Something is happening at Arsenal. It is in danger of impacting upon everything the club currently stands for and could have far-reaching consequences for the future.
The most dramatic, unexpected, thrilling and game-checking metamorphosis looks to have begun. Each encounter galvanises the sense of change. Each week it starts to feel more real.
Once it takes full hold, there may be no turning back. The Arsenal – equal parts wonderfully sublime and laughably ridiculous Arsenal – are becoming mundane.
A club so inclined to drama that they tend to wear it as a badge of honour, are settling into moribund routine. Their current form of unfettered dominance dates back to the second week of February and reads like a web address with a stutter. But what makes this consistency so remarkable is the largely unremarkable play.
Arsenal, as we love/loathe them, are a beast of drastic amplitude. They are hostage to their own ridiculous extremes. When in form they are unplayable and beat you with a nonchalant brilliance that few can match; when struggling they are as limp as a double-dipped digestive thrown at a wall. The Gunners are institutionally bipolar.
Yet since a Harry Kane-inspired defeat to Spurs in the North London derby, Arsenal have cruised to eight league wins on the trot with the minimum of fuss. Each victory accomplished with self-confident ease. There has been momentum for sure, but not in the unstoppable sex machine sense – more a slow-burning smoulder.
An undefeated March and April has included a 2-1 defeat of Manchester United at Old Trafford, and the recent 4-1 thrashing of Liverpool at home. Yet neither was quite as dramatic as they sound. In the past Arsenal needed to be sensational to beat a top rival; both these victories were achieved with extra gears in reserve.
The problem with fireworks is that you are rarely in full command. Maverick bursts may be stunning but they are fugacious by nature. What Arsenal are now doing is taking a firm hold of their own destiny rather than succumbing to mood or circumstance. It’s not sexy. There’s no pizzazz. It’s not very Arsenal. But it points to permanence.
It is impossible to know how their famously neurotic fans will react. Perhaps they’ll miss the mania of maddening deviation. Stockholm syndrome may have set in for those addicted to constant uppers and downers. But with the formality of each new victory comes a new sensation – the exciting prospect of predictable glory.