Morning Grovers, let’s crack straight in to today’s post, no light hearted quips about the weather.
A few points raised about the game at the weekend.
We’re heading into a new era of football. There are a number of reasons Wenger can’t cope at the moment, the biggest issue I fear is his age. That, combined with his reluctance to embrace the future and the realities of football in 2012.
When he took over at Arsenal, he was the man who raised the bar in the Premier League. He understood the importance of fitness and technical ability. He changed the regime at Arsenal, he stopped alcoholics drinking, he gave the best players more money and he supplemented winners with more winners. The result? A strong team of experienced leaders that had the magical flair of a continental side.
What was Ferguson’s response? Change. He brought in Carlos Queiroz. What happened to Arsenal over the next few years? Nothing. Ferguson dominated. Arsene had two more great league wins after 1998, still with the core of experienced heads. Every time, they were marked with a change by Alex Ferguson. Every time Arsenal won the Premiership, there was a response. An acceptance change had to occur, be that backroom staff or players.
Now we’re in the post Mourinho era. There are no experienced winners in the side. The legacy of any winning team has disappeared because Wenger sold them all off. He didn’t keep anything in the changing room for a rainy day. He hasn’t changed his backroom team. There’s very little know how in the side we have at the moment. When I say ‘know how’, I mean people who have been here through the good times and the bad. People who lead in the dressing room. People who manage themselves.
So are the players the only reason we’re struggling? No. The other reason we’re not what we used to be and the other less spoken about reason the Premier League seems to be of a lower standard is because of the teams below. Back when Arsene rocked onto the scene, lower league teams couldn’t match the big teams for fitness. You would turn out against players who’d been on the p*ss the night before. If you didn’t destroy them with quality, you’d certainly destroy them with fitness.
There’s a new type of manager coming through. Managers like Michael Laudrup, Paul Lambert, Chris Hughton, Brendan Rodgers who all understand the game. They all understand the benefits of technology and they all run incredibly tight ships at their clubs. Rodgers and Lambert are at new clubs, but make no mistake about it, they both have great reputations in the game and Rodgers especially will get it right at Liverpool. That was his team we played at the weekend. They passed better than us, they fought harder than us and they thought harder than us.
All those teams are now as fit as Arsenal. There’s no advantage on that front. So there is where the problem lies. We don’t always have the quality to take out these sides, because the people managing them can make up for the lack of quality with a tactical master plan. Arsenal were out smarted by a team with a £17million wage bill this weekend. The same happened at Villa and the same happened at Norwich. Teams know how to screw us. Man mark our three person midfield and force Mertesacker to do the passing. Then press our full backs, look what happened to Jenkinson. It kills out width and it kills out movement in the centre of the park. Is Arsene working on a plan to stop this killing our flow? Very doubtful. Is he asking his backroom team to address the issue? Again, doubtful.
I keept a close eye on the Presidential election. Social media marketing is my thing. Now, one of the biggest focuses for my area of business over the next year is big data. Every tweet you send, every status update you make, every comment you contribute to a blog could be insight around a brand or a passion point and it could be harvested into an insight. The brands who use that data most effectively over the next few years are going to give themselves a huge advantage over everyone else. In the months building up to the last election, President Obama recognised the need to collect all this data and make sense of it. He created a super database that mashed up online and offline data to help them accurately model where he needed to apportion budget. He won the election at a canter. The long and short of this is gut feeling is dead in marketing. Not totally, but we’re moving to a new age where creativity and decisions will all be underpinned by hard data.
Football is moving this way. Young managers get this. The days of having a feeling about how tired a player have been replaced by scientific certainty. Every single statistic about a team is logged, analysed and turned into something that can be used as an insight. But is it at Arsenal? I don’t believe so. We’re still living off the days of gut feel. Well, here’s a bit of gut feel for you. How many games has a 32 year old Arteta played so far this season? Nearly all of them to the tune of 90 minutes. How long is he going to last until he has a breakdown? Even if he stays fit, what about his mental fatigue? Wenger is still working off gut feel and that’s why he’s being outsmarted so reguarly.
Who at the club is going to challenge him on this? He’s a dictator. The club know this, which is why they should be using this down period to assess what’s going on. The players know how we operate isn’t right because they have friends who they talk to. That’s why all our stars leave. We don’t refresh our backroom staff. If Wenger had it his way, I’ve no doubt Pat Rice would have been tied down to a forever contract like Diaby. Wenger doesn’t want to be challenged, you can see that by his comments about his 1,600 games. Sure, you used to know the way to win, but things never stand still. Technology moves on, training regimes improve and the game evolves. Ferguson delegates tasks at United, he knows he doesn’t have all the answers so he trusts his experts. That’s why he’s survived. Arsene Wenger doesn’t delegate, he’s still manning the whistle at training.
Another example of something I’m sure we don’t do. AVB was the away scout at Chelsea under Mourinho, that would involve him going out to all of the teams they were about to play, analysing how they play and feeding this information back into the manager. He’d then help put a DVD together which would be given to the players. Who is our away day man? I’m pretty sure it’s Stuart Houston. Yeah, the caretaker manager from the George Graham days. No offense to the man, but what is he going to know about the modern game? What insight is he going to bring to the table? How many Stuart Houston DVD’s have been given to the players this season?
Then there’s the scouting network. What the hell has happened there over the past few years? Is it the case that once again we’ve been caught up? No. It’s the case that we’ve been beaten again. Look at the players we’ve brought in over the past few seasons. Hardly any of them are true rough diamond gems. Why are we missing out on so many good unknown players these days? Why are other teams with less resource doing to much better on that front. What did Michu cost Swansea? Why weren’t we in for Rangel this summer for £3million. He looked like a very Arsenal like player. What about Cabaye, Tiote, Ba and Cisse? Or the players at Everton like Mirallas, Oviedo and Fellaini. We’re being out played at our own game… and rough diamonds is most certainly our MO.
I’m not saying we should be landing them all, but we’re missing out on a serious amount of good players who would vastly improve our offering for a very low price. The problem with this type of management is that even if we do climb into third, we’re not addressing the issues at the club. Each year that passes contributes another £20million to the ‘what we’d have to spend to get back to the top’ pot. Theo leaving will be a hammer blow to our squad, not because he’s the greatest player on the planet, no, it’s because he’s one of the few players we have who can take the ball round players. We’re static and pedestrian at the moment. We don’t have the flair we should have in the squad.
This is why I’d opt for the young manager option. My first choice would be Guardiola, my second would be Jurgen Kloop. Pep would relish the job at Arsenal. Why people say he wouldn’t is a total mystery to me. He’d be on £7.5m a year. That doesn’t really matter though, Pep isn’t about money, he’s about the project.
Let’s look at what makes Arsenal appealing
- Money: Some of the biggest deals in football are about to drop, plus he has £70m banked
- Training facilities: We have some of the best in the world. Don’t doubt the pulling power of this factor
- Stadium: Incredible stadium
- Legacy: Arsenal are a big club. The 4th biggest in the world. We have a deep and rich history
- Baseline: Take over from Ferguson and you’re taking over from a ‘now’ winner. Perhaps the greatest. Who’d go to Chelsea? City might be interesting but you’re on a time limit. At Arsenal you’re starting from a pretty low baseline. The only way is up. Nothing modern is being trialled.
- Control: We have a history of giving autonomy to our managers. This is another huge pulling factor
- Time: We’re about the long term with our managers. You know there won’t be any knee jerk reactions. He’ll be given time to impose himself on the brand.
All those above factors will ensure we get a manager of excellent pedigree. But you know what, I wouldn’t mind us picking up a manager who just had an excellent vision and a CV which showed they could do it, even at a small club.
This is the thing, do you want to sit and watch 5 more years of what we’ve been served up over the last 8? Or would you prefer to watch someone who had a passion for trying something new? I know what I want to see at the club. It’s a new project, it’s a new vision and that’s only going to happen with a young manager…
Let me know your thoughts in the comments…