Each letter was scribed on the finest parchment. Despite being daubed using a fountain pen – not one accidental blot spoiled what was the most elegant of handwriting. Each letter had been placed in a thick sheath and had been delivered by hand in the wee hours. Every detail had been seen to. The invites were completed.
Now he waited……..
2130 HOURS. SOMEWHERE IN RURAL ENGLAND
The house – or blight on the countryside as the locals called it – stood out from the rest of the idyllic setting. Surrounded by crops of thick shrubs and groupings of mighty oak trees – its air of the modern threw up a vulgar middle finger to what lay here previously. Where before lay a behemoth of a Victorian pile, now only the facade of the antiquated remained. The front of the previous house had been kept looked ill at ease being the face of such a building. Much like the skyscrapers that bullied the London skyline – the new home was predominantly glass with metal framework. If knocking on the ancient doors you happened to take a step back – you would be of the opinion that the house had shed its skin. This abode did not have a reptilian nature however. Unlike its owner…….
All guests had been ushered through the doors by an almost fossilized butler. He shuffled through what most would think of as a shrunken main entrance room given the house’s size and were led left. Down through a narrow unspectacular hallway lined by oil paintings of tropical settings that wouldn’t look out of place up on the gaudy walls of a sunbed shop – eventually a routine white, wooden door opened out into one of the most gargantuan dining rooms you are ever likely to see.
This is where the guests now resided – impatiently waiting for the opportunity to right some wrongs. The room was perfectly spherical and white alabaster walls were the owners choice to frame the room. Halfway up the wall abruptly ended and a large glass dome topped the walls. One ornate chandalier hung, sentry-like, from the centre of the glasswork. The light that emitted from this no-doubt ridiculously priced crystal light fitting filled every crevice in the room and also served to pave the way for inquisitive eyes to peer into the sky that cackled above them. It was rather breathtaking.
High-backed, green leather armchairs sporadically placed around the outer of the room and a table that could serve a hungry crowd sat in the centre acted as stations for where – if the mood took you – you could look into the sky that loomed up high in a position of luxury and comfort. Nothing else littered the space which could have been used as an oratory. the guests grew listless as the lightning continued to splinter its white-hot dance across the heavens.
The sole door creeped open. The staff member who had led ushered them into this room cracked a single, barked cough. The guests, which were five in number – all bolted upright.
In walked a man entirely comfortable in his own skin and his surroundings. The man was dressed much like a person who had just been quaffing brandy whilst discussing hunting in a room lined with deerheads. Adorned in tweed with leather patches in all the right places, he cradled a walnut pipe out of one corner of his mouth. The man was someone they all should know well. despite the ridiculous outfit – the man was Arsene Wenger.
The guests were aghast at such a shock. They expected a demanding Board Member – a bloated fatcat who could be shrugged off or set at ease with a photograph and an autograph for the grandchildren. The Gaffer wouldn’t be of the same ilk.
Arsene opens his mouth to speak. It isn’t his usual measured tones….
” THE POST-MORTEM STARTS HERE! ” he booms with portent. The reverie the guests were in ( who were still standing ) due to the shock of their Boss being the one who had just walked in was broken with Wengers cry.
” I have invited you all to this house to finally get some answers. We try and we try to work out our problems on the training pitch. We talk and we talk about using our mental strength to overcome. We have hit a leetle roadblock. ”
The guests shifted uneasily.
” Against Chelsea, we passed well. We moved well. We defended well for the most part. But leetle-beet mental block defeeated our aims. It happens every time we play them. I now want to get to the bottom of it and I believe the culprit of our failings – IS IN THIS ROOM TONIGHT!!! ”
As if nature had an eye for timing – thunder rolled across the sky and boomed onto the glass dome which served as a giant drum. The bass generated from the blast sent a raft of ringing into everyone’s ears.
