An open letter to Arsene Wenger from a frustrated Arsenal fan

Subject: An open letter to Arsene Wenger from a frustrated Arsenal fan
From: a frustrated Arsenal fan
Date: 23 Sep 2015

Dear Monsieur le Professeur:

It's been a while since I felt compelled to write you directly and once again, I do so with a heavy Gooner heart. On the face of it, Saturday's high farce at Stamford Bridge shouldn't qualify for a cri de coeur. After all, I'm normally only moved to go public after a goal differential of half a dozen (you know, like 8-2 or 6-0). Mon Dieu!

But in some ways, this weekend's 2-0 laydown to Chelsea is both more embarrassing and more illuminating than our usual epic beatdowns. You see, Arsene, for all the hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing about Diego Costa's WWE-style tactics, Jose Mourinho's gleeful condoning of said antics, Mike Dean's buffoonish refereeing, and Gabriel's staggering naiveté, no one has commented on your role in the fiasco. As much as you like to stay above the fray, you can't escape some responsibility for the nauseating events that unfolded at your least favorite place on earth.

Last I checked, Professor, a manager's job is to prepare his team for their opponents. Know thy enemy and all that (helpful hint: I'm told Sun Tzu wrote a useful playbook). And you, monsieur, have failed utterly in that respect, not once but twice in a week. After proclaiming how important it was that Arsenal start on the right foot in this season's Champions League campaign, you put out a lineup against Dinamo Zagreb that ended up shooting themselves in both feet. In your infinite hubris -- or is that wisdom? -- you thought your B team sprinkled with a couple of A-listers would have no trouble disposing of the Croatian champions and you could rest the bulk of your starters for the Chelsea game three days later. Well, that really didn't work out so well, did it?

I don't blame you for giving Olivier Giroud a run-out in the second half when you fell behind. Arsenal desperately needed a goal and who better to get you one than your countryman who has been struggling and would be keen to make an impact on the match. But when he picked up that foolish yellow card for inquiring about the referee's unique forms of personal entertainment, you should have recognized that maybe Olivier wasn't his normal, dispassionate, perfectly coiffed self -- and saved him from the inevitable red card that made you chase the game with 10 men.

I had hoped that your speech after that Champions League loss might remind the lads that 10 vs. 11 is unnecessarily sporting and would perhaps even galvanize them for the Chelsea game. Then again, maybe Gabriel's English is no better than your Portuguese. Surely it must have occurred to you that Mourinho would not hesitate to unleash the dogs of war if it meant getting three points. And it didn't take Nostradamus to predict which of his pit bulls he would entrust to execute his game plan: yapping, gouging, scratching, jostling, slapping, waving imaginary cards at your players until one of them goes mental. Did you really need someone to remind you how brilliant Costa is at identifying his targets, and how, with few exceptions -- Vincent Kompany, Jordan Henderson and Tim Howard come to mind -- anyone goaded into doing the Dirty Diego tango is usually next seen looking resplendent in red?

Given that Gabriel was going to spend 90 minutes in the vicinity of the Prem's leading wind-up merchant, did you perhaps warn your young defender that Costa might be whispering Portuguese pleasantries in his ear from the kickoff and counsel him not to rise to the bait?

Mourinho even admitted afterwards that Costa "plays this way because he has to." And it was obvious from the third minute when he went to ground in the middle of the park and sat there imploring Dean to book Francis Coquelin that Costa was in midseason cheating form. He basically did everything but punch the ball in the goal while twirling his mustache.
And speaking of Coquelin, Arsene, did you have your heart in your mouth like every other Arsenal supporter when your compatriot landed awkwardly on his knee in the 20th minute? Did you think to yourself "It's a good thing I acquired some cover for Francis during the transfer window"? Of course you didn't. Second-guessing isn't your jam. Why buy a replacement when you can bring in Mikel Arteta to do the job, just like he did so calamitously against Zagreb before you took him off for ... Coquelin?

Which brings me to your rather odd choice to lead the team out against Chelsea in the absence of your usual captain Per Mertesacker, whose month-long viral infection has caused you to play Gabriel in the heart of defense. The big German oil tanker may not be the most fearsome presence but he's certainly more intimidating than Santi Cazorla.

Don't get me wrong. I bow to no one in my admiration for the Spaniard's craft and vision, but in my experience Smurfs make for lousy bodyguards. Isn't that the kind of thing managers think about before a game, or is that not on the Opta stat sheet?

In days of yore when Arsenal had voluble, inspirational leaders on the field like Patrick Vieira, Sol Campbell or even Jens Lehmann, someone would have jumped between Gabriel and Costa and forcefully pulled the young Arsenal defender from the chaos after he got his first yellow card.

Instead, your pint-sized captain could barely see through the scrum, and by the time Cazorla reached Gabriel, the Brazilian was foaming at the mouth and already on his way to the tunnel.

I don't know what you told Cazorla about keeping a level head but I sensed it might not have resonated when Santi got himself thrown out of the game shortly thereafter. Considering that he has tons more club and international experience than Gabriel, I found this somewhat problematic -- you know, since Arsenal were already a player down and trailing by 1-0.
So I have to ask: What's with all this lack of discipline, Arsene? Is it the frustration of losing to unworthy opponents like Zagreb, or is it simply the frustration of losing to Mourinho ... again? You can't even claim the high road this time. Not after you stormed down the Stamford Bridge tunnel following the final whistle so as not to risk having to shake The Special Hand twice in one day. If you're going to act like a sore loser, then at least be more creative. Why not fake the end-of-game handshake and then, when no one is looking, flick your leg out and step on the Special Foot? It's not as though Dean had any red cards left to hand out.

So what now, Professor? What do you do this coming Wednesday when your Gunners, shorn of confidence after two losses and three red cards in the span of four days, visit White Hart Lane for a Capital One Cup encounter with a Spurs side that looks dangerously close to competent after notching its first home win in the league over a surging Palace outfit?

I know you hold the CO Cup in the same esteem you do a hunk of Camembert that has been fermenting in the sun for a week. Normally you'd be tempted to give your starters the night off for such an insignificant competition but I'm sure you also realize we can't afford a third loss in a row, especially one to our bitter north London rivals.

At the very least, might I recommend that you play with 11 men on the field?

Avec amour,

David Hirshey

David Hirshey is an ESPN FC columnist. He has been covering soccer for more than 30 years and written about it for The New York Times and Deadspin.

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