The following post comes from one of the Grovers in the comments sections. You’ve read me post some of Surfer X’s comments, which have been incredibly insightful. Today, he’s taken on a full post. An excellent read. Enjoy!
Come on- its only two years. Looking back, every time before it has been three. Something’s changed. Why only sign for two? And why leave it so long? The Board would of happily given him a longer contract- we all know that- so why the reduced commitment? Could be an age thing, could be a motivation thing, could be that the fans discontent is starting to wear thin. Or could be something else. Either way, if he signs it is a departure: a change. To me, another in a line of signals that change is near;
I’m surprised that more hasn’t been made of this in the AFC blogging world. Lets look at what has happened with our youth setup:
-in January 2013, AFC announce that Brady will be stepping down at the end of this season. A full year later, they announce the appointment of an outsider- Andries Jonker. A couple of quotes;
IG: “He has an outstanding track record in developing and identifying young players and creating systems to bring the best out of them”
AW: “He has a big reputation in the game and was a key part of the team which developed the structures which are now producing such strong young players in Holland”
This was big news to me. Whenever a senior member of AW’s management team has stepped left, the succession has always been to promote from within, or from AW’s inner-circle of contacts. Maintain the status-quo. Don’t challenge the principles. Keep doing it the AW-way, it works. Not this time. Two months into a job he hasn’t formally started yet, we get this release from the club;
“From July 1, existing under-18s coach Carl Laraman will join Steve Gatting to work with the club’s under-21 players. This follows Terry Burton’s decision to leave Arsenal this summer. The under-18s will be managed by new arrival Frans de Kat and former Arsenal player and current under-16 coach Kwame Ampadu. The under-16s will be under the leadership of Jan van Loon. Dutchmen Frans de Kat and Jan van Loon will join Arsenal in the summer, bringing with them a wealth of experience from previous roles at leading clubs and the national association in Dutch football.”
Lets boil this down. Brady is leaving and Burton did too once it became apparent that things were going to change; the status quo wouldn’t be maintained. Laraman has been pushed up to the U21’s to join Gatting. So, the part of the academy which is closest to AW’s first-team squad (ie U21’s) get to have both his trusted-stalwarts. After all, if you are potentially only managing for 2 more years- why do need to think about the U18’s and U16’s, right? Wheras U21’s should be knocking at the door. So what’s happening at the levels more removed from the first-team?
Two new Jonker-heads; two outsiders with new ideas and new methods- and, crucially, with no prior-relationship to AW. The U18’s become headed by de Kat- supported by Ampadu (moving up from the U16’s.. continuity of personal without continuity of method?). U16’s is a complete sea-change; van Loon (best coaching name ever?) gets the job. Both appointments are young, outsiders and Jonker-heads, NOT Wenger-men. First time in 20 years. WOW!
All of which is interesting. Of course, it doesn’t mean that it will work; that there will be any improvement in end product; but it is clear that the academy has been restructured with greater autonomy from the first-team management structure. Succession planning. In one appointment, AW control over the Academy has been significantly diminished (and by that I don’t mean he no longer has influence; more that he has less hands-on control: a more autonomous structure in place). No more reliance on one over-arching individual.
Some Wenger quotes:
“Traditionally November has not been a good month for us, but I explain that by the fact we had more injuries, it is the first period when they kick in.” Nov 09
“We have analysed absolutely everything. It’s strange because the more injuries you get, you then seem to get even more because you always play the same players. Also, you rush some players back and then you have more chance to get them injured again.” Jan 10
“We got the injury of Cesc, which was the consequence of a bad tackle. The injury of Ramsey is the consequence of a bad tackle, the injury of Gibbs is the consequence of a bad tackle. We got hit hard. Once you get a few injuries you cannot rotate any more and the players like Vermaelen, who is injured now” Apr 10
“Overall, if you look at all the numbers, ours are not much more. What we have more is long-term injuries than others clubs but they are down to bad luck and bad tackling. Or they were picked up with the national team. Also once you have had an injury there are more chances to be injured again.” Oct 10
“We know now that a large percentage of players who play a lot of games between the ages of 18 and 21 have bony stress responses. I never expected the number to be so high. It happens because your skeleton is not completely finished and the bones are not completely developed to absorb the kinds of shocks you get in the Premier League.” Mar 12
“Statistically, you will lose one or two during these international breaks. This time we lost Koscielny [and] Walcott. Everybody else came back [without injury]. This is the period where you start to have injuries.” Oct 12
“Some of them [muscle injuries] are down to the medication that the players take that you don’t even know about. Then you realise afterwards that they took this medication but that’s not prudent. [..] If you lose your hair and you’ve taken something to make your hair grow, it might not be good, especially for the rest of your body,” Apr 14
So, there you have it. Injuries are down a natural consequence of the calendar; injuries breed more injuries; bad tackling by the opposition; inability to rotate; they aren’t really that bad; bad-luck; the national-team; over playing-youth; international breaks and, urm, medical & hair supplements. Never coaching or training methods. Nope. Never. I digress; to surmise, they are all external factors outside of his control. Fair enough- at least he has absolute clarity and conviction on what the causes are.