The guests were now looking from one to another. They started to realise this night wasn’t going to be an evening wining and dining and keeping the money-men happy. A finger needed to be pointed and if it landed on them – the repurcussions would be irreversible.
Mesut Ozil – the club’s record signing.
Alexis Sanchez – the supposed herald of a new dawn.
Steve Bould – rescuer of a flailing defence.
Mathieu Flamini – midfiled terrier.
Per Mertesacker – defensive titan.
” Gentlemen, this ends here. Mesut. I will start with you “.
The mercurial playmaker’s infamously protruding eyes seemed to sweat. He started to sit down on one of the green chairs and immediately stood up again – as if unsure of his approach. Arsene began his deducting.
” Please Mesut, sit. Now, you signed with us because you feel invested in the story I am writing. You felt that the direction that I am taking the club and the trust I place in you will enable you to become a better player and that success lights our path. It is no shock to everyone that confidence has sometimes been a leetle-beet of an issue, but we kept plugging away. Then the World Cup came and you showed your versatility and usefulness. I thought I could employ you in the same fashion. But no. You couldn’t replicate it for me on the left could you? No matter. I put you back in the centre for Villa and you showed everyone what you could do. Against Chelsea however – you didn’t perform in contrast to our opponents star player did you? He changed the game for them………”
Arsene simply broke off mid-flow. Mesut – still standing but unsure of his stance – was still unsure of whether the blame would fall at his feet. Wenger had now turned his icy gaze upon another though……
” Alexis. Poster boy for Chile on the world stage. Top performer for Barcelona. Impressive stats. You had it all. You joined us and you have given EVERYTHING on the pitch. You have toiled. You and your pulled up shorts have run miles to show the fans that you will leave nothing on the pitch. Despite this though, I have found it hard to incorporate you into the team. I have had to tinker. I have had to change, to mould. The start of the season is not the ideal time to do this but I have to play you. What do I do? You played against Chelsea didn’t you…….”
Once more, mid-diatribe, Arsene cuts short. The exasperation levels had reached fever pitch. Eyes darting betwixt each other. trickles of sweat foraging down brows. Tonight would bring answers – but with a price.
” Sir Steve, a true Arsenal man. ” Bould seemed to be the only one of the party to have kept his composure. A man with an impeccable record for the club and a renowned steel to his demeanour, surely if anyone would see through this fateful night it would be he?
” You have been an invaluable ally in times of duress and attack from outside sources. You have been a soundboard to my ideas and a critique when I’m led astray. When Pat left, you filled a void and you did it well. You know however, that your raison d’etre was to work on the defence. Has your vision worked? Has your experience seeped into our players? Have you failed? ”
Seteve Bould’s famous steely glaze slipped a little at such brazen questioning. One eye flickered intermittently, his hands clenched into fists that had sent fear into Premiership centre-forwards for an era. He was rattled…..
” Per, Mathieu. You have both performed admirably for me when called upon. Per, your partnership with Laurent was the cornerstone of last season. Yet questions still remain over you. Specifically your lack of mobility. For 70 minutes you displayed why you won over 100 caps for Germany. You shackled the in-form striker of the League in that time. Did you do EVERYTHING in your power to stop him though? Did the second goal fall on your shoulders as much as Laurent’s? ”
” Mathieu. You left us when we needed you most. It took every drop of your fighting spirit upon your return to win us all over. You exhibited great mental strength. The position you play in is under great scrutiny and yet, I still play you despite your recent mistakes. The spotlight is shining upon you Mathieu. ”
Per and Mathieu, Little and Large, looked at each other. Like a tree and a potted fern, they were both borne ultimately from the same seed but lacked the matching physical attributes. They both shared the same thought at this time. Fear.
Arsene began to pace around the large centrepiece table, with a peculiar gait. He supped at his pipe but no smoke wafted from it. He was ruminating. Lost in thought. Whilst Wenger was cut adrift on the Thought-Yacht – his charges scratched at non-existent itches and distractedly attempted to put themselves at ease.
