22 October 2014

Arsène is a diabolocial, passive-aggressive sadist. There. I said it.

After yet another dramatic, death-defying, last-minute positive result (we're counting draws as positive results these days, if only because there are so damned many of them), I've come to a startling, perhaps shocking realization. It's so stunningly simple that I'm surprised none of us have hit on it before. All the pieces fit. It all makes sense, if only in retrospect. Many of us can find no fault with Arsène: he's a purist and a paladin but a victim of darker, fiendish forces beyond his control. Just as many of us can find no virtue in the man: he's an anachronism bereft of new ideas and ossified to old ones. Somewhere 'twixt the two, however, lies the truth. That truth? Arsène is playing us all, even his opponents and nemeses, as patsies, as pawns in a much larger game. Even as I put these words to print, I can hear the hired goons tromping up the steps to silence me, but the truth must be told.

Think about it. We've conceded the first goal now in eight of 14 matches. That's right: 57% of the time, we're on the back-foot, usually before halftime. In those eight matches, one might expect us to drop all three points. However, a shocking trend emerges instead. We've somehow managed to find the points we need, thanks to three wins (Crystal Palace, Besiktas, and Anderlecht) and three draws (Everton, Man City, Tottenham). How? In these eight matches, we've scored a goal in stoppage time four separate times, converting draws to wins, losses to draws, and losses to wins. It's madness.

Two goals in stoppage time to win at home over Crystal Palace. One in the second leg against Besiktas. Another one to salvage a draw at Goodison Park. Another one to scrape a win at Anderlecht. It's becoming such a pattern that it's impossible to ignore. It's such a pattern that it almost seems to be...a plan. We're through the looking-glass here, people, peering past the façade to look reality straight in the face, perhaps for the first time. The scales are falling from our eyes, and we can see anew.

What do we see? Pieces assembling themselves, as if by magic. All of these last-gasp goals. The razor-thin fourth-place finishes. Deadline-day signings. It's almost as if Arsène is toying with us, daring us to lose faith only to restore it with a dramatic comeback win or a jaw-dropping signing. He even has his Machiavellian foil in Mourinho, who brazenly parades his signings and dares opponents to score first. In this new understanding it is Mourinho who is the buffoon and puppet, Arsène the puppeteer. It is no coincidence that Chelsea under Mourinho's management have been our bêtes noire, for he has served as Arsène's cartoonishly distorted doppelgänger, remorselessly amassing talent while playing boring, stultifying football.

Again, this is no coincidence. It seems abundantly clear that Arsène is playing with us, daring us to love him, inviting us to hate him, by leading Arsenal to just enough success to sustain our faith while flirting with just enough failure to fuel our fury. It's as if he's manipulating us to see just how far he can push us, testing our devotion and rewarding us only as often as is necessary. Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal. Mesut Özil signs £42m deal. Arsenal 3-2 Hull. Alexis Sanchez signs £35m deal. And on and on.

The pattern is so prevalent and so pervasive that we'd be patsies to pass it by. How often can one club flirt with disaster, entice and allure, but fail to deliver?

Even our most-dramatic signings reek of this kind of passive-aggressive recrimination. Arsène signs Özil, perhaps the paradigm of Wengerball, but plays him wide left instead of through the middle or wide right. Arsène signs Welbeck and Alexis, players who remind us of Henry and Pires (perhaps a bit unfairly) but doesn't adapt our attack to their strengths.He flirts. He teases. He revels in our Sisyphean miseries.

How else to explain the artful dodges, the near-misses, the rope-a-dopes? Surely, it is all part of a master-plan. Surely...