15 September 2014

Open Letter to Borussia Dortmund: um, Özil's playing central. Just so you know.

So. Here we are, once again. It's starting to feel like obligatory, isn't it, as if it's meant to be. And why not? We have so much in common—an iconoclastic manager. An aesthetic, exciting style. A behemoth of a rival, willing and able to outspend in order to outcompete. Injury after injury. Young players nurtured along towards stardom, only to have them betray: Nasri,Götze. Van Persie, Lewandowski. Kagawa, Fàbregas (if only...). Where might each of us be had we held onto our best and brightest? Instead, we look into a mirror and peer deeply into a gaze that holds our own but that wears a different kit and speaks a different langauge and yet, breathes the same air and feels the same pain [cue solitary tear rolling down cheek, a tear that pauses at the cheekbone before speeding towards the jaw...]. So this is what it feels like...when doves cry.

Sorry. I just can't sustain it any longer. I've had it up to my eyeballs with the "Dortmund is the German Arsenal" comparison. Or is it "Arsenal is the British Dortmund?" Flippin' hipsters. We've been doing this routine since before it was cool. We practically invented the idea of making players into superstars only to see them bolt, so you can take yer yellow-and-black scarves and yer quirky sense of humour and shove 'em right up yer arses.

I still haven't gotten over Benchgate (from what I know, one is supposed to add -gate to other words to indicate discussion of a scandal). The last time you Jerries came along to jolly old London, see, a few of your more-merry pranksters saw fit to lay waste to one of our precious benches. I'm still a bit butt-hurt by it all, if only because it meant that a few Gooners might have to perch on those posts that you see there. Look at that, wouldja? Can you imagine trying to balance your bum on one of those for two hours? There oughta be a law or at least a polite-but-firm warning on your ticket-stub.  That was just over a year ago, but grudges are surprisingly easy to hold, and I am nothing if not a petty, petty man.

While we're on the subject of who I am, I am the be-all and end-all of Arsenal's starting XI. Forthwith, I decree that we shall return to a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Arteta and Ramsey in front of the defense, Cazorla and Alexis on the wings, Welbeck at forward, and [cue dramatic music, I'm thinking Scorpions' "Rock You like a Hurricane"...] Özil at CAM. This whole experiment of playing Özil way out wide, on the left, in this 4-1-4-1, you see, is nothing more than mind-games from Arsène. Sorry to peel back the foil on the soufflé, but it's about time you saw the truth: Özil shall hold forth from the middle of the pitch. Each of our squads has been decimated by injury and transfer-window, so I hope you don't mind us deploying the four most-intriguing signings in recent history—Cazorla, Alexis, Welbeck, Özil—on you.

I'm sorry; I sincerely am because I do in fact feel a kinship here. Had things turned out differently for each of us, we might both be atop our respective leagues. Heck, one or both of us might have been won the Champions League along the way. I may speak for a few Gooners when I admit that I had cheered you on in 2013 when you very nearly slayed the Beast that is Bayern™, but we ourselves came heart-breakingly close in 2006. I'm a well-wisher in that I don't wish you any specific harm, other than to let us take all three points on Tuesday. I'm not saying that I want to oust you lot outright; I just want us to win the group. After all, you won it last time through, while we had squeaky bums and nibbled nails, needing goal-differential to best Napoli. Tell you what. We win the group this time through, you cone in second, and Galatasaray and Anderlecht can bicker over third. Deal?