“It is, uh, exactly the result we were hoping for, as our master-plan since last season has been to raise the fans’ expectations to impossible heights, all the better to dash them over the course of the season,” the long-time manager said.
“We have had only one mistake in this plan; it is the loss to Aston Villa. We had hoped to inspire in the fans the hope that we would have another season like the Invincibles. It is for this reason that we ended the last season as we did, getting so many good results. We had hoped to continue this form up to this point. However, Aston Villa played a good match, so we had to make adjustments to the plan.”
Wenger went on to explain that the entire summer transfer-window was one long exercise in flirting with and then quashing fans’ hopes, first by making bold declarations about the club’s ambitions and finances, then leaking rumors to the effect that Gonzalo Higuain had agreed to personal terms for a three-year deal, only to let him sign with Napoli instead, and then arranging with Liverpool to engage in a soap opera-esque pursuit of Luis Suarez. Each of these was but a ploy to lure in casual fans and to then ratchet up their interest so that, along with more committed, long-time fans, there would be a wider pool of saps, rubes, and marks whose emotions could be toyed with.
“We looked at our squad and, to us, it was important to have a ‘feel-good’ story. In these situations,” continued Wenger, “it is not enough to merely play well and to win matches. We wanted a speical player for the fans to root for. It is for this reason that we decided to give to Aaron Ramsey the chance of shining for the club. After all, for him to come back to the form he showed before his injury, it was vital that he perform for the fans.”
Indeed, it looked as if the plan was already ripening to perfection as last season’s run-in saw the squad go undefeated across its final 11 matches, and Ramsey drew plaudits from fans and foes alike as he settled into a defined role, that of defensive midfielder. Even Piers Morgan became a true-believer. It was decided that the plan would be expanded. It wasn’t enough that Ramsey had found a role that allowed him to thrive; he had to start making headlines. For this reason, the team contrived an elaborate scheme that would put him in positions from which to score goals. Each passing week seemed to bring yet another goal for the in-form Welshman, converting even his harshest critics into dyed-in-the-wool believers.
Wenger went on to explain, “this for us was the important element. We needed a hero, and he had to embody many of the, how do you say, the ‘typical’ Wenger signing qualities? We signed him when he was young, when no one else noticed his quality, and we brought him along. Then, he suffered injury and struggled to regain the form and the confidence, which is so essential. Such is the story of so many of the players we have brought to the club, so Aaron was for us the perfect player to embody the new spirit in the squad.”
Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to find a brighter example of a resurrection than that of Aaron Ramsey. His story almost beggars belief, as he’s gone from whipping-boy to toast of the town. However, the operation would not be complete without a shock-departure from those “typical” Wenger signings. Wenger himself explained:
It was after the Aston Villa loss that we saw the need to do something dramatic, to reassure fans that there was, in fact, something special at work, and for this reason we signed the player Mesut Özil, knowing that he would reinvigorate the fans’ unrealistic hopes. It is enough for me to say that it has worked perfectly. We did not plan for this; we hoped to use the transfer-window only to manipulate the fans. However, the loss [to Aston Villa] made it necessary for us to make adjustments.
It comes as no surprise then that the Özil signing, for as dramatic as it felt to Arsenal fans, or “Gooners” as they refer to themselves, was merely a prop to shore up a faltering scheme. His arrival inspired legions of fans to double down on their allegiance to the club, pinning even more of their emotional stability on the vicissitudes of the club’s performance. Little did they know that the short-term ecstasy, the lording it over supporters of Tottenham or Manchester United, these were but gambits in a longer-term game, one that would see their hopes elevated to the highest of heights only to come crashing down with a terrible thud.
As news of the operation spread, it came as no surprise that Ramsey’s gaffe against Dortmund, the one that opened the scoring in a depressing home-loss in the Champions League that leaves further progress hanging by a thread, was merely part of the plan from the beginning.
“We decided that, um, Aaron should commit an error that might allow Dortmund to score, and it worked to perfection,” Wenger explained. “We suspected that the fickleness of many fans would be tested by this, just as it would if we lost. The operation needed a strong run to, uh, increase fans’ expectations, and when the moment was right, we would, as it is said, lower the boom.”
Gooners need no reminder of the outcome of that match, of course; a narrow loss leaves them level on points now with Dortmund and Napoli with two tough fixtures looming. As the press conference drew to a close, Wenger seemed to wax philosophic as he pondered the possibilities that now lay in front of him:
We now must decide how best to toy with the fans of the club, how best to torment them. Should we press on beyond the group stage, or is it more effective for our purposes to, as they say, “crash out” of the Champions League? We could then compete in the Europa League, could we not? Perhaps we could meet Spurs in the final. How then should we elevate the fans’ hopes?
His musings continued almost as if he had stopped paying attention to the array of microphones in front of him. Among the overheard comments were the following: “we could win the Europa, if only to satirize the end of this so-called trophy drought…” and “non, Arsène, non! nous devons perdre de prouver le point; c’est évident!”
Noticing that the press pool was leaning forward to eavesdrop on this sotto voce moment, Wenger cast a glaring eye around the room, declared “Wenger out” and strode off.