So today, we’ll be having a little chat about something I read about managerial appointments. It’s a tricky business. You can prepare early to bring in someone new and by the time you get there, they’re messing things up, or you can do it late and still mess it up. Like United have. I hope.
Anyway, Barca had a plan when Rijkaard was letting it slide like Rooney on a summer holiday to an all inclusive. Their management team, a grouping of the finest players to have graced the club (The Dream Team), were being informed by the players things weren’t right on the shop floor.
That’s novel. That’s why I suspect you don’t see explayers in senior positions at Arsenal, because people like Thierry and Patrick could function like that. I wonder who the confidant at the club is at the moment? Who tells Ivan what’s really going on?
Anyway, things were going awry, so instead of shooting for the next big name, the club drew up a profile and undertook a selection process that nailed down what the next manager needed to make the shortlist.
As Luis Martín of El País explains, ‘A profile of the new manager was drawn up, including a set of criteria that the candidate had to fulfil: he should respect the footballing style inherited from Rijkaard; promote a solid work ethic and group solidarity; supervise the work of the youth teams; place an emphasis on preparation and player recuperation; maintain discipline in the dressing room while being respectful of all opponents and possess a sound knowledge of the Spanish league. Furthermore, the next manager of FC Barcelona would have to have a feel and understanding for the club, its values, significance and history.’
I thought this passage was interesting, because you see how many of the foundations Wenger set, whilst also acknowledging where he’s fallen down. For the record, Pellegrini, Laudrup and Wenger all missed out on the final list.
The breakdown of where we are and where we need to be.
Respect the football style:
I think we’d all like a pragmatist like Jose post Wenger, but for me, we need to avoid remedying Wenger’s faults by bringing in an antichrist solution. Don’t cure a skin infection with battery acid. The next manager needs to a modern version of Arsene. Someone who brings style with planning. Flair with analytics. A blend of mostly art, but with a serious hat tip to science.
Promote a solid work ethic and group solidarity
Again, not sure you can knock Arsene here. Players and coaching staff rarely speak out against the manager. He runs a tight ship, much in the same way Fergie did. I think I’d want someone to promote an innovative culture here. That’s amongst the staff and the players. I don’t think Arsenal players speak up or suggest improvements because they know the outcome will be a negative one. Whilst you don’t want to cede authority with disruption, you do want to encourage creative thinking and accountability. No man ever has all the answers… nor should he seek to. Weakness isn’t in not knowing, it’s in not admitting you might not know.
Supervise the work of the youth teams:
Ok, so this is an area we all kind of thought Arsene was nailing, but the reality is, he wasn’t. Considering the investment in youth and the lack of it that’s come through on our terms, you really would suggest that we go hard bringing in someone who understands bringing through talent. Jurgen Klopp speaks volumes here, but then again, so does Pep Guardiola and a whole host of top names. If I were running the show, I’d want the manager dictating the style, not sure I’d want him literally supervising the youth. I’d also be nabbing whoever is running the Southampton youth gravy train. Bring in the best of the best. The manager would have no control over this appointment either. The club own the infrastructure so we’re not beholden… like we are now (I’m not talking about Joncker, I know he was a club appointment, which was strange, but at least it wasn’t an Arsene appointment).
Place an emphasis on preparation and player recuperation:
Oh hi there warning KLAXON. This is a major area that we can improve on. You need a manager with a deep respect of data. Arsene pretends he has this, but the reality is he doesn’t… because we see the same mistakes over and over again. We need a manager who will see the head of fitness as the gatekeeper to a better team. If power and pace are the dominant factors in European football, you need a backroom team that are 1) brilliant 2) listened to. At the moment, we’re the formula one team with just a driver… and that driver ragged the car to pieces. We need a manager who has a vision when it comes to fitness. A manager who believes in rotation. A manager who believes in recuperation and rest. A manager who takes this part of the game seriously and delivers on the requirements with a modern approach.
Maintain discipline in the dressing room:
This goes without saying. I think what needs saying is that we need a manager who maintains discipline on the pitch and a manager who forces accountability off it. Did someone pull Gibbs into a room and read him the riot act after the Stoke game? Does anyone sit the players down and run them through the videos of their bad games? Who is making them better players and better people? That kind of stuff. Mourinho, despite being a scumbag in the public eye, is actually an incredible communicator. He motivates, forces accountability and tolerates zero nonsense on and off the pitch. He manages ego and well being. I’m not sure that’s ever been Wenger’s strength. Apparently he’s not big in this area. I feel a lot of that might come with the generation gap that’s opened up, but it might also just be his style. It might also be that when he started, he had players who did a lot of that for him.
While being respectful of all opponents and possess a sound knowledge of the Spanish league:8
Ok, so the Spanish league bit is a touch redundant. But the English league is relevant. We have the most intense league on the planet. Different gravy to all the others. We’re all clamouring for a manager based overseas when maybe giving an opportunity to one based over here might be a good idea. I think the respect of opposition is important, we don’t respect that they might have a plan, might have some good players and might be able to damage them. The next manager has to be a planner. A details person. Someone who leaves no stone unturned in their push to drive for maximum points. We don’t gain those additional percentage points by doing the basics. Our players have tended to go in a blind to games which costs us. It didn’t used to because we were so good, now others have caught up and they know how we’ll play… so we regularly stumble. Opposition teams are never surprised by us, there’s never a plan to nullify or exploit weakness… hopefully the new manager can drive some of that change.
The names don’t have to be major. I think people get way too caught up in football being some sort of meritocracy. It’s absolutely not. The managers doing amazing things with almost zero budget in League One could do a job in the Premier League but they never get a chance. When you have nothing, you have to be more resourceful, smarter and with an average pool of talent. Pep took over a Barca B team on its knees that had just been relegated. He believed that all teams have the same core principles, and if you have a system, a culture and the right kind of drive, you can improve any operation. Whilst I’m not championing a lower division manager, I am championing Arsenal looking beyond a brand name. Arsene wasn’t a brand name, Pep wasn’t a brand name, nore was Jose… but they all had a vision of how the game should be played. Where do we find out next Arsene?
The bigger question, would we have the balls to employ that person if we knew of them?
I’m not sure…