There is a word many associate to Arsène Wenger these days, that is the word “project”. First there was the Emirates Stadium project, then the (in)famous youth project, now there’s this we-will-be-competitive-again project.
It seems that Arsène Wenger loves to build.
I am not bothered at all with all these projects, I admired a lot the way Arsène Wenger handled some very difficult transitions and I believe everybody should pay him huge credit for what he achieved during our troubled years.
We regularly lost our best players but never fell into disgrace and finished seventh in the Premier League, like a well-known club did recently – in example.
He managed to keep the team competitive enough to stay in the Champions League by helping some players to over perform, something we only realised once they left for healthier clubs.
We know the story, by the way.
Then came Mesut Özil and we all started to believe something was changing at the club.
We were competitive on the market, we were competitive on the field and we went on leading the Premier League for half of the season – only to let the title slip in late winter.
We scrambled our way to Wembley in the FA Cup, defeating Spurs, Everton and Wigan on the way to our first trophy in nine years – ending all jokes in the process!
The following parade was exception, spirits were high among fans and when Arsenal announced the signing of Mathieu Débuchy and Alexis Sanchez in the early days of July, everyone involved with the club seemed persuaded that the Arsenal was back into the mix with the big boys.
Arsène Wenger’s long-term project seemed to reach its zenith and finally deliver some goods.
It was hard to contain the excitement, especially after the win against Manchester City in the Community Shield
That was until Le Prof fielded the team with a flamboyant, brand new 4-1-4-1 system.
Suddenly the team looked lost, players didn’t seem confident and performances weren’t really of the standards we expected: we were unconvincing against Crystal Palace at home, we were nervy against Besiktas in the Champions League playoff and then we disappointed against Leicester City away – before performing a real no-show against Borussia Dortmund at the Signal Iduna Park.
How we came back from Dortmund with only two goals on our backs is still a mystery…
The only two convincing wins came against Aston Villa away and Galatasaray at home, when Arsène Wenger reverted to the old 4-2-3-1 formation – coincidentally.
It’s not about Mesut Özil best position, as you might expect, it’s more about how the whole team looks more comfortable and more solid with this system.
We used to be good at the back last season and Wojciech Szczesny won the Golden Glove prize (shared with Petr Cech) for the most clean-sheets – 16 – in the Premier League, this season we’ve conceded every single time bar Aston Villa away, the Community Shield and both games against Besiktas – but we never looked calm and composed.
I thought last season that would have been the platform to launch a real challenge in both England and Europe this season, it seems now that we are starting everything again.
New system, new positions for some players, new movements off the ball to learn, new coordination to be found between defensive line and midfield, new combinations to be elaborated up front.
It takes time, of course.
Perhaps it will work wonders at some point but who can guarantee it won’t be too late when we finally click?
I am tempted to ask myself whether Arsène Wenger likes a project more than bringing it into fruition.