LA Rams electric success and the power of a guiding philosophy (long read)

by .

The pent up desire of some American’s to lambast an Englishman for daring to speak of NFL is one of the most amusing things I’ve seen online all year. It’s like 15 years of being called shit fans by Brexit Twitter has had an impact on them. I can’t tolerate the steady stream of nonsense from people telling me the LA Rams and Arsenal aren’t comparable. If you’re saying that, you aren’t paying attention to a sport you’re trying to claim a knowledge advantage on, so now I am about to school you in with a touchgoal of a post.

My central argument is that the LA Rams has embarked on an innovative strategy to capture the imagination of a city that has plenty of elite pass times. This from the WaPo:

Anywhere else in America, an undefeated NFL team beating teams by 15 points on average would be a dominant civic force. Here, it is different. The Dodgers are in the World Series, LeBron James is on the Lakers, and the box office totals come out every week. All the Rams do is win. But are they winning over Los Angeles?

The output of the strategy is to dazzle. The anxiety driving that approach is that no one will buy a shitty product in LA. Stan has to entertain to make his investment work. Money is on the line.

The Rams were shite in St. Louis. I have worked extensively in that city, listened to cab drivers bemoan his drab leadership, and actually worked with business people who tried to keep the franchise in the city.

When Stan moved them to LA, betraying his hometown, his team went on the record stating they needed an excellent product, because LA folk wouldn’t tolerate substandard sport. Stan had this to say:

Our goal always has been to create an exciting and long-term solution for the NFL, our 31 partners and Los Angeles football fans.

The LA Rams guiding philosophy comes from the very top and drips down into management team, I believe they call it trickle down guiding philosophy, and it works. This is their VP of Operations, Kevin Demoff.

This is actually getting to how you build a fan base brick-by-brick, fan-by-fan, and get people to understand what the Rams are

It is a very crowded landscape we once had a lofty perch in. It’s going to take time to get back to that lofty perch. The way you do it, you play exciting football. You have players who people not only recognize but they like and understand. You have a coach who brings an exciting style of play.

This sort of approach is what I called for in the summer. It’s a business winning idea, especially if like Stan, you consider sport a content game. It’s why Madrid and Barcelona invest so much on the pitch, because the rewards that come back from commercial deals rocket if you’re appealing to a global audience. The below piece in Forbes by Dr. Rishe of the Washington Business school drills into what he calls the hearts and mind strategy the new franchise is adopting.

Well, when the on-field product is abysmally boring and unimaginative, who among us as consumers of sport want to “belong” to a losing brand?  Nor do we want to “identify” with a losing brand.  Nor do we feel enriched from supporting a losing product.

Thus, the transformation of the Rams organization on the field since Sean McVay’s arrival as head coach plays a crucial role in transforming consumer perceptions of the brand.  Now, when we think of Rams football, we think of an electrifying and innovative approach which is both hip and efficient.  And these characteristics not only resonate with just about any consumer, but especially the cherished millennial and Gen Z consumers which most companies covet (due to their higher potential lifetime customer value to the company).

In short, winning the hearts and imaginations of fans helps to reinvent a brand, change consumer perceptions, inspire greater brand loyalty, which ultimately leads to a more premium-priced and profitable product.

Chasing Gen Z and Millenials is all I hear about at work, but in Premier League football’s case, it’s especially pertinent as we have an age issue in the stands with the average age of season ticket holders sitting at around 43! Clubs need to fill the pipelines back up, otherwise, there’s going to be an issue further down the line. Playing incredible football feels like a business necessity heading into an era of sport that will be be more global, mobile, easier to access, and more competitive than ever before.

Creating an incredible experience at Arsenal should have been the goal. The club had 6 months to think about who they wanted to be after the Wenger reboot, but they clearly didn’t have a plan (or it was a bit shit). Nothing screams that the club is united around a vision, or has an idea of how they’re going to make it happen. We don’t even have a CEO, opting for a Houllier/Evans power share.