“I am concerned that this happens. We are analysing very deeply why it happened and to see if there is a link between all these injuries. For Walcott it’s completely bad luck. Wilshere – I don’t think it is linked with the other injuries, it’s more linked with his history and the kick he got. But the rest, maybe we have to find why it happened.” Asked whether he would review his training and medical procedures, Wenger said he would assess “everything”. “It’s very difficult to find any obvious reason why. Why? I don’t know.” Mar 14
1000 games in charge, 18 years in charge of the club and he doesn’t know? Don’t get me wrong- that doesn’t surprise me; I have no expectations that he can be a medical practitioner as well as a football manager, architect, accountant, economist, coach, philosopher, etc. I’m just astonished that he admitted it. So the Internal Investigation would take-place, he informs us, and would look at ‘everything’.
Wait. Stop- go back.
This is the all-knowing Wenger signing off on a no-stone unturned investigation into the clubs catastrophic long-term injury record. A man who has previously carried so much conviction in always having the answer. Letting people investigate training, coaching and everything? (Potentially) trampling over his long-standing methods and philosophies? And that was all his idea, was it? Nobody suggested it to him? No gentle encouragement or prompting from above?
More quotes- this from the man at the top- IG.
“This year we are beginning to see something we have been planning for some time, which is the escalation in our financial firepower. I’m talking about an extra £70million of additional, high-margin revenue which we will be able to use. We have a certain amount which we’ve held in reserve and we also have new revenue streams coming on board. All of these things mean we can do some things which would excite you.’
Now it’s a curiosity to me. This is legally-qualified professional executive that has cut their cloth in contract negotiations in the US, building the MLS brand. What’s the first rule of negotiation? Never the other party know what you are prepared and able to pay. Yet for 5 years, he has consistently blown that with this annual ‘Rivers of Cash’ speech. It may as well be;
‘As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman [Abramovich], I seem to see the accounts of Arsenal plc foaming with much cash.’ Bonus points if you get the quote.
So why blow your negotiating position before you have even started? The thing is, I know and work with many CEO’s. They usually share common traits even if they have different backgrounds and skillsets: communication, strategy and drive. In order to succeed people need to walk with them on the journey- and they all know that too. So you don’t go out of your way preaching the same lie year after year as eventually you lose integrity and, consequently, people. The fans. I have heard many people say that it’s a lie; hes only saying it to drum up ticket sales; he’s pulling the wool over your eyes. Rubbish.
What he says is true, I have no doubt. He believes it- and no wonder. The accounts tell us its true- its there in black and white. Successive chairman and CEO’s have told us that. Hell even bloggers like swissramble have pointed it out (don’t worry- this is FFP: a Financially-Free Post!). Gazidis tells us because the money IS there and they DO want to invest it- but ultimately that final decision down to the manager. Or had?
Ozil was a strange deal. We spend the whole summer bargaining over a series of centre-forwards only to seemingly pull-out at the last minute (Higuain) or get nowhere (Suarez). Nowhere on the shopping-list was another creative-midfielder. I don’t know the details & specifics of that transfer- but I do know this: prior to 2013, AW had never spent more than £16m on a player. And yet, this summer he did- and he did big time. On the final day of the transfer window. To be clear, my assertion ISN’T that this was a Gazidis transfer- my assertion was that this was Wenger ceding the final-say in decision making process (in regard to the amount of money paid for a single player). I believe that, to whatever degree, there was a discussion regarding the excess of cash in the ‘business’ and the need to invest it back in the squad. Perhaps that was all the push needed for Wenger to take the plunge. Or perhaps it was stronger and more forthright than that. I don’t know. All I do know is that no CEO is going to be put up with being proven wrong 5 years on the trot by a sub-ordinate that has trigger-anxiety. If Ozil hadn’t signed it wouldn’t have been pretty. IG knew that, and, at the very least, that was made clear to AW.
So- back to why two years? And why has it taken so long to sign? It could be age or fan discontent. But, I don’t think so. AW has many positive traits- one of those is he carries the courage of his convictions extraordinarily well. I don’t things both him any more now that they did when he first came into the job- when they were being questioned then. It could be motivation, but the people who know him and bear testament to his character suggest that this is undiminished. I don’t think so. He still loves the job, he still loves football, he still loves the club. I have never questioned that.
I think its because he sees the winds of change blowing. The signs are there- the last 12 months have seen some very un-Arsene-like Arsenal behaviour. Things that used to be entirely his domain he is beginning to lose control over or having to question. Strategies and philosophies that have worked for 18 years are beginning to be disassembled. Behind the scenes obviously. That is why there has been a question-mark over his signature in his mind- does he want to stay while the club transitions from being paternalistically-led to a more persuasive & collaborative style?
In many ways, it could be a blessing if he decides to stay. Trying to transition structure simultaneously with senior management is never easy. Maybe we’ll finish 4th for two years and win nothing; or worse. Or maybe we won’t. I’ve waited 10 years for utopia, I can give it another two. Whatever; IF the outcome of those two years is a fundamental change in the structure of the organisation of the club which supports a more dynamic approach to the modern management- then bring it on. Warts and all.