You glide silently between defenders, waiting for the slightest indication to make the incisive surge. Out on the left Ashley Cole loses his marker, he’s in half a yard of space and JT has spotted him. You accelerate, when the moment comes, if it comes, you won’t have time to readjust, you’ll need to be in the right place at the right time.
The ball slides through, Arshavin lunges desperately to intercept but Ashley’s collected successfully and turned towards goal. Sagna hastens to close him down, but he’s too late. A curled, fast ball is pelting into the six yard area. You leap. The ball wings past the first defender. Your marker is inches behind you, but inches are all you need. You watch the ball onto your right boot, out of the corner of an eye you spy the onrushing keeper, you open your body, and guide it into the top right corner. Bing bong it hits the bar and post, and ruffles the back of the net.
Next thing you know, you’re sliding on your knees in front of delirious fans, and you deliver a double right-handed salute to the world. Achtung baby!
“Doesn’t do much.” Said Wenger of the Drog afterwards. Please. That was a double right-handed salute while skidding on his knees in front of millions of spectators. And on a Sunday. You try doing that after a night on the tiles and see where it gets you. Honestly, sometimes Arsene speaks before he thinks, if there’s one thing the Drog does, it’s celebrations. He’s a natural. Unlike the forced comedy stylings of Mister Roboto or the staged antics of Hull City FC, the Drog is a force of nature who lets a combination of momentum, elation and plain chaos determine what’s going to happen after he scores. Yesterday he’s a mini aeroplane, taxiing for take off; today he’s sliding at full tilt across a rain-soaked pitch; tomorrow he’s taken off his shoe and is pointing at the laces: ‘You think anyone wants to receive a roundhouse kick to the face while I’m wearing these bad boys? Forget about it.’
Not that I’ve got anything against preconceived goal celebrations, it’s just every time I see one I can’t help but think how long they waited for the entitling goal to be scored. I suspect the Irish will have a special basketball celebration for their next goal against France, which although funny, will smack slightly of desperation when it comes in 2020.
For me, the best celebrations are the uninhibited ones, the free-flowing releases of glee and amazement. And because of the spectacular nature of many of the goals he scores, you can tell the Drog is genuine when he runs off, eyes wide, a look of stunned silence on his face.
We all remember Drog’s early days where goals came from bungled shin-pokes and muscled goal-mouth scrambles. The dives and the strops. No way was he worth £24m, they said. Pah! Now he’s the best striker in the Premiership who can melt them into the top corner with the right or the left, volley at express velocity and header like a rutting moose.
What we’re witnessing this season is Drogba’s coming of age. At 31, and with the first African-hosted World Cup on the horizon, Drogba’s looking at the big picture. Across the pitch, in Lampard, Terry, Cole and Cole, in Ballack, Ivanovic and Mikel, and not least in Essien and Drogba, Chelsea have seasoned players all with one eye on the coming World Cup. Sure, Jack Donaghy does a good job tactically, but it’s the determination that’s faultless, which if anything is epitomised in the Drog: Here is a man who, through ferocious attacking and selfless defending has earned national captaincy and turned the Ivory Coast into a genuine World Cup threat.
So it comes as no surprise that Didi is using his international profile to endorse the Nike ‘Lace Up, Save Lives’ campaign which sells red shoes laces and donates all profits to charities that teach AIDS awareness in Africa and provide medication to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to unborn child. (Just £4 .) As they say in Cote D’Ivoire: Chapeau Didi.
As an aside, I’d like to see the introduction of pre-arranged anti-celebrations. So defenders who’ve just conceded should perform a Laurel and Hardy slapstick routine, or a guilty keeper should pose for the camera, with the dim look of Fofito on his face. Otherwise the forwards have all the fun.