Oh, and a big fat happy good morning to you!
So what have we today? Not much. Just me continuing the party, on my own, sitting in a cold flat. I clamped my hand in some grips two days ago and I’ve damaged nerves because I can’t feel my little finger anymore. All that trying to pull a rawl plug out the wall. Fear not though, you don’t need a little finger to write a blog. I’ll soldier on, for you guys.
So I’m reading this book yeah, (Another Way of Winning) and I love it. Why? Because it’s making me a better Premier League manager.
Anyway, what I learned yesterday is that my assertion that we should expect more from more from players is loosely a correct one. I spoke a couple of days ago about the old guard being leaders on and off the pitch. The case in point was the player meeting called by Tony Adams and co post Blackburn in 97… Petit and Paddy were given a telling off, players like Overmars were told to pull their fingers out and we went on to win the league.
That’s having know how in the squad. That’s taking the bull by the horn. That’s being innovative. That’s not seeking permission to be better.
Here’s the key for me, in any job you do. If you’re not being led properly… work around the problem to get to the best possible outcome for your team. Beg for forgiveness, you get me? (don’t beg, it’s embarrassing. Well, unless you’ve liquidated the bank your employed by with your work around).
So when Cruyff was sacked in the 6th year of his tenure, amazingly, that’s still the longest any Barca manager has served, Bobby Robson was appointed at 63. The players used to call him Granddad, interestingly. So he had Jose Mourninho as his translator. Bobby Robson used to scrawl down tactics on a chalk board and Jose would turn them into Spanish.
Apparently, the tactics weren’t exactly brilliant. So Jose used to make them better, more clear. As Robson’s tenure powered on, his tactical recommendations became more bizarre so Jose and Pep used to work together to not just make them clearer… but to make them far, far better. Sometimes the final product was totally different. They were working together to create a better outcome for the team. I think this is brilliant, because it’s how young innovative leaders work when faced with a dinosaur.
So why don’t our players take more control? Per Mertesacker was asked about tactics at the World Cup at some do last night…
Per “Lowe he does more meetings with us,strict with tactics, Arsene gives us more freedom to move our position ourselves”
— Darren (@DarrenArsenal1) November 19, 2014
Arsene doesn’t really do tactics, which shouldn’t be news if you’ve been reading this site for the last 5 years or watched one of our famous capitulations against top team. So here’s a question, why don’t the players do their own tactics and video analysis? Why don’t they take a situation they know is complete professional suicide… and do something about it?
Culture. It’s as simple as that. The Arsenal culture is one man. One man, one set of values, one set of ideas. Progress is only acceptable if it comes from one place. If you build a culture that is dependent and you don’t encourage ideas from other places, people become lazy. People become demotivated. Great staff become neutered.
Ideas are investments. They’re little pieces of art. They’re a creative execution that an individual or a group have invested time in to build to a point they can be showcased. If you share that vision, and it’s ignored, you’ll think twice about doing it again. If your idea is dropped and you continue to see that your organisation is still suffering the issues your idea was designed to solve, it’s even more demotivating.
Creative problem solving can’t come from the top. It has to come from the layer below. It has to come with buy in, if people are invested in the idea, it has more chance of working. I fear that at Arsenal, unless it comes from one man, or his old boys club, nothing is ever done. We’ve bred a culture of dependence and in turn we have a malaise. We don’t have players who will think for themselves and do their own tactical work. We don’t have a squad that will speak up. They’ll just continue doing the same things they know are wrong, over and over because the cost of doing something is perhaps too great.
If that’s what Arsene wants, then fine. But for me, you can still have authority whilst having a group of people who will question standard practice and come up with solutions that can make a difference. Ideas can come from anywhere, but it takes a special kind of manager to be able to listen. Especially if that said manager is a legend.
Maybe the ‘let others work it out’ approach is a bit modern. Maybe that’s not how it was done back in the day. But I think the way Adams and Co behaved back in the day shows you that expecting players to take responsibility isn’t a wild suggestion. It just requires some balls, some personality… but then again, we don’t sign players like that these days. We sign nice boys. Which is fine, but you need that extra bit of something in the team.
I mean, the fact Wenger doesn’t really believe in captains tells you all you need to know… maybe he doesn’t want a strong captain because that’d be a challenge to his supremacy? Maybe he doesn’t have strong staff who are willing to challenge? Or maybe the cost of being challenging is your career… and people know this?
I mean, topline, has anyone sat down with Alexis Sanchez and purged his brain? If I get someone in from a better agency, I want to know it all. How do they pitch? How do they approach a brief? What’s the structure? What do they have that we don’t? How would you change things? What don’t you like about this place?
Do you think Arsene sat down with his new £30m man and blitzed him with questions? Because you’d have a few…
What’s the approach to fitness? How often would you rest? What would you eat? How would tactics be approached? How much ball work would you do? How do you recover? How often would you sit in a class? How did you practice your game execution? What was the prematch ritual? How did you debrief on games? What sort of role did the assistant play? Did you use video analysis at half time? Do you know the company they used? What would be the one thing you’d change about this place?
When you’re a competitive outfit, the only time you get to find these things out is when you bring in new people. Would Arsene think this way? I’m not so sure. For a man obsessed with football, he doesn’t seem to learn much from watching others, does he?
So in conclusion, if the culture isn’t right. What can be done to change it? Who is looking in to see if something is broken? Who is helping to make Arsenal a better place to work? Who is has enough on the line to force a better Arsenal? From where I’m sitting, that’s behind my keyboard, it looks like no one.
That’s what makes me sad. Two and half more years of watching minimal progression. Untapped potential. Unmemorable seasons. But fear not, once this is over, better times are coming. This is elite purgatory, but it won’t last forever. Of that I’m sure.
Anyway, brain dump for the day.
P.S. Stop bantzing me in the comments section… it’s freaking me out.