After what can only, so far, be described as a dismal (I’m being generous) transfer window and an opening day of the new season which could not have been any worse, everyone seems to have reached their own personal conclusion, and have no problem with sharing it. Some people express their views coherently, others shout everyone else down to make sure they are heard.
My own view on what’s wrong and how to fix was largely prompted by a chat in the pub straight after the Villa game – that’s where all good ideas come from, isn’t it?
As far as I can see the running of the club is somewhat dysfunctional. I think this transfer window shows that. So a new manager would only face the same issues as the current one. I feel my position to criticise individuals at the club would be much better if it was actually clear what those individuals are supposed to do. I’m not saying that the Manager should or shouldn’t be sacked, or that the Chief Executive should or shouldn’t tender his resignation. I would like to see the structure of the hierarchy of the club altered so that the performance of Arsène Wenger as MANAGER, and Ivan Gazidis as CHIEF EXECUTIVE could then be assessed.
Current structure at The Arsenal:
Let’s start with the manager. It seems that Arsène Wenger manages the team, as well as deciding upon transfer targets. That’s fine. What gets confusing is when it seems as though he has more control than he ought to in terms of deciding transfer fees, and how much to bid.
Ivan Gazidis is Chief Executive. He’s done a fine job with the new commercial deals. But does he really know anything about football? Can he really determine how much we ought to spend on a player?
Again, Dick Law (appointed to deal with player contracts) is our so-called negotiator. But he isn’t known for being a ‘football man’.
And herein lies the problem. Arsène Wenger is the sole ‘football man’ at the club. But how is he supposed to manage the team as well as broker deals? Simply, somebody else should be in charge of getting the targets he identifies to wear the red and white. Someone who knows football.
The structure at other clubs:
It’s certainly in vogue to look at the Bundesliga when considering how to run a club, so let’s observe Borussia Dortmund.
Their equivalent of Gazidis is Hans-Joachim Watzke. By all accounts, employed as a businessman.
We all know of Jürgen Klopp.
And between the two? Club legend, ex-captain, one club man, Michael Zorc. On the same wavelength as Klopp, Zorc helps identify targets. Then? Klopp leaves him to go and get them. When talking to targets Zorc can basically act as a mouthpiece for Klopp. He knows the values of the club inside out, he understands and has helped build Klopp’s vision, and he knows football.
Zorc’s role of ‘Sporting Manager’ is not an uncommon one. Across Europe, Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid), Franco Baldini (Tottenham), Matthias Sammer (FC Bayern Munich), and ex-Gunner Marc Overmars (Ajax) all have the same role. Whether they are called the ‘Technical Director’ or ‘Sport Director’ they perform a function which Arsenal have no set person assigned to. More to the point, they have spent their lives around the game, and are (with exceptions) legends at the clubs they work for from their playing days.
So this is how to fix The Arsenal?:
Well, I’m no expert (even though I often tell myself otherwise), and who knows if this would work? But it seems to me it’d put us in a much better position.
As I have said, the current system is dysfunctional. The role carried out by the aforementioned ex-players at other clubs seems to be shared at ours, with nobody quite fitting (or maybe even understanding) their role. But somebody who knows football, who has worked in the game for a long time, needs to be appointed as our own ‘Technical Director’. Someone who will be trusted by the board, and the manager, and ideally somebody we, as fans, can identify with.
That way, the Manager no longer has to look after the money as if it is his own. If he wants a player, it is the duty of someone else to get the player for him – along with Gazidis this person can decide on a budget – combining footballing knowledge with Gazidis’ fiscal mind. With nothing but transfers to focus on, and the finance side of the transfer being on the periphery, there would be no – buzzword of this summer – ‘dithering’.
Discussing fees isn’t the only role this character would play. Here’s an example:
Arsenal have a bid accepted for Luiz Gustavo. Gustavo and his agent want to meet someone to discuss the prospect of him signing. Arsène Wenger is busy training his team, watching the opposition, working on a gameplan (after all, these things are his job as manager). So who goes to meet Gustavo? Gazidis or Law? No. They aren’t ‘football men’. Therefore, they can’t sell the vision of the club, or the plans of the Manager – they don’t work closely enough to him to know his plans.
However, a Zorc, or an Overmars DOES know football, and knows the Manager inside out. Maybe then, the player is attracted to the idea of playing for a club with a vision.
Not just of where they want to get, but how they’re going to get there.
And then, suddenly, everything at Arsenal is more transparent. We see if the board are freeing up funds for transfers. If they are, we get our targets. And then, if the team isn’t playing well? If we can’t pick up points? THEN we are in a better position to hold the Manager accountable.
Ivan Gazidis and Dick Law can be the greatest businessmen and negotiators around, but if they don’t understand football – they shouldn’t be working on the football side of the club.
Arsène Wenger (despite his Degree in Economics) is not employed by Arsenal as an accountant. He is supposed to be a football manager.
Please, Arsenal, employ someone in the role I’ve explained – one used by so many of Europe’s top clubs. And then, when everyone has a specific role which suits what they’re good at, we may just see some improved results in the transfer market, and on the pitch.
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