I want to talk about exec leadership at Arsenal today because it’s absolute lunacy what’s going on at Arsenal at the moment.
I awoke yesterday to Kia trapping off on Talksport about upcoming changes in the structure at Arsenal football club. Totally egregious that a super-agent is airing Arsenal gossip on talk radio. Not just any super-agent, one that is at the centre of a scandalous transfer story for David Luiz, and one that is the agent of our technical director. Why is he talking?
Arsenal, repped by Bertie Mee, Herbert Chapman, Arsene Wenger and known as the Bank Of England club because of our class, has let the dogs in the back door and they’re running amok.
Think about this, two people seemingly driving the club at the moment have been involved in two of the most infamous transfer stories in history. The Tevez/Mascherano deal with West Ham and the Neymar transfer at Barca.
Is it any surprise that we’re in such a mess?
Raul, seemingly in lockstep with the fast fading great ‘Invincible’ hope Edu, is running the club into the ground.
Our last three January signings – Mari, Suarez, and Soares – boast one completed 90 minutes in the league. They’ve cost us £15m, enough to fund a top European 22-year-old for 3 years. Sure, it’s unfortunate that Mari suffered a bad injury, I feel for him, but the reality is he wasn’t playing yesterday if David Luiz had his head right. If you can’t displace a 33-year-old fading centre back when you are 26, it’s highly likely you are probably not the future of Arsenal football club.
The problem Arsenal has is there is no CEO. Dual leadership doesn’t even look good on paper, it’s a shit idea, always has been. You cannot share power. You need one person accountable. That’s just how humans work.
We need someone at the top of the tree who can get their head around the commercial aspects of our operation and the football parts. We need someone with the guts to scrutinise deals, challenge the data, and do the right thing for Arsenal. How many execs could survive our January signings alone? How could you rationalise the signing of Pepe for that huge fee, with a certain Jorge Mendes involved, buying from your mate (who was banned from French football for 3 months for allegedly breaking financial reporting regs) from a club that is run by someone who sees fees as the most profitable part of the game? How does he explain the run down contracts? How does Raul survive our position in the table? How has he moved Arsenal forward?
It is disgraceful that we are in such a mess 3 years after the so-called rebirth of Arsenal football club.
If Josh K doesn’t care about the club, he should care about looking like a fool, care of Edu and Raul.
If he doesn’t want to run Arsenal, he should invest in someone that can. Arsenal is a very wealthy organisation. Josh should go and find a CEO that understands sports or entertainment. Look into CEOs that have done positive things with limited funds. Speak to Hans-Joachim Watzke of Dortmund and find out what he needs to move to London. Go and speak to Ian Ayre who is in Nashville at the moment after a solid stint at Liverpool where he hired Jurgen Klopp. Speak to Beppe Marotta of Inter Milan (previously Juve). Do something creative. Rummage the NFL, the NBA, find anyone doing interesting things at prestigious sporting entities. Just don’t leave Arsenal to rot under rudderless leadership.
To make matters worse, Ivan Gazidis, who initiated all this, is now working off a Le Grove suggestion from 4 years ago. He’s hiring in Ralph Rangnick to bring power and pace to a slow league. Quite incredible he’s finally making a good decision while we’re still suffering from the most despicable power grab in European football history. No owner, no board, a patsy Technical Director, and super-agents so comfortable they are gossiping on the biggest sports radio station in the UK about our great club.
Nothing sums up our problems more succinctly than the David Luiz debacle.
1) Arteta had to drop a 33-year-old for a big game because Arsenal can’t afford his deal
2) Allowing him to derail a game because his head was gone
3) Having this problem after paying, according to The Athletic, £24m for his services. ONE YEAR.
4) Allowing a whole media cycle to be dedicated to whether Arsenal can seal a deal for him, because he’s important.
This one transfer is everything that is wrong with Arsenal under Raul. A lack of preparation, a lack of data, ‘contacts’ scouting, disgraceful fees, and absolutely shit output.
How can David Luiz be so important?
Ok, I’m being mean to Luiz. He’s not a bad player, even now. He’s been good under Arteta. However, his full body of work and the short term nature of his signature will always be judged as another bad piece of business. Edu should have signed someone young that could have grown with the club, instead, he did what was right for his agent, not what was right for us. I am pretty sure we were recommended Akanji last season, I saw him land a beautiful assist from deep for Dortmund a few days ago, he’s 24 years old and we could have signed him for about the same fee we nabbed Luiz for. Even if we couldn’t, are you telling me the best our scouting network could muster was someone in the Kia portfolio?
I also need to counter the ‘what about Martinelli’ argument. Of course, Raul and Edu will bring in some players outside their network, they can ‘t give all the deals to their ‘contacts’. The problem is just how bad the bad deals are. Emery, Pepe, Luiz, Suarez, Soares, Mari… not to mention heavy links to Willian, Kurzawa, Nuno and interviewing Perreira.
We need a prestige exec to come in and lay down the law with Raul and Edu. Ask them what drove certain signings, get into the weeds on what the fees were, understand why we are in such a mess, and ask for a clear plan for how they escape the doom. If the answers don’t suffice, move them the fuck on and start again with a clean slate. We have a good coach, now support him with the players and infrastructure he deserves.
Josh has to know that he’s being played like a fool. I cannot believe that he doesn’t have a single friend who is not giving him clear advice on just how bad the mess we’re in is. I’m also deeply hopeful that the Edu guff in The Athletic about how he goes about transfers was a reaction to the bad press. I also hope that Raul is going to pull the Luiz deal because it’s too hot for the club after the stories of last week.
Josh should speak to people at the club. People that have left the club. He should get into the details and see if his money is being spent wisely, then make a decision on whether he wants to be pushed around like the rich kid trying to buy friends in the school playground.
Something needs to change, my fear though, is there’s still some way to drop before actual meaningful action is taken.
Arsenal needs the accountability that comes with world-class leadership. The longer you leave hacks at the top of your organisation, the more expensive it becomes to dig your way out of the problem.
Time to act, Josh.
See you in the comments. x
P.S. Emergency podcast below.