Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The Dressing-Room: Arsenal

Gary Lineker gave his best Toby Jug smile to the camera. “Well, Match of the Day fans, we have a special treat for you tonight. Our top man, Donald Ente, was in the Emirates stadium to give us an exclusive viewing  of Arsene Wenger’s pre-match team talk.” He turned to the big screen behind him. “I think you’ll be in for a bit of a treat.”

Donald, wearing a large sheepskin coat and holding a microphone, appeared on the screen, standing with one hand on a grey door. He raised his microphone to his lips.

“Good evening, viewers. I'm here in the Emirates stadium for the pre-match Arsenal team-talk.” He pushed open the door and stepped into the room beyond, revealing a number of Arsenal players stretched out on beds scattered around various pieces of medical equipment. In the far corner of the room was a very dusty wooden cabinet with the word “Trophy” scrawled in red felt pen on a piece of paper attached to the front. A low mooing sound was emanating from somewhere just off camera, and a Walcott-shaped blur crossed the screen before disappearing into an unseen corridor. In the centre of the room stood a pontificating Arsene Wenger with his back to the camera. Reluctant to cut him off in mid-flow, Donald instead turned the microphone in his direction.

“You must all work together as a team! Remember, we must all hang together, or assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

“Franklin!” shouted out Arteta, and Wenger nodded. Donald coughed politely and the Arsenal manager turned around, smiling. “Ah, Mr Ente! Do come in!”

Donald shook his hand warmly, saying “Mr Wenger, I’d like to ask you a couple of questions, if I may?”

Behind the manager, there was a clang of metal and a howl of pain as Fabianski dropped his chamber pot on his foot. Wenger didn’t even blink, but merely nodded politely.

“Well, Arsene, first off, you’ve hit a bit of a rough patch recently, but some of your recent signings seem to have acclimatised well. Some people are already calling Santi Cazorla your best player...”

Cazorla immediately sat up from his prone position on the nearest bed and started shouting “I want a transfer! I want a transfer!” Wenger shot him a glare and he sank back into bed, moaning softly. Donald seemed slightly taken aback, but composed himself.

“Ok, well, next question. You seem to be finding goals hard to come by at the moment but you’ve been impressive defensively. Would it be fair to say that a big reason for that is the solidity of Thomas Vermaelen, whom I understand is being looked at by Manchester City among oth...”

Before Donald could finish, Vermaelen leapt up and charged towards the door; Donald managed to dodge out of the way before he was bowled over by the defender’s headlong rush. Wenger just shook his head sadly but made no move to stop the Belgian leaving. Again, Donald recovered.

“The young players in your team have come in for a lot of criticism lately. How would you respond to that?”

“Young oxen newly yoked are beaten more, than oxen which have drawn the plough before.”

“Ovid!” shouted Koscielny behind him, and Wenger smiled again.

“Could I also ask, Mr Wenger, why you have decided to hold your pre-match team talks in the treatment room?”

“Well, the players seem more at home here,” Wenger replied. “ And we believe in teamwork here. After all, no man is an island, entire of itself.”

“Herbert!” piped up Podolski. Wenger whirled on him furiously. “NO! It is Donne, imbecile! There is obviously a lot of work to do to integrate you into this team!”

 Donald once again began to look flustered. “Do you think your insistence on teaching the players literature rather than football skills could be a cause of your recent slump?”

“No. It is a philosophy that I will not change.”

 “Just one last question, Arsene. Should Giroud be doing that with the cow and the banjo?”

“Ah, do not worry, he has not hit it yet.” Wenger smiled sadly, and the screen went black.