Our objective is a return to the Champions League, we’ve tried to achieve that by blowing money on experience that’s not good enough. Our strategy was a tactic, with a average vision of how to achieve it. We should have been thinking about the bigger picture, clearly defining how to become exceptional within realistic contraints. Riches should have been the byproduct of succeeding with the said vision.

Arsenal do not look like they know how to be exceptional, and rumblings of Denis Suarez and Ever Banega don’t convince me that’s changing anytime soon.

Below are the actions the Rams took to get themselves into the position they’re in right now.

Key personnel decisions have completely transformed the vibe of the entire organization, including:

  • The hiring of the innovative and energetic Sean McVay;
  • The patience to allow McVay to develop Jared Goff into a successful NFL quarterback;
  • The wisdom of extending standouts Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald to long-term deals;
  • The aggressiveness during the 2018 off-season to add considerable skill and depth on both sides of the ball (specifically on defense)…not to mention the recent acquisition of Dante Fowler Jr. (though his outbursts in the Seattle game almost cost the team severely).  While the defense needs serious refinements and some of the additions have underperformed (Marcus Peters) or not performed due to injury (Aqib Talib), there is still hope that the skill, depth and experience of these veterans will pay dividends in the playoffs.

Collectively, these decisions were strategically shrewd because (1) you could afford to be aggressive financially in the short-term while QB Goff is still under his rookie contract, and (2) you want to create excitement and positive energy about the brand in the build up towards the team’s eventual relocation to the palatial new stadium in Inglewood in 2020.

In short, the Rams rebrand has been accelerated by a series of strategic personnel decisions.  Largely because of the play on the field, the Rams brand is now perceived to be hip, innovative, creative, and explosive.  These winning traits certainly play anywhere, but especially the case in a market like Los Angeles accustomed to supporting dynamic winners.

There’s a guiding principle at the Rams, and because the goal is set at the top, you can build everything around achieving that with the resources you have at your disposal. They have built buzz from top to bottom, they know the sort of coach they needed to hire, they know the type of players, young and old they need to recruit. They know the expectations of how the game needs to be played. They have built something from nothing and there’s a huge buzz around the place.

Arsenal should be replicating this approach. It’s perfect for us. We can’t win with lavish investments. We can win by having an ambitious goal of being the most exciting young football team in Europe, building our entire club around that idea.

Key learnings from the LA Rams:

  • They have a north star: Play scintillating football that captures the hearts and minds of the locals
  • They hire the best thinkers in the game
  • They have been creative with their approach to player trading

The exact same person that runs Arsenal dismally is pulling up trees in LA, doing ALL the things you’d want him to be doing at Arsenal.

Now, in their 3rd season in Los Angeles and 2nd season under Coach McVay’s leadership, the organization is now perceived as an innovative and electrifying team whose executive leadership isn’t afraid to make big moves both on and off the field.

That concluding point is what you want people to be writing of Arsenal. If the perception of your club reads like that, you become an exciting opportunity for young players who want to grow their careers and develop their talent with coaches that can help them. You win new fans because people want to watch you play. You grow commercials because big brands want to be associated with the most exhilarating team on the planet. You attract the best minds in the game who want to express their ideas at a club like London. You open yourselves up to new uses of technology, cutting edge fitness approaches and even science of the mind. Everything gets better because there is a guiding philosophy of excitement that drives the club.

So why can’t we have that?

You. That’s why. This is Stan on London fans.

Obviously London is a comparable stage to Los Angeles, and Arsenal has one of the most passionate and vocal fan bases in sports. So I don’t see that really impacting us.

We’re noisy, he hears us, but he doesn’t care. Why? Because a shitty Arsenal product doesn’t impact him at all.

Adidas still want to give us £60m a year. Rwanda still wants to advertise on our shirts. You still give over £1500+ for your season ticket without question. You will still attend every week, even if you find it boring. Why? Because there is no correlation between your love for Arsenal and how good they are on the pitch. This is a uniquely Premier League thing. Stan cannot lose with Arsenal unless things go really bad, which they won’t under semi-competent leadership. Premier League football is by default a success machine. The money never stops going up. You can disguise average leadership, because all the charts point upwards.

