Two iconic clubs sit in fierce opposition at the top of English football, separated only by seven miles of London’s sprawling concrete. It’s a true rivalry for the ages: red vs blue; North vs West.
Arsenal vs Chelsea.
Only one thing can ever unite the two amid an ongoing battle of intense animosity. That is, of course, mugging off little Tottenham Hotspur. What a blissful pastime that must be.
As Spurs kick and scream about how close they’ve come in years gone by to winning the title or how they won the League Cup over ten years ago, Arsenal and Chelsea have been dwarfing them and laughing smugly every time the clubs’ histories are compared.
But times are a changin’, and their two respective gaffers – the most grumbly men in football – have these days fallen by the wayside.
Sadly for Arsene Wenger and Antonio Conte, Spurs have begun to impress. Their homegrown Gooner, Harry Kane, is a bristling talisman for the national side and Mauricio Pochettino seems to be a competent and ambitious manager with a talented, young squad.
At the time of writing, the Lilywhites sit five points clear of The Blues and a staggering 13 ahead of The Gunners.
Whilst Arsenal and Chelsea have both notched up four losses from their last five league games, Spurs have managed four wins.
Something has to give. For time immemorial, Spurs have been the lesser of the three London clubs who today vie for the top spoils of the Premier League. They’ve been the wannabe big kid-brother, the laughing stock and secret butt of everyone’s jokes.
They have always been that one lad at school who wears the most expensive clothes, but still gets picked on for being a monumental tool. His mum sews his name into the hem of a Ralph Lauren jacket, complete with phone number and a home address.
They’re there, they look the part but, Christ, things never really turn out for them.
As failing Spurs begin to succeed, however, the cool kids should start to panic. To drag our now unclear metaphor even further through the mire, the snazzy school nerd has begun to pull all the birds and needs taking down a peg or two to stop it. You get what we mean.
It’s time for Wenger and Conte to unite against this new threat. But what can they do this year to undermine Pochettino’s men?
Well, in true bang-average Hollywood blockbuster starring Michael Caine and/or Clint Eastwood style, Arsenal and Chelsea are gettin’ the gang back together for one last hit.
In a dingy motel where a shaded lamp buzzes and flickers, Arsene Wenger and Antonio Conte stand, palms flat against a table, at passionate loggerheads.
“One last time, Antonio. Just one more job and we’ll never have to do this again.”
“We can’t do it, it’s too big. I’m a new man, Arsene, and you know it. It’s why we stopped in the first place. I ain’t doing this no more. Get out. My life was going well until you came back.”
“No. I have myself a nice little role now making my own club look bad, let alone another.”
“But it’s what the gangs do best, you know you need one last whiff of glory before we both get the sack. It’s in your club’s blood.”
And with that, Antonio Conte and his underperforming Chelsea side were on board. Back with Arsene, back with the Gunners. The gang are back together for one last heist.
Their target? The Champions League. Their victim? Tottenham Hotspur.
Only the most carefully devised blueprints will be enough to get away with this one, however, so let’s run through the plan to make sure everyone knows their role.
The hit begins this Thursday, on a sultry night in Milan. An Italian Job without the Minis. Well, Jack Wilshere aside, of course.
Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal have been tasked with beating AC Milan over two legs in the Europa League, whilst their partner in crime, Antonio Conte’s Chelsea, square up to the big boys.
The muscly bruiser of the team must fight Barcelona in Spain next Wednesday and ensure the battle ends up favouring the London outfit. It’s imperative to the success of this mission.
From here, the plan is simple: reach the finals. For Arsenal, it’s all about making it through to May 16, Europa League Final day, and winning. As for Chelsea, it’s 10 days later: that coveted feat of reaching the last, emphatic leg of Europe’s golden competition: The Champions League.
Should the old foes each make their respective finals and claim success, all they’d need to pull of this last glorious job is one bearded man.
But he’s unsure, he’s nervous, and he’s worried about the size of this hit. He hasn’t been successful in so long.
What if it goes wrong? He thinks. What if we balls it up at the final furlong again?
Jurgen Klopp cannot balls it up. He has to stay strong and hold Liverpool in the Premier League’s third place come the 13th of May.
With Arsenal and Chelsea having qualified for the two European finals, and assuming the German gaffer completes his tricky task with success, the final heist will have paid off.
Daylight robbery, glory, and sweet success. Arsenal and Chelsea will have done it one last time before their leaders hang up their clipboards and fiddly jackets for other, quieter jobs elsewhere.
Tottenham Hotspur, despite having reached their fourth place footballing Mecca, will not qualify for the Champions League while Arsenal and Chelsea – despite trailing miles behind – will. Only five teams from one country can qualify and the European silverware won by Spurs’ arch nemeses will ensure that the whites are kept out of the top competition.
As this dawns upon Mauricio Pochettino, he’ll sit in an unlit room, sipping from a tumbler that swirls with strong gin.
Staring into the glass, frustrated and defeated, he’ll grumble. “F**k you, Arsene Wenger. You won’t get me next time.”