Late one for the folks back in the UK today. Maybe it’s nearly beer o’clock? Well, have I got product news for you… I am working on a hard seltzer brand. It is fizzy water and alcohol (5%). 100 calories. It’s mental. I use booze to mostly medicate my life, now I’m medicating at 100 calories… give it a crack.
You know what else I need alcohol to medicate for? Unai Emery.
I know that people think I have it in for him, but it’s not true… I just find some of the things he does utterly perplexing.
Let’s talk about the captains armband.
Leadership is something you look for in all players. Everyone should hold themselves accountable, all must fight for the team, every last man must step forward when needed. Shared leadership is a mindset, it should be part of the culture, but let’s not kid ourselves it is a substitute for a real captaincy.
The idea of ‘captaincy’ is not dead. We can’t woke-wash away the basics of leading men. Leadership is real, it cannot be shared. You need a focal point for the team.
Topline, there are two ways that captains armband is dished out.
You either have someone that is an outrageous talent and they lead by example with goals, assists and match-winning performances (Cesc). This approach is usually a way of grounding an ego in ‘team.’
The second way – and generally more popular, is giving the armband to the standout leader in the squad. They might not be the most popular (Roy Keane), they might not be the most talented (G.Nev), but they are a bonified warrior that leads you into battle (Adams/Vieira), holds everyone to account, and does the dirty work on the shop floor (hairdryer/boot throwing/ rabble-rousing).
Last season, Unai Emery – fresh out of a new age business grad school – elected for a socialist approach to the captains’ armband, probably an idea born out of the Wenger handbook of management named ‘HAPPY EVERYONE.’
A year on, 4 of the 5 are now firmly off the roster. Aaron Ramsey was binned after a month when Unai realised he didn’t fancy him. Koscielny went on strike in the close season. Petr Cech moved to Chelsea as the Sporting Director before the Europa League final, Mesut Ozil took sick leave so many times it became an HR issue… Granit Xhaka, is still here, waiting in the wings.
So where are we right now? It’s September 26th 2019. We’ve played 6 Premier League games, 1 league cup match and we’ve had an away day in the Europa League… still no decision on the captaincy. Our default is Granit, who is being booed by the fans already.
Today, the press has leaked that Emery is holding a vote.
I cannot tell you how ridiculously juvenile this approach is. It’s Boy Scouts stuff. It’s someone that’s bad at people thinking this is a good way to bond the squad.
Here are some topline issues.
It tells the players the manager is insecure:
This is palming off responsibility. This is walking away from a decision. This is a man worried about what the squad thinks of him. It’s also an excuse if it goes wrong.
‘Don’t blame me, you voted!’
This sort of micro-beta-male action might not bite now, but the thought will linger. If I know my boss cares whether I liked them, I know they are weak, I know I can strike at them when they are down, I know I can cut at them when they are indecisive.
The manager is struggling to understand basic connections of the squad:
This one is a worry, but one that doesn’t surprise. Emery struggles to manage egos. He doesn’t seem to understand the causal effects of his behaviour in general. It should not shock that he cannot identify a strong leader, because he doesn’t seem to be one himself. If you outsource communication to your assistant, you are probably struggling to interpret the language of the club. My worry here is that if he can’t understand what’s going on at a basic level, like, who is the standout leader, how can he understand the lighter nuances that happen in the day to day that you need to be on top of to manage a group?
He believes it is better to be loved:
The basic premise seems to be that he thinks great leadership is tied to popularity.
I present to thee: Emmanuel Eboue.
Lad was absolute banter, did you see the tiger outfit? Squad LOVED him. Captain material?
Extreme case, no one would invite him to be a leader, but my point is this: You don’t always know what is right for you from a leadership perspective.
The ideal person to manage you is often not the sort of person you would ask to manage you. Are you going to invite a fox into your warm metaphorical chicken coop? No fucking way. That’s why Rob Holding thinks Granit Xhaka is a great leader. He’s a top lad, he’s a bit shit, and he probably doesn’t hold anyone accountable because he does not have the performance cache to do so.
Voting for your leader is for politics, not the army. Tony Adams once said, ‘It is better to be feared than loved’, wise words, no doubt, but seriously, if there is an end of the spectrum we need at Arsenal, it’s closer to ‘feared.’
Donald Trump once said he believes you only have so much energy in life, which is why he doesn’t bother with exercise.
I think there’s a reverse version of this in management. You have a credibility power bar that you can grow with great decisions. You can also drain it with bad ones. Phil Brown lectured his players on the pitch at halftime, that drained his tank, it was over. Jose Mourinho threw his physios under the bus in the media, which told the squad he had the back of no one. Unai Emery is chipping away at his with confusing tactics, odd management behaviours (player reviews) and meek decisions. There comes a point in a season where all the mico-fails culminate into something very bad. We likely won’t see that until the back end of the season, but when he surveys the wreckage, it’s moments like this that he’ll likely curse.
IN OTHER NEWS.
Some Wenger quotes doing the rounds about the United job, I read they are fake.
I did a SOLO podcast.