Stan works in the world of real estate. He’ll buy up property in areas where new Walmarts are going to open up, sit back, and play the long game. Same with Arsenal, he doesn’t need to invest any of his own money and the thing hikes in value like nobodies business.

He is succeeding in the NFL because he knew he had to bring new fans through the doors and he had to get people to tune into the matches. He had to do something radical, he had to entertain, and he had to invest in an idea.

Are we investing in a vision like that? What are our bold moves? What are the club doing to put on an incredible show to bring in new fans into the ‘franchise’? Doesn’t seem like a lot. We are making a lot of safe moves to catch up, but how are we using our resource to move ahead?

Arsenal can have everything the Rams have. But there needs to be a desire from the people installed at the club to push the owners for what they need. Or, it needs the people we hired to be fiercely ambitious and hugely competitive. Do we have disruptors in charge, or an easy life crowd? Outside of the excellent hiring of Sven Mislintat, where is the innovation coming from? Can you see who the club is shaping up to be over the next five years? Can you see a style developing on the pitch that you’d want to buy into if you were a young player?

I can’t.

The point of this post is it’s not all doom and gloom.

Stan has shown the world he can think like a proper owner. He’s shown that when he cares about something – because his money is on the line – he can make really exciting decisions and take risks that drive towards something.

Question is, how do we get some of that LA Rams magic to The Arsenal?

Podcast recording TODAY. Let’s all laugh at Spurs. Lololololol

491 Responses to “LA Rams electric success and the power of a guiding philosophy (long read)”

Jump to comment form ↓

  1. rollen1

    Good work Pedro.

    Only way to make Stan invest is for fans to demand better but it will be hard task as football fans support the teams through thick and thin.
    He will make money on Arsenal even if we are bottom half of the PL.

  2. Sancho Monzorla

    Arsenal picked the wrong German Turk. Should have been Gundogan. For fucks sake we keep choosing the wrong foreigner. Elneny/Salah. Park/Son. Honda and Kagawa/Miyaichi and Asano. I think the last Brazilian we had was Andres Santos, correct me if I’m wrong while I choke with disbelief.

  3. grooveydaddy

    Pedro, and everyone else

    Wouldn’t we make up the biggest chunk of that lost CL money by going deep in the EL?

    I think we made more money as Europa semifinalists than United did getting to the CL knockouts.

    Even if United’s cut was a bit lower as a result of qualifying via Europa league rather than league placing, our take from Europa league was only like £10 million less what Tottenham took home from the CL.

  4. Freddie Ljungberg

    Saw that too Guns, very promising, hopefully we can shift him and get 10-15m.

    We really have to start shifting peripheral players now to free up the wage bill. And yes, Ozil is included in that.

  5. Guns of SF

    I think what most of us on here agree upon- low and behold is

    Correcting these over inflated contracts and wages!
    Gambon said more than half our revenue goes to player wages. With some shitty ones to boot.
    We clear out players and their wages and we start with a clean slate.
    Its already in the works. Look at last summer.
    For those crying that Emery this and that… the team is going backwards etc- I think we are moving forward

    Anyhow, good luck to El Neny… a nice guy like Rambo who just never made the cut. Nothing bad to say about him

  6. Guns of SF

    I do recall that as well being written. I think its a good thing we are in the knock out phases of the EL…. im sure we can go fairly deep if we can avoid the inters and napolis etc.

  7. Charlie George

    How about cutting the flabby admin/decision making departments ( that seem to be growing by the month?- Edu coming too?)

    I go to watch the players on the pitch.
    And I do not really care what they earn

    Stan is a billionaire.. send him the invoice.

  8. Guns of SF

    We need to care about salaries as it hampers our ability to get our squad set with good players- not overpriced ones that are too hard to sell- ex Ozil

  9. Charlie George

    Why do we want to sell em?
    We want play them. We want them to help us to win football matches.
    Buy, sell, buy ,sell…..

