Arsene Wenger is the ultimate football alchemist. He finds ingredients from all corners of the globe and works away slowly and carefully distilling them, in the hope that pure perfection will somehow emerge from his London Colney lab.

It worked before spectacularly in 1998, again in 2002, and then in 2004 real greatness emerged. It was a finely balanced thing of beauty and strength, the like of which had never been seen before. It almost worked again in 2008, an aesthetics dream team, that alas proved too brittle under pressure.

Arsene would always eschew the easy team building option and aspire to something pure, something higher. The ultimate football purest. The thought of playing a pragmatic brand of football or lavish spending, never crossed his mind, and would probably turn his stomach.

He values loyalty and sees it as a key ingredient in creating a team. The short-term pain that can result from loyalty to players in a bad patch, Wenger sees as small price when the pay-off can so much.

Wenger’s staunch belief in clubs operating within their means, in playing the right way at all costs, and his loyalty, are the very things that endeared him most to me. He would never waiver from his convictions and I genuinely loved that about him. Arsene the alchemist was producing the football equivalent of precious metals or getting very close on a regular basis.

The Alchemy Is Producing a Turd

If the alchemist of 2004 produced a rare precious metal not seen for 100 years, then the alchemist of today is producing turd after turd after turd.

In years gone by you could see what Wenger was trying to achieve. The ingredients he chose would be carefully considered. The adjustments made here and there, even if seemingly a bit leftfield, would have a certain logic to them.

Think of obvious ingredients he bought at reasonable fees that worked a treat like Gilberto, Petit, Pires, Koscielny or Arteta. Think of adjustments made such as moving Lauren to right-back or repurposing Toure as a lightening quick centre-back.

Even in the lean cash-strapped years immediately following the move from Highbury to the Emirates you could understand ‘Project Youth’. He was trying to bring these different young components together to produce his best footballing team to date. It very nearly worked too.

These were the brave moves of a man with courage and real conviction in his methods.
Contrast this with the last five years and the teams don’t make sense. The ingredients often haven’t made sense. The choices made seem uncertain. There’s been no discernible method, or recipe to what Wenger has been trying to cook up in his London Colney lab.

What he’s ended up with isn’t even close to being a precious metal. What he’s ended up with is a mess, the sort of mess you find in a child’s nappy. There’s not much you can do with one of those.


The Man Needs a Plan

Arsene Wenger is staying at Arsenal for another two years (minimum) so the one thing we know for certain that won’t change any time soon is the man in charge. If the club won’t change him, can he make the changes to his approach to enable the team to compete?

I’m not so sure he can but I do want to see him try as like it or not he is remaining the boss for a while. I want Arsene try something, to believe in something again, commit and have the courage of his convictions because somewhere along the line he lost it.

I think what I really want is just something I can understand and then get behind. As a supporter, it’s been so difficult to understand what he is trying to do. If you don’t understand what your team is trying to do or aiming to become it’s hard to get behind and support.

A few years back people bemoaned we were a ‘tippy-tappy’ team trying to walk the ball into the net every time. It could be infuriating but it could also be thrilling to watch Arsenal dominate an opponent and pull them out of shape at will.

I would take the ‘tippy-tappy’ football of Hleb, Rosicky and Cesc again right now in an instant. ‘Project Youth’ bring it on, that was visionary and was something to admire and get behind. Who doesn’t love seeing a fearless group of youngsters take on opposition far more experienced, more physical and outplay them.

Mouthwatering Monaco

For a real team with a plan look at Leonardo Jardim’s Monaco of last season. A young, fast, technical, hard working side, thrilling to watch and utterly fearless. They had experienced professionals through the spine in Kamil Gilk at centre-back, Joao Moutinho pulling the strings in midfield and Radamel Falcao up front. Interwoven was a mobile, technical, and fearless group in Bakayoko, Sibide, Mendy, Fabinho, Lemar, Silva and Mbappe.

This was a hell of a team. A team with ambition, a clear plan and identity. You immediately understood what they were about and what the team was striving to be. The plan was there for all to see.

Monaco went a long way in the Champions League and were crowned champions of Ligue 1 last season.

That Team in Seven Sisters

It pains me to say it but look a little closer to home at that lot down the road. For years The Spuds played a brand of football that had little or no identity and at times were laughable.

That’s not an accusation that can be levelled at them now. Pochettino has them playing an aggressive, hard pressing, high tempo brand of football than is good to watch, and very effective.

For the first time in my life I’m a little envious of that lot. I can’t believe I’m even typing this!! It’s not that they finished above Arsenal in the league last year, I don’t really care about that. What I envy is that the team has an identity and a plan.

They have a clear style; the manager knows what he wants the team to be and exactly how he intends to get them there. He has a clear plan.

Consequently, Spurs fans have something they can get behind, something they can believe in. Even if it doesn’t work they are loving the ride.

Arsene Show Us You Have a Plan

What I want above all else this is season is for Arsene to show us he has a plan. He needs a vision for this team and we need to start seeing it on the pitch. For so long he appears to be muddling through and trying to fudge the answers.

Come up with a clear plan Arsene. Commit to it whatever the cost. Get the players to buy in to it or ship them out and promote ones that do. Show courage in your convictions.

This team needs a clear identity and a plan more than anything else. Do this and the majority of fans will be back on side. If you don’t then we have nothing to get behind.