Hello there dear readers of Gunners Town, quite a long break from me and I do apologise for that although this might be a bit of a rare blog anyway since the topic itself is so temporary. Arsene Wenger’s press conference this morning sparked a flurry of activity I have not seen before and with good reason as well, with his comments about the Director of Football position troubling to say the least.
However, I believe that taken in proper context they take the veil off some of the recent shadowy dealings and stories circulating around the club about its inability in the transfer market as well as this season’s disappointing nature. The club have refused repeatedly to acknowledge anything about the future of the manager, or even whether any meetings have taken place at all. Arsene alone has had to face the music with every single press conference having him answer the same, beaten old question time and again. What this has resulted in, in my humble opinion, is the press conference in the morning.
These are his exact quotes below when asked whether he was willing to work with a Director of Football, and I have taken the transcript from @arseblognews so forgive me if there is a mistake but I was not watching live and have only had fleeting internet connectivity. Anyway, the reporter asking the questions is James Olley from the Evening Standard.
Olley: This morning there was another name linked with a potential Director of Football. Is it your understanding that the club are going to make that appointment?
Olley: So you don’t think there will be a Director of Football here under any circumstances next season?
Wenger: Director of Football – I don’t know what it means. Is it somebody who stands on the road and directs players right and left? I don’t understand. I never could understand what it means, Director of Football.
Olley: Because there’s been talk about a restructuring of the club, and-
Wenger (interrupting): No, no, no, no, no, no. Sorry no.
Olley: There won’t be anything like that?
Wenger: Look I’m not prepared to talk about that. I’m manager of Arsenal Football Club and as long as I’m manager of Arsenal Football Club I will decide what happens on the technical front. That’s it.
The manager got fairly passive-aggressive while answering the last question even though he had a bit of a smile on moments ago. Now some commentators on the matter have taken this and pushed it out as the manager ruling out any addition of staff to the job roles, which Arsene currently covers in the club hierarchy.
However, that cannot be the case because clearly Wenger knows his best periods trophy wise in the club were during the era when David Dein being Vice Chairman of the club brought about various transfers and took part in the day-to-day management of quite a few administrative duties at the club. This obviously results in a greater number of free hours for the manager to go about doing his own work, which should ideally be that of a head coach in the modern era. Coaches like Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte all work with their own dedicated training team and leave the administration to the club.
At Arsenal, however we hear very little about the assistant coaches and the media focus is mostly on the manager who has kept his moves close to his chest, not to mention the fact that loyal aides like Boro Primorac and Steve Bould never talk outside the club at all. The entire blame falls on Arsene Wenger. What has been obvious for all to see is that the board have no football people and hence all decisions they take are actually taken by Arsene.
The stories about Dick Law’s inefficiency and the recent noise that Mesut Ozil’s agents will now deal directly with Josh Kroenke are now so heavily embedded in the public consciousness that we can be sure that the club are taking note. Most clubs employ million dollar head-hunter firms to address recruitment and despite everything that Arsene says about the DoF position, we ought to take it with a pinch of salt. After all this is the very man who knew nothing about Santi Cazorla or even Granit Xhaka or Lucas Perez before the signing was actually announced. This is the same man who brought in an injured Kim Kalstrom in a move that would soon become the stuff Twitter legend and fodder for trolls worldwide. My point is not that Wenger will walk in with Dennis Bergkamp as DoF on the first day of the new season, but that his words need to be taken in proper context.
The word ‘technical’ is key in the exchange with Olley from the Standard. For Wenger the technical front would encompass everything from the first team down to heading the academy as well as player recruitment. He wishes to have the final say on signing a player and on the kind of player the scouts and our systems looks for and prepare. StatDNA have helped in the signings of Gabriel and Elneny and if nothing else, these are solid squad players. This goes on to say something about the manager’s look into the future.
He has said repeatedly that he loves to take coaching sessions. He still goes and takes each and every session, although the likes of Ferguson delegated to their coaches in their late 60s. Wenger has followed his regimen religiously and does not wish to take a man on board who he does not trust. I am not quite sure this is the healthiest situation for the club to be in especially because the contracts for quite a few players are up for renewal and Wenger himself shows no signs of revealing his plans.
Arsene Wenger may well be doing what he thinks is best for the club and his immense stature at the top is what has kept us afloat for so long in the top flight’s hustle and bustle, even without a real football man on the board, However, many believe it is time for the transition to at least begin, if not abruptly with.Wenger’s departure but then gently with a change in the structures of the club.
Matters are complicated by the fact that the Kroenke’s will only add someone to the board who would be a yes man for them and there are not many top level negotiators willing to work with a club that has an owner openly declaring that he does not hanker after trophies. The culture of the organisation is set by the people at the top. Arsene has set this culture to loyalty, respect and equality. The Kroenke’s have come in and set it to inactivity from even higher up and this is what has percolated down to the club as a whole. Would former Sevilla DoF Monchi come to Arsenal if offered the correct terms? I would bet not, because men like him wish to bring about change. Kroenke and his board wish only for the cash to keep flooding in, which it will thanks to the stadium Wenger and the old Arsenal painstakingly battled for.
Also at stake in the switch of structure is the future of non-playing staff who Arsene has held onto despite constant criticism from various sections. Therefore. a DoF with powers above Arsene is out of the picture unless the club take the drastic step of severing ties with Wenger himself. What is still possible, and in my opinion probable, is the appointment of someone to take away some of Arsene’s administrative duties. This person would ideally work under Wenger so that there was no question of over-riding the manager on player transfers. I say this not because of my affection for the manager but because of the fact that we as a club have much less money to throw about than other clubs do and we cannot afford to have bad transfers who are taking 30-40 million out of our transfer kitty. Overall, Arsene and his insight and judgement have a very good record of not wasting money, hence the final choice to reside with him would not be a bad shout.
The fact that he has criticised the scouting establishment of the club as well as the speed of movement from identification of a player to the point where we are in for the signing is a blindingly obvious pointer that Arsene himself is not happy with the way signings have been handled in the previous few years. Even Arseblog points this out in his alarming second post of the day; a piece that spurred me on to produce coverage of this sound byte. Criticism for his own team comes rare from the boss and this could point to major changes in the near future, and I hope it does.
The authorities at Arsenal are perhaps non-existent, because the Arsene is the be all and end all of the club; or such is the narrative we are fed as supporters of Arsenal. Nonetheless, I feel it would be best for him if he allowed his power to be shared by someone he himself can recommend to the board in some form and then allow them to bring the man in. Sharing of power would also lead to more transparency, more responsibility and a new dynamic.
More importantly for those of us who feel that Arsene is unfairly targeted for the lethargy of the board, this switch would bring in some form of relief for the man himself. He has taken more than his share of abuse for the club and its board, abuse that would ideally belong with the Kroenke’s. While his loyalty may be unwavering and convictions firm, Arsene is human in the end and help in any form would be welcome. Let us hope for the sake of our beloved club that Arsene looks at clubs like Monaco, Sevilla, Juventus, Lyon and even Napoli and realises his folly in mistrusting the very image of assistance.
On a lighter note let us hope the team win us the Southampton game to keep the light alive for a top four finish!
Until next time, come On You Gunners!