Just as the second instalment of Arsenal’s humiliation at the hands of Bayern Munich was drawing to a miserable end last night, a song broke out among a handful of supporters braving the cold in a peaceful corner of the Essex town of Braintree.
“Arsene Wenger,” they sang. “We’re coming for you.” For while Arsenal were receiving yet another pummeling from a European giant, their next opponents were extending their lead at the top of the National League, and licking their lips at the chance to take on the ailing Gunners this weekend.
Lincoln City’s clash with Braintree kicked off at the same time as Arsenal’s showdown with Bayern Munich, and took place barely 50 miles up the M11. Yet the two clubs could not have had more contrasting fortunes coming into their FA Cup tie at the Emirates on Saturday.
While Arsenal collapsed, Lincoln soared. A hat-trick from striker Lee Angol - who had only signed for the club the day before - and a late strike from Nathan Arnold secured a breezy 4-0 victory for the visitors, who walked off the pitch to learn that title challengers Tranmere had been beaten by Barrow.
In the words of one club official, it was a night that “couldn’t have gone much better”. No wonder the supporters were enjoying the moment, then. Top of the league, one game away from Wembley and still riding the high of embarrassing Premier League Burnley in the FA Cup, why shouldn’t they be targeting another scalp? And as their song - or threat - aimed at Wenger shows, they know what a scalp it will be to inflict the worst of defeats on the under-pressure Frenchman.
Not that Lincoln’s manager, Danny Cowley, was getting too carried away. Ever the diplomat, Cowley is hardly one to issue a warning of his own to Wenger, but at least with Braintree out of the way he can now admit to focusing his attentions on Arsenal.
“I think it was a really important night tonight,” he said. “We don’t play in the league for two weeks and we wanted to leave with a good performance.
“We wanted to earn the right to look forward to what is to come, and now we wake up tomorrow and tomorrow is a brilliant day. We have earned the right to look forward to it now. We will have a look at the two Bayern games, and we can now turn our attention to Arsenal.”
It is a state of affairs that will clearly take some getting used to for the manager, who accidentally referred to the FA Cup as the Essex Cup.
“I have said that about five times - Nicky [his brother and assistant] keeps having to remind me it’s the FA Cup,” he laughed.
“It is a great time now. We can all start talking about it. But like we always say, we are going to get prepared, we are going to get organised and we are going to go in there really determined to give a good account of ourselves. If we can do that, then in football you never know.
“We are not going for a day out. You go to the zoo or a theme park for a day out. This is football, we are professional people and we will go there with a game plan.”
The nature of that gameplan remains to be seen, and Cowley is fully aware of the scale of the task in front of his side, but that has not stopped them dreaming so far, and it will not stop them from dreaming now.
“You have to believe you’re going to win,” he said. “We all know it’s probably one in a thousand - we respect that and understand that - but we have to go there believing that it is going to be that one time.”
Arsene Wenger, they’re coming for you.