The greatest punch line in Premier League fan circles comes when Arsene Wenger is asked about his side’s chances of winning the competition (a feat Arsenal last achieved in 2005) ‘I still believe we can.’ It’s not exactly slap stick but it’s the easiest laugh on offer for journalists and football fans alike. Ask him again and Wenger still won’t see the funny side. Bound by his unending love for club and the players under his charge, humour is far from consideration at the Emirates. For the record, ask anyone else if Arsenal is being seriously considered for the top job in the division (Champions) and a single word will arrive. No. Just like the hapless Michael Scott in The Office (American version) believing he is being groomed for an executive role at corporate only to be told he hasn’t made the shortlist. Let the comparison linger and even if you don’t know who Arsene Wenger is don’t Google him. Instead think of a man who has managed a once successful football team based in London, with all the trappings of Dunder Mifflin’s most famous regional manager.
There is nothing more pressing on Wenger’s agenda at the moment than the signing of new players but his club have been hamstrung by their efforts in the transfer market, due to senior board members dithering when finalising deals. ‘They have no one who can do a deal’ said former Arsenal midfielder Charlie Nicholas on Saturday. Enter Michael Scott. Or at least pretend Scott could manage this situation. He has done it before. His two best salesmen,Dwight Schrute and Jim Halpert, were once given unacceptable customer reviews. No tact when dealing with clients. The Arsenal scenario wrote large. Scott is left to take over from Schrute after a disastrous sales pitch leaves a fictitious customer, Mr. Buttlicker (Halpert) wanting to file a complaint. Scott not only saves face but secures a million dollar sale, ‘See how its done’ he says as a bewildered Schrute looks on. A sale of any kind would please Wenger presently. If only he had a man with the know-how of Scott.
On Twitter, the parody account ‘Wenger knows best’ plays to the idea of the Arsenal manager as a comic with its obvious idea that he doesn’t. Much like the world’s best boss mug that sits on Scott’s desk, which lets the Office audience in on the longest standing inside joke on the show. Updated in real-time to reveal the boss’ reaction to defeats, transfer speculation and lately fan unrest over the clubs failing transfer policy, ‘Wenger knows best’ stock has risen as Wenger has become more predictable, with the fortunes of Arsenal equally lamentable. Laughing in the face of adversity has gathered its author 84,000 followers.
Ironically Wenger could teach Scott a thing or two about business, especially when dealing with old clients. Even with hand crafted gift baskets, former customers escape Scott and he is left, embarrassingly, to ask for his chocolate turtles back. Wenger wouldn’t have it thus and has a more than credible record where re-signing players is concerned. Like Thierry Henry, Jens Lehmann and Sol Campbell before him, Mathieu Flamini (if reports are to be believed) will become part of the Arsenal squad for a second time in the coming days. Unfortunately this has served to sweeten the idea around London and beyond that the joke still rests with Wenger. Like pop acts returning for a tour after years in the wilderness, these players can’t guarantee ticket sales at stadiums across England, let alone Europe.
‘I love inside jokes. I hope to be part of one someday’ reads the Michael Scott motto, but Wenger gets the last laugh.