Arsenal manager hopes his 'vibes will not be detected' from the stands at Borussia Dortmund in Champions League
Arsène Wenger's sarcasm betrayed the depths of his anger. "At least, I can sleep in the same hotel as the team," the Arsenal manager said, before he left London for the short hop to Dortmund, where his side face the German champions Borussia in their opening Champions League group fixture.
Wenger still cannot comprehend the two-match touchline ban handed down by Uefa, and which feels like the latest arrow of outrageous fortune to be directed at him. If Arsenal's chaotic summer has been well documented, what slipped under the radar was the club's misfortune to pull Borussia out of pot four in the Champions League draw. It gave Group F an altogether more stressful feel, given that Marseille and Olympiakos already represented testing opponents.
Yet to Wenger's mind, as he seeks to punch off the back foot here in the Ruhr valley, the imperative to make a positive start has been made more difficult by Uefa's hard line. He was asked whether he felt he had been afforded a fair trial by Europe's governing body. "No," he replied, leaving his audience to snigger at his terseness.
The problem arose when Wenger served a one-match touchline ban in the play-off first-leg against Udinese at Emirates Stadium, a legacy of his inflammatory comments after last season's exit at the hands of Barcelona. Wenger believed that he would be allowed to communicate with his bench from the stands via a third party – his assistant Boro Primorac – and he did so, openly. But Uefa took issue, dismissing Arsenal's claims of unclear communication to bring the sanction against Wenger.
The club appealed and, while it was pending, Wenger was cleared to take a full part in the second leg at Udinese, in which he gave a vital half-time team talk. But Uefa upheld the punishment and Wenger will also be suspended for the home tie against Olympiakos.
Wenger will give his team talk at the hotel but when he arrives at Dortmund's stadium, he will head to the stands and, effectively, sit on his hands for the 90 minutes. He will only be permitted to speak again with his staff and players 15 minutes after full time and he must plan, in advance, his response to every conceivable scenario for his assistant Pat Rice to implement.
"I will send my vibes and hope they will not be detected by Uefa," Wenger said, with no little mischief. "I don't think I will be man-marked [in the stands]. If you want to respect the rule strictly, you should be marked by two men – one on the right and one on the left. If one is sitting to my right, I can talk to the guy on my left."
During his time at Chelsea, José Mourinho dodged a Uefa touchline ban by concealing himself in a laundry basket to enter the dressing room. "I am too tall for that and the laundry baskets are too small in Germany," Wenger said. "But what is difficult to explain is that we just did what we were told to do. They confirmed the suspension but then Michel Platini [the Uefa president] came out and said it's not right.
"The situation is not ideal and I really don't understand any more what the rules are. I have to leave things to Pat and he will make the right decisions. For once, I will have somebody else to blame."
Wenger has added Aaron Ramsey (ankle) to his injury list and Tomas Rosicky (knee) has not travelled but he hoped that Per Mertesacker, his signing from Werder Bremen, would thrive back in his native Germany. Mertesacker has a peculiar distinction. The 6ft 6in centre-half is the only player that Wenger has looked up to at Arsenal.
"I don't like to do that," said Wenger, with a smile, when it was put to him that he never signed players who were taller than him. "Usually, I look at the quality of the player and not at the size because we play a very technical game. I usually choose smaller players."