    This MODERN obsession of always assuming new players are always going to be better than the ones already establish led is very strange.

    Emery should earn his crust and coach and motivate the players at his disposal.
    And If he is unable. He should be replaced – by someone who is able.

  10. Guns of SF

    We dont sell for the sake of selling- if we are winning, we keep but have to always be ready to add to the team and rid of player who are not making the cut… there is always going to be turnover. We just dont want to sell for a loss like we have constantly.

  11. Dark Hei

    Guns of SF

    Is Elneny really of no value as a squad player? He seems to fit Emery. Hardworking and willing to take instructions. Decent technique and probably able to press the opposition all day all night.

    He is still far better than Joe Willock and Emil Smith Rowe. His wages are also not an issue.

    He is already adjusted to the English league and would be better than any filler CM we can get as a replacement.

    With only 3 first team CMs (lets be real, Ramsey is played as a winger and Ozil is played as a twitter supporter), I seriously wonder why we are cutting him loose.

  12. Charlie George

    Page1 in football management

    Only buy players or (coaches)- who are better than the ones you have already got.

    This mob do not adhere to this basic premise.
    And that is why we are in such a mess.

    U get rid of ramsey/Ozil/ welbeck-that’s fine BUT u better replace them with some one better- or u will go backwards.

    I would not trust these Spanish cowboys to replace my window wipers.!

  13. China1

    I’d give emery a B- for his first half of the season

    -Some improvements from a handful of players
    -The unbeaten run was enjoyable and impressive
    -He has shown a willingness to make changes and try to adapt rather than be set in his ways

    -Not as impressive as we’d like
    -Room for more progress with existing players
    – some dubious decision making at times
    – hasn’t managed to motivate Mr unmotivated

    Meanwhile, it’s a little hard to nudge 100% because it’s only January and he has a shit squad with no money. Above is my preliminary feelings tho

  14. gonsterous

    I don’t really see what we can gain by sacking emery right now. If the objective was top 4 this season, he’s still very much on course to achieve it.
    We still need reinforcements though. Get suarez or yussof ait benassor and carasco and push on in the second half of the season.

    what I do want to see is, the youngsters get a lot more playing time in the first team than they have been getting. ESR and saka and nketiah should feature a lot more. Hopefully they can inject some directness in the squad when the senior players are having an off day.

  15. Tony

    A lot of good posts from people yesterday/last night pretty much has summed up what I was thinking of posting this morning {Thai time}.

    Gambon & CA
    If we can get rid of the players mentioned, we should have a reasonable transfer fund available. It’s good to read your figure and player projections. I would also sell Laca in our current financial predicament.

    Problem is who will buy our dross at the inflated wages they are on, and will the dross accept moving from their comfortable positions?

    Recently I’ve been advocating Emery using youth because recycling the likes of Ozil, Xhaka, Licht and over playing LT and Guendouzi isn’t working and can’t take us forward.

    The reason I see our defense not improving is because of injuries and having to rely on Xhaka and Licht as well as Holding being long-term injured. There has been no real consistency of playing time for our defenders in the back line to form an understanding to defend as a unit, which I feel needs a few months to gell together.

    Let’s be real here an aged Sokratis was the only defensive addition, which was nullified with the Holding injury. Licht was a gamble that failed miserably.

    Leno needs to be really judged when he has something resembling a tight defense in front of him. If you don’t deem him good enough, then Sven should be asked why we bought him?

    Then there is the quality issue of our central defenders: Kola, Mustafi & Kos and their error prone ways, which cannot be erradicated from their game.

    I don’t believe any manager could get our deficient CAMs to do the job Auba and Laca need to support their movement.

    Equally, the pondorous way we transition between defense-midfield-attacking midfield allows for opposing teams time to defend and stifle Auba & Laca’s movement up front.

    Often it looks like our attackers are marking their defenders because the space is easily defended/marshalled, especially with no wingers drawing central and RB/LBs out of position.

    We need tempo throughout the team because without it we are going to see the same results week in week out.

