There was a murmur of foreboding last month when it emerged that the Doomsday Clock, a metaphorical timepiece that ranks the current omens for the complete annihilation of the human race, has been set at two minutes to midnight.
This is a joint record low for mankind’s prospects, matched only once, back in 1953, when nuclear war seemed not just likely but somehow unavoidable, the sensible, grown-up option, with its own language of industrial inevitability.
On the bright side, we do have a 100% record of surviving the two minutes to midnight slot. On the stats, our Expected Doom rating looks promising. Meanwhile, opponents of the basic idea of the clock have some well-rehearsed objections. They point out it isn’t actually a clock at all but a process controlled by pessimistic scientists who have even started cheating by including things such as global warming, which might not turn out to be real if we don’t think about it or do anything to stop it until it’s already happened.
Plus, of course, portents of doom have always come and gone. A personal favourite is the notorious Prophet Hen Of Leeds, whose keeper Mary Bateman would write “Christ is coming” on recently laid eggs, then put them back where they’d come from, allowing her chicken to repeatedly lay the same apocalyptic message. Bateman sparked a mass religious panic – right up to the moment people realised she was just writing on eggs and shoving them back in her chicken.
The reason for turning to such doom-laden thoughts here is that something startling did happen this week, an Arsenal-related event I have been quietly pining for, counting down the days, reading the signs. Don’t tell the clock people but Yaya Sanogo has finally scored a top-flight league goal.
Yes, really. Sanogo is 25 now. In four years at Arsenal he earned £5m in wages, won an FA Cup winners’ medal and started against Bayern Munich in the Champions League. There were some cup goals and a weird, isolated hat-trick for Charlton during a loan spell.
But the basic currency, the top-tier league goal, remained elusive for a centre-forward who last scored one for Auxerre six years ago. And a player who in England always seemed jarringly out of place, running in strange, disconnected patterns, not so much trapping the ball as trying to stamp on it in a pair of snow shoes; a diligent, well-drilled, physically fit human being doing a decent impression of a top-flight footballer that crumbled into panic-stricken mugging under pressure.
And so here he is again, laying his own rather ominous doomsday egg in the shape of a first-half winner for Toulouse at home to 10-man Troyes. It is a haunting, timely reappearance for a player associated unavoidably with recent Arsène Wenger days at Arsenal, and linked in particular with Mesut Özil, who was also in the news this week after signing an astronomical new contract.