Arsene stopped dead in his tracks and swivelled on a sixpence to face them. The moment was upon them.
He clapped his hands and the walking archaeology dig shuffled into the room with a silver platter. Atop the platter was a decanter filled with what appeared to be brandy. He lumbered with these objects to each guest – miraculously not dropping anything – and poured them each a measure. He handed Arsene the final glass and poured the last drops. He then without a word left the room.
Brandishing the crystal glass, Wenger began what felt like his conclusions. Every person in the room aside from the Boss felt everything constrict.
” There are cases for each of you and points that had to be addressed. We each have our own cross to bear but it is how we adapt and fight with these burdens that makes a man. Mental strength and spirit make up so much of the ingredients of a top, top player. Do you think you have evidenced this? ”
The question was rhetorical yet seemed to be aimed at them all simultaneously. It hang in the air like a fugue. Arsene gave the question its moment – and then continued.
” So, who is to blame for such a performance? For us to once more dominate possession but have no end product? For us to quell a potent threat for so long only for it to rip us open when we least expect it? Well, gentlemen, the answer is………”
Lightning streaked across the transparent roof of the room and the thunder that was akin to sitting next to Zeus if he had flatulence broke the silence. The chandalier that had lit the whole room now lay dark and vacuous. The whole room was plunged into an inky blindness. Murmurs from the now slightly panicked guests who had been left on tenterhooks were being uttered.
The lights flashed back on. Standing on top of the table was Jose Mourinho, donning a black cape and all black suit. Villainy suited him. At his feet lay a butlers uniform and a latex mask and grey wig. He was the butler.
” BWAHAHAHAHA!!! You fools! Like the pathetic creatures you are, you gather here and question your roles. you try to find weakness when there is no need. you have a club culture where you must place blame. It can never be just an off-day. It has to be Mertesackers pace, it must be a lack of a big holding midfielder, it has got to be a failing in the defence, the attack! HA!!!! You ignorant idiots! There is a reason why your beloved leader has failed to vanquish me. It’s simply because I will not hold any scruples dearly! Wenger will not abandon his beautiful plan to get three points. He will try to show the world that playing football will win through. PAH!!! I would abandon my own children for three points! THAT IS THE DIFFERENCE! THAT IS WHY I AM A WINNER!!! THAT IS WHY I AM…..”
Jose stopped in the midst of his boasting and preening. He wheeled around to find his nemesis Arsene, looming over him. Toe to toe. Like a ferret caught stealing eggs, he appeared to choke on thin air. Arsene menacingly stood statuesque and then, fully extended his arms, whilst placing his hands on Joses chest. His arms shot out like an aging piston and Mourinho, arms flailing like a portuguese windmill, careered backwards. His nefarious black cape whipped around his face – now agape in fright.
Jose fell backwards, crashing into the plush carpet. Much to his chagrin, the cape was now in his mouth. He spat it out in fury.
” CURSES!!! You’ve not heard the end of this Arsenal!! I will have my REVEEEEEEENNNNGEEEE!!!! ”
He continued to shout the word ‘revenge’ as he ran out of the room in wracking sobs. The front door of the house slamming closed could be heard in the cavernous dining room and they all watched by the window as Jose quickly jumped into his 1981 Austin Allegro and escaped the scene.
The threat of Jose Mourinho and his Chelsea cohorts still loom large over our landscape. We have spent more money recently and yet we are still falling short. We have apparently moved forward and yet our tactics haven’t changed against him since the first game. Does the blame for the defeat actually lie with Wenger and his obsession with playing football the right way?
Do I blame him for holding those principles highly? that isn’t for me to say whether his principles act as an obstacle or not. For every Chelsea game, there are many others where I beam with pride when we carve open another opponent thanks to our wonderful play which is famous throughout Europe.
One thing is for sure though. The return leg will be gosh darn interesting. I must dash, I need to pick these splinters from my arsecheeks.