Arsenal aren’t messing around. They are flooding fans with so much news, they don’t know where to look. It’s an avalanche that almost looks like a distraction.
First, we won the FA Cup… hooray!
Then it’s leaked that we’re going back in the Kia trough for Willian… hmmm?
Then we officially tell the world we’re laying off 55 Arsenal workers… say what?
buuuuut… Coutinho… maybe… PARTEY?
Back to lay-offs. A large chunk of that sits in the recruitment department… names like McDermott and Cagigao… SAY WHAT?
THEN the David Ornstein of Lille newspapers announced that Gabriel Magalhães will be joining Arsenal as our right-sided centre back. That’s a fucking coup. Tall, aggressive, great on the ball, and one of the hottest young defensive talents in France (video)… SEXY?
Where do you start?
First, let’s start on the redundancies aspect of things.
There are two ways of looking at this. The first is that billionaire owners have some responsibility to stand up and be counted when the world is hurting. This was Wenger back in the day.
‘What matters to me is when you have a club with 600 employees you have the money to pay them at the end of the month.’
Letting go of 55 people when society is sick is heartless. Stan K is rumoured to have personally gained over $400m during the pandemic. The Walton Family, of which he is married into, has amassed $25 billion during the pandemic. Josh K said he wanted fans to ‘be proud’, I’m not sure slashing 55 peoples livelihoods at this time levels up to those words.
The other way to look at this is pure play capitalism: Never let a good crisis go to waste.
Businesses around the world have been given the cover of a pandemic to cut the fat and get lean. It’s grim, but there’s always 10% of a workforce that could be improved, and in this moment, there’s not only substandard talent to be rid of, there are also people that have nothing to do, so why keep them?
For me, this looks like a blend of self-sustaining-business-model ‘necessity,’