    LT is having to do too much covering for one player to do and is now off the pace. Guendouzi isn’t that quick and is far too often caught on the ball and also looking tired. Xhaka is too easily targeted with zero pace with or without the ball.

    So bring in the youth and see if they can make the difference because currently we are too transparant for opposing managers to easily set up their tactics.

    If I were Emery I’d play Ozil in every game and let him prove he’s up to it to prove his and his manager’s commitment statements.

    Make Ozil put up or shut up.

    If, as we suspect, Ozil continues to go missing in most games then his team mates will or should soon get on his back and Emery will keep the dressing room.

    However, the reality is that Ozil will inevitably rack up injuries (imagined or otherwise) after 2 maybe 3 consecutive games and the spin, rinse and repeat process will continue.

    I was never convinced with Emery’s appointment, but gave him 12 games and felt he was moving in the right direction and after 22 unbeaten it was hard to think othwerwise even though we really rode our luck at times.

    CL qualification I always saw as a pipe dream with the squad we have.

    I was never on board with the Arteta nonsense.

    Initially, my first choice was Carlo A.

    I also have strong reservations regarding Sven, Raul and Vinai.

    The get CL directive to Emery smacks of Wenger’s go out and express yourselves.

    Nothing seems quantifiable that we can see. Too many questions can be aimed at those 3 at the moment, such as why weren’t Elneny, Jenks, Ospina and others sold last summer? What was the Plan B to back Emery in case of the situation we were in now?

    Lastly why don’t we either have a current successful football man (Monchi?) as our CEO or at least a hard nosed leader who will set targets and see them enforced?

  16. Receding Hairline

    Actually surprised Emery hasn’t found better ways to use Elneny, he is not a bad footballer by any stretch, some on here talk about him like he is a fraud but his give and go football would have suited Emery in my opinion, he is very good at keeping things ticking and always makes himself available for the next pass

    Some players have had more go’s at it than others and that’s part of the problem i guess

  17. Pierre

    You You should stick to doing your very good impression of Judith Chalmers on “wish you were here ” as you make much more sense talking about holiday vacations than you ever will talking about football.

  18. Pierre

    “I don’t really see what we can gain by sacking emery right now”

    They were saying exactly the same thing in Manchester about Jose a few weeks back and now look at them .

  19. Freddie Ljungberg

    Don’t understand why we’re not moving Ramsey on this window, we’re apparently asking for 18-20m from Juve to let him go in January, stop fucking about and get 10m in so we can put that towards someone that can actually contribute, doubt Ramsey is going to break a sweat if he stays.

    Add Elneny to that and we have enough to at least bring 1 player in on top of a loan or 2.

  20. Pierre

    Very true regarding Elneny…a very reliable but limited player who could also have done a decent job at the back recently instead of playing xhaka in defence.

  21. Graham62

    Good morning Tony

    You are 100% correct.

    Our transition is pathetic. Auba and Lacazette thrive on a faster tempo, anyone can see that. It’s not fudging rocket science!

    Emery’s stubbornness will go against him if he continues to pursue this “slow tempo” approach.

    Similar to yourself, I have many doubts about Emery’s methods and philosophies and have found myself shaking my head in disbelief in recent weeks at his inability to solve even the most basic of problems.

    Onwards, upwards, sideways and backwards.

  22. Pierre

    Charlie George
    “Emery should earn his crust and coach and motivate the players at his disposal.
    And If he is unable. He should be replaced – by someone who is able.”

    Spot on .

  23. Pierre

    Don’t encourage Tony..

    He has never had an original thought in his head regarding football tactics and formations but ask him about holiday destinations and he’s an absolute f***ing know all.

  24. Freddie Ljungberg


    How is he going to change the slow tempo approach when our only fast player is Auba and the point is getting him the ball? Bellerin is quick too but has been injured. Our only other fast players are untested youths like Saka.

    You can’t coach abilities into players that they don’t have, you’re not going to teach a 28 yo player how to dribble or make him faster, what you can do is improve what they have, not sure even that is possible with our pathetic squad.

  25. Redtruth

    Charlie George
    “Emery should earn his crust and coach and motivate the players at his disposal.
    And If he is unable. He should be replaced – by someone who is able.”

    He’s a coach not a magician.

  26. Pierre

    I see your (and mine ) favourite Lacazette is being touted as the next to go ….I did actually say well before Christmas that the writing may be on the wall for him , let’s hope he stays.

  27. Freddie Ljungberg

    Not only are they slow but none of them can dribble effectively or are decisive in their passing, the only decent final ball deliverers we have are Mikhi andOzil and they’re so inconsistent it’s not even funny even when they manage to play.

  28. Pierre

    Ignorant and disrespectful……do me a favour

    Obviously you choose to ignore tony’s sly little digs at me in nearly every comment that he posts…….water off a ducks back to me .

  29. Leedsgunner

    All the positives that we saw in our 22 match unbeaten run seems to have been thrown out in panic. Where’s the press, the urgency to eke out a result and willingness to play for each other?

    Leaving out Özil for a game or two to stamp your authority is fair enough but the fact that he is not being played and a saga is developing is worrisome. It makes it appear that he doesn’t know what to do with Özil and how to get the best out of him.

  30. Leedsgunner

    If Emery was clear in his mind that he didn’t want Özil he should have gotten him out as soon as this window opened and had a replacement ready targeted.

    Raul is one of the most well connected football men in the world, with his contacts there’s should have been a concerted effort to move him on.

    I personally would have hoped that our new head coach would’ve been able to turn around Özil and get the best out of him rather than just throw a white flag up but I’m disappointed that we seem to be REACTING to events rather than proactively planning for them.

    This is in danger of turning into a full blown saga which will distract the team’s focus.

    Getting a top 4 spot is hard enough with everyone committed to it. To achieve it with your team divided will be near impossible.

    I’m convinced that if Emery doesn’t achieve it, though, he’ll be out.

  31. Tony

    Good afternoon

    No idea what Emery is thinking but he has to improve his current plan and stick to it.

    I thought the full Valentin post yesterday was interesting regarding Emery.

    Apparantly you’re right it’s not rocket science, according to Pierre all we have to do is beat Man City and Chelsea to solve the problem.

    I assume Pierre will post his tactical playing blue print to achive that target and how to make Ozil effective in every game.

    Can’t wait to see his team selections.

  32. Receding Hairline

    They were saying exactly the same thing in Manchester about Jose a few weeks back and now look at them .

    Yea..we are in an identical situation as Manchester United

    We have spent 300m bringing in the players the manager specifically asked for including a world record transfer for a midfielder he specifically asked for and then refused to use.

    Our manager has been here for two and a half seasons and we are getting worse

    The scenario is so identical it’s spooky

  33. bennydevito

    Well said Receding hairline, Well said. Pierre really is a special kind of stupid. So clearly obvious he’s still butt hurt by Wenger’s sacking.

  34. Charlie George

    Firstly ,I like to thank the author ( pedro) for his contribution and his diligence with the blog.
    Terrific effort.

    I Find it so strange- that the German scout- who obviously has a reputation for finding young players has somehow landed himself such a lofty position at Arsenal?
    How comes?
    What actual credentials has he got?

    Since he has been here – 3 ex Dortmnd players have arrived. All of them 30 years old. We have lost money on them already.!

    Is he Dortmund Eye or Diamond Eye?

    HE has already proved- that He should just stick to the scouting. Not policy making.

    As for Pedros ‘suggestion – of selling Lacacette- i find that deeply preposterous.

    Currently we have one major weapon as a team.
    The partnership of laca and PEA.
    They have great chemistry.
    For the next two seasons. They should be played together in a 442 system.
    What goes on in the mind of Emery is beyond me

    This pair could be lethal with a coach Who has them whipped,motivated and focused.

    HB SOK, SM, SK
    HM, AR, GX,MO
    PEA, AL

    Keep it simple. It’s only football!