal should give them such a bad scare in the first place.
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Yes, the Gunners remain four points clear after playing one more game than City.
But they will have to travel to the Etihad on Wednesday next week to face a team who have won ten straight games and scored 37 goals while chasing the Treble, including a fifth title in six seasons.
If Arsenal finish second and are close to City’s points tally then this season will be a triumph.
Yet the real concern – and Shouty Sweary Man will have already thought of it – is that while Arteta’s side are sure to improve next season, likely with West Ham skipper Declan Rice to bolster his midfield, they’ll likely never have one will have a better chance of the title.
This is the age of nation-state ownership.
Abu Dhabi reigns at the top but the Saudis are rising fast in Geordie Arabia and the Qataris are poised to buy Manchester United.
Arteta is brilliant, but how good does he have to be to defeat every oil-rich sheikh and king in the Middle East?
In addition, Chelsea and Liverpool – with higher wage costs than Arsenal – can no longer be quite as bad.
While most Arsenal fans were reveling in an exciting season, our North Londoner Cassandra saw that looming doom from a mile away.
Arsenal were unable to defeat West Ham as Gabriel conceded a clumsy penalty, Bukayo Saka missed a penalty and the defense switched to a ball over the top for Jarrod Bowen’s equaliser.
They always had a day off because they are inexperienced and some of their players aren’t really world class.
And days off aren’t allowed in the era of nation-state ownership, where 90 points or more are needed to win titles.
Despite the cliché, two-zero is actually not such a “dangerous lead”. Arsenal had never before given away two such advantages in consecutive Premier League games.
But experience tells us that champions don’t do things like that during a title race.
Of course, Arsenal could still get a result at Etihad, win at Newcastle and against Brighton and go on a glorious open-top bus parade to Islington Town Hall next month.
Most people genuinely hope they win the league, even those of us in the anti-Arsenal media cartel.
And when they do, we will be there, listening for our hero’s next prophecy.
“You bunch of shit, you’re never gonna win it again next season.”
BOEH NOT THAT BRIGHT
A snapshot of how to run and how not to run, Brighton’s 2-1 win at Chelsea was picture perfect.
Here was an £88m winger, Mykhailo Mudryk, outshone by a £2.5m winger, Kaoru Mitoma. And a £3.6m midfielder, Moises Caicedo, is dominating a £100m-plus midfielder, Enzo Fernandez.
As for Brighton’s brilliant £9.5m Paraguayan match-winner Julio Enciso, we have no one to compare him to as Chelsea lack a striker despite a £600m investment under Todd Boehly.
Boehly thought he tapped into the Brighton miracle when he poached Graham Potter and dumped him months later.
Chelsea also took charge of Brighton’s recruiting chief Paul Winstanley last year – but appear determined to run their transfer operation as the polar opposite of Albions.
WATCH THEM WALK
OLLIE WATKINS scored two goals and an assist, had ruled out another try from VAR and hit a post as the Aston Villa striker obliterated Newcastle.
Watkins, with 11 goals in 12 games, had given BT Sport a pre-game interview in which he attributed his revival to the fact that since Unai Emery replaced Steven Gerrard he is actually being coached to play to his strengths.
Villa are headed for the Europa League, a competition Emery has won four times with Sevilla and Villarreal.
He probably coached their players well too.
As we approach the second anniversary of the European Super League debacle, there could be no better antidote than securing Luton promotion to the Premier League.
Here’s a reminder of the wonders of the pyramid scheme these Big Six “snakes” sought to escape from as the Hatters rose from the fifth-rate National League in nine years without spending any serious money.
They thought they were too big to play Luton so it would be a joy to see them at the ailing Kenilworth Road next season.
COST OF LOYALTY
It’s season ticket renewal time and despite obscene amounts of TV money being pumped into the Premier League, most supporters are faced with inflation-splitting surges in a livelihood crisis.
Remember the pandemic when ‘football was nothing without fans’? Well they don’t.
They know they got you on the roof for your loyalty.
And if your skin outweighs your commitment, you know there will be tens of thousands of tourists who will happily pay double for your seat. c
JIMMY A JEWEL
IN a County Championship match in Chelmsford, England’s greatest Test wicket-taker, Jimmy Anderson, and England’s most successful Test run scorer, Sir Alastair Cook, engaged in two fascinating duels.
On both occasions, 38-year-old Essex opener Cook was caught leg-before by 40-year-old Lancashire bowler Anderson.
For all England ‘Bazball’ pyrotechnicians, Anderson will remain the key player for the Ashes this summer.