06 March 2014

An open letter to Mark Clattenburg ahead of Saturday's match

Dear Mr. Clattenburg,

I hope that this letter finds you and yours well. The climate here has been somewhat chillier than is seasonal, what with there being a good 25cm of snow on the ground and temperatures hovering at -5. Still, the children are hale and making the most of the snow, although the snowman they've made looks to be more an effigy than a frivolity. I told myself I wouldn't worry over it, though, as you know how children can be. I'm sure they'll burst through the door soon enough, apple-cheeked and runny-nosed, clamoring for hot chocolate and biscuits. Listen to me prattle on, though, as if there aren't more significant issues for us both! I'm sorry. This old mind of mine tends to wander. As to my real business, I suppose you know by now that we have an important rendez-vous this Saturday, and I do hope that I can count on you to do your level-best. After all, the Arsenal have been hard done by in previous matches. You of all people know that I'm not given to moaning, but I feel that I must air my views and hope you will lend a sympathetic ear.

Tolerably well-done.
First, it was the draws. We had to go all the way to Turkey to face Fenerbah├že just to qualify for the Champions League. The indignity was compounded when my map of Constantinople turned out to be woefully out of date. The local wallet-inspector was more than happy to point me in the right direction, although I do wonder when I should receive my wallet in the post, certified as promised. It has been inconvenient in the interim, I must admit. However, the footballers did fare better than did I, it must be said, so I will set aside my own tribulations for the good of the club I love. We then found we had gone from the frying pan into the fire, pitted against Dortmund and Napoli and Marseille in the group stage. That we emerged unscathed is nothing short of a miracle, and I shan't remind you of what followed from there!

No, instead, it was drawing Chelsea in the fourth round of the league cup. What happened to tradition? I asked myself. Instead of facing some Championship side, we have a London derby? What's next, I asked the missus, Scottish independence? We shared a good laugh, we did, but it was as short-lived as our league cup adventures, no thanks to your man Dowd. I'd like a word with him, I would. Before you know it, we'll be throwing it all over and facing Prem clubs in the early stages of the FA Cup.

Little did I know that my little quip would prove true, as we then drew none other than Tottenham in the FA Cup's third round. Well, by then, we'd more than had enough and sent them packing—not that we can thank you for much help, mind. Still, it''s enough to make a man wonder why he bothers pinching his pennies and being thrifty week in and week out if his reward is to continue facing every Tim, Dick, and 'arry what has a chip on his shoulder. At least the fourth round restored some semblance of order, but then—but then—came the truly outrageous part.

Did you see—I pray you are sitting down—did you see the twin travesties we were forced to endure? First, we looked set to avenge a proper drubbing at Anfield with a clean-sheet in the second-leg (of sorts) only for your man Webb to award Liverpool a penalty. It was a shite call (pardon my French), so I'm surprised that Gerrard didn't make a meal of it, if you catch my drift. He tucked it home, and this absolutely ruined our FA Cup run of clean-sheets. Ruined it. I can't even begin to describe how crestfallen I was. That this man Suarez was actually rewarded for his histrionics is almost more than I can bear. For him to further engage in the melodrama moments later only confirms the importance of cracking down on that sort of underhandedness.

Not to be outdone, though, was this Arjen Robben fellow, who twirled and pun like Glass Joe, which was enough to send Szczesny off, leaving us a man short and scuppering our slim hopes in the Champions League. Why such flim-flammery is tolerated, not to mention encouraged, beggars belief. The molly-coddling is enough to make a man consider switching over to the Tories, I don't mind telling you.

I hope, then, that we count on you to stand for what is right and true, although I must say you offer a mixed record. On one hand, you're admonishing Adam Lallana for daring to question you at Goodison Park. This troubles me, as it suggests a certain bias on your part towards the Toffees. Suffice it to say, such proclivities will not go over well on Saturday. Nay, instead, it might go better for you to reprise the role you've played well enough in other fixtures, such as when you denied Everton's appeals for a penalty against Spurs. If this suggests a certain enmity against Spurs, may I remind you that the enemy of your enemy is your friend? To wit, no one dislikes Spurs as much as we do. In fact, I submit that an Arsenal win on Saturday might stick in their collective craw. I do hope you'll think it over.

As always, I remain ever true and wish you nothing but the best in your future endeavors (and trust that you understand without my implying one way or another how to interpret "best" in the current circumstance).

Yours-
Jon