I thought I’d wait to see what the BIG DOG DAVE ORNSTEIN penned on The Athletic this morning before dropping a post on the aftermath of Xhaka-gate yesterday.
Predictably, the piece points towards a familiar story… a lack of leadership at Arsenal.
I’m not calling time on anyone yet, but my deep fear is fancy players aside, the direction of Arsenal is somewhat off-track again, or, more to the point, has never been on track. Rumblings I hear from the club around leadership have been far from positive, and the fact that there was a motion to offer Unai Emery a new deal last summer tells you that the expertise levels in some parts of the boardroom are well off.
The big talking point today was the list of managers that were under consideration in 2018. The shortlist was pretty much where we expected it to be. I was surprised Enrique / Jardim weren’t on the list. I was surprised Lopetigui was on there. Outside that, the shortlist had all the obvious candidates.
Arteta was the frontrunner, the point that is missing for me is that Unai Emery most certainly wasn’t on the original shortlist. From what I understand, he was a last-minute sub when Ivan lost his nerve on Mikael Arteta. I don’t think it’s hard to piece that together from the timeline of events, and I think even the staunchest Emery fan would be hard pushed to convince anyone that Unai was a better candidate than most of the names on the list. I know that his English was raised as a concern by people at interview stage, namely, that he couldn’t speak a word of it. I know from doing my own personal numbers and research he was a bad candidate, so I can’t imagine our number crunchers gave him a thumbs-up, most likely because no analysis was done due to the time crunch. Even a cursory look at Google would tell you he couldn’t organise a defence, he had trouble with egos and the football was overly negative.
So unless every single person on that list rejected the club, it really must have just been Arteta at the death before we switched attention to someone that had been freshly fired.
Arteta’s lack of a backroom team was apparently a problem. Again, it’s another contradiction for me. The club has gone out of its way to talk about the new modern infrastructure, then the first thing we do is let Unai Emery bring in 5 of his own coaching staff, completely unvetted after being fired by PSG? How is that due diligence? We literally bought in a strength and conditioning coach when we already had one that had won a World Cup with Germany and transformed our pitiful operation back in the day. We had an assistant. We had a keeping coach. We had video analysts. We could have just copied what PSG did for Thomas Tuchel, namely, gone out and purchased whoever the best assistant in world football was at the time. If the only problem you have with a candidate is they don’t have 2 additional coaching staff, that’s kind of ideal. It reduces the candidate’s power, gives leadership more control of the direction of the club, and gives everyone the assurance that quality control measures were in place.
Major point here: The club fired Wenger in April. They had time to work out all of these kinks. They had the opportunity to rebuild Arsenal around a vision. Fuck whether that was Arteta or not. The idea was correct. Bring in a young coach with big ideas. Set the bar low with the fans, tell them we’re building an exciting future around kids, and we’re going to build from the ground up, and we’re going to make The Emirates the most exciting place to watch football in the world. Exactly the approach Chelsea took this season.
How could last season have been any worse than what it was? We’d have had a style in place now, a City light. The players would have known what they’re doing. We’d be in year two now and we’d all know exactly where we were heading as a club.
Again, I have to return us to the original point. Some of our leadership team wanted to give Emery a new deal last summer, despite the mountain of evidence he was tanking the squad. This season, seeing that we’re in deep decline again, with fires literally everywhere, we’re being assured the manager will be given time.
Based on what? A lack of a replacement could be a fair point. Not surprisingly, there’s no contingency plan outside Freddie Ljungberg, which is a huge problem and a major red flag. How can no thought have gone into contingency after watching the insipid Europa League final? How can they not have a list of 5 candidates after travelling down to the training and seeing what’s going on? We should have someone waiting by the phone, studying our squad, making plans.
You know what happens when you don’t have a plan? Jose Mourinho. The lack of direction we have is similar to that of United. Because you don’t know where you’re going, you outsource your decisions to super agents. Make no mistake, Mourinho would feel good in the moment, but he’s an arsonist. He’d bury us in 2 seasons. OGS is taking a lot of stick at the moment, no one is out here pointing the finger at Jose for the wreckage he left him to fix.
Interestingly I was told that Edu has been the black hand behind the Mesut Ozil issue that’s going on. Questionable strategy against a player that has public sentiment on his side, not to mention the fact he’s consistently communicated to the media that he’s going nowhere. Again, is this what you’d call leadership? Creating a huge media fuss for what is essentially a losing battle that has in part, contributed to the break-neck speed in which public sentiment has turned against the manager. I would also bet that this inconsistent behaviour has led to some of the dressing room split that lots of papers are reporting on this morning.
Remember this: Arsenal pulled forward transfer budget from this upcoming summer to make last year happen. It wasn’t a gift from Josh. It wasn’t anything clever. It was a major gamble. The missing part of the commendable effort was considering the manager. He’s not very good, we could all see that last season, but Raul has been so invested in the decision, maybe he can’t see beyond his nose here?
Let’s see where it goes, but it’s worth noting we’re in October, two of our captains are in disgrace, the football is terrible, there’s a dressing room split, the fans have turned against a manager so petrified at the moment he has ‘good ebening’ Tourettes syndrome and it’s affecting him in interviews.
Not a good look. We need strong leadership and we need it now. Showing faith in something that’s clearly broken is not that.
What’s the plan, Arsenal?