The last installment of thoughts around centres around a mixtures of items, just a note, the below info is from other sources close to the club… not just what I heard the other day. First hand info either way.
Firstly we can dig a little further into the commercial deals we’re crafting at the club at the moment. Manchester United are cutting more deals than you could shake a deal stick at. Their approach to making these happen has been hardcore corporate America. They’re pulling every trick in the book to maximise revenue. They’re stamping all over brands and the people who work for those brands to make sure they squeeze every single penny out of their current successes. The DHL shirt deal is a major example of not really considering that there was a person at the end of that cock up. It’s a ruthless money making approach that’s proving very successful, but long term, it might be an approach that damages the future partnerships when the success disappears. Rugby club Munster took the same approach when they were on top of the world… they stamped all over everyone and now they’re not the elite club, people aren’t so keen to work with them.
Arsenal are attempting to build lasting partnerships with long term partners, so they might not extract the maximum amount of money possible, but long term they think it’s a better bet to work that way. The deals they’re striking this time around don’t have the same length as they did before. So we won’t see 10 year kit deals. We’ll look to chop and change in an obvious bid to make sure we’re always achieving maximum market value, but the more important reason for this as fans, is Arsenal believe we’ll be growing in value as a sponsorship partner. When the Emirates kicked in, taking out a ten year deal was a security blanket when you consider how many clubs usually bomb after a stadium move. The fact we’re risking shorter term deals because we believe we’ll be moving up the ladder is positive.
This summer is going to be a giant stepping stone for the club. Which is why Champions League football is so incredibly important. I have no idea what our plans will look like without the competition, but my guess is they won’t be as ambitious and they’ll have to be scaled back. In my opinion, even if we drop out of the Champions League, we still need to make a serious attempt at getting back to the top.
If we do make it, then this summer might not be as congested as you think. I’m not exactly sure of how FFP works, but I know that you have to at least show you’re trying to be compliant. The Chelsea project this summer will be interesting to watch. Jose Mourinho will cost a fortune to bring over and he’ll expect a hefty wedge of cash to reignite the club. Now, if Chelsea were just compliant last year, I’m struggling to see where they’re going to pull £100m transfer budget from. They’ve sacked and paid off two manager. They’ll be adding £10m to their wage bill with Jose Mourinho. They’ll still have the £80m they spent on all those players last summer. I mean, they could shift on Terry and Lampard… but how would that give them £100m to work with? Have they generated that much cash?
Manchester City sit in a similar boat. They have to find the money from somewhere whilst remaining compliant. Their summer last year was tepid when compared to seasons past. That was in part, due to this whole FFP thing. They’ll be able to spend this summer. But it’s unlikely they’ll be putting £100m out on new players.
Now, a lot of this talk over the past few days has centred around new players being the answer to all our problems. Simple fact is, all our problems on the pitch don’t centre around purely player issues. There’s the problem of the manager. Now, I know people don’t want to accept that there are issues there, but believe me, there are. Wenger is obviously a very capable man. He still performs to a level, even though it’s not quite as high as it was back in the day. So while new players will certainly add some much needed quality to the side, things in the backroom still need an upgrade.
People constantly talk about the degradation of the Premier League over the last few years. They’re missing a massive glaring point. It’s not that the league is reducing in quality, it’s that the league is getting better. There’s no such thing as an easy game anymore. If you watch back videos from 1998, you notice that Arsenal were more powerful, fitter and technically far, far superior. Those margins have slimmed over the last few season.
There are a number of reasons. But in the main, players are fitter. There was a stat on Sky the other day that said players compared to 3 (or 5) years ago are sprinting at top speed 80% more per game. Think about that statistic. Imagine how much fitter you have to be to keep up? The game has upped in speed, it’s become more physical and the small teams are matching the big teams. Teams like Swansea and Norwich have huge backroom teams. It’s all about marginal gains. These are areas we fall back on as a club.
We have a marketing team that have built a huge CRM infrastructure to gather as much data about fans and their tastes as possible. We have a CEO who is obsessed with numbers and statistics. We don’t however, have a manager with the same attention to detail. There are big holes with our approach, mainly because our approach hasn’t evolved over the last 16 years. The reason our scouting network keeps returning duds is because it’s not as good as it should be. It’s not as nimble as other clubs and that’s why we’re slow to the post. Our use of match day data at the club also lags behind other. We survive because we have good players and a good manager. We don’t compete because there are better managers with more advanced teams.
That’s the point about the modern game. It’s not about the manager anymore. It’s about the team that sits behind him. Klopp in Germany has proved that. He has built a world class team with smart scouting, detailed use of data as well as making sure he has the best backroom team available to him. They’ve built a world class team for £35m. So the Wenger ways of old are still possible. If he built a team of staff around him in the same way, we could reduce that 20+ point deficit on United. Will Wenger go that extra mile? Will he bin people like Gerry Payton who has overseen the regression of all keepers he’s been charged with improving? Doubtful. Will he bring in a team of specialists who can eek that extra 5% out of his players? It’s doubtful again.
People talk about Arsenal finishing par the course when you look at salary versus standing in the league. Sure, that makes sense. It doesn’t make sense that Spurs are matching us for a £90m spend. We should be further up the league. As should Chelsea..
So whilst the joy of him opening the purse strings should make for an exciting summer, it’s not the full solution. However, it has to be noted, the Wenger tenure won’t last forever. Once he leaves, the infrastructure of the club on the playing side can be relayed. The club won’t ever allow a manager to build towers around him. They’ll take care of bringing in the best teams of people who can help drive those marginal gains. They’ll make sure the foundations are set so if the worst happened and the next manager bombed, you’d still have all the specialists in place.
Football is becoming a science. That’s why managers like Harry Redknapp will be a thing of the past. Smart, young, intelligent managers are the future of the game. Not big personalities who know how to motivate and give the press a cheeky quote. The game is evolving at pace, if you don’t follow suit, you’ll never compete. Arsenal have people at the club who know this.
What new players will do is bring a fresh excitement to the squad. Good players buzz off playing with great players. The Arsenal boys will revel in new transfers in the same way the fans will. They’ll all recognise the same weaknesses at the club as you and I. That injection of quality will no doubt be massive for us next year. The lack of a grey cloud of a player exit will also be a huge bonus as well.
Whatever happens over the next year or so, you can be safe in the knowledge that we have a great platform to kick on with or without Arsene at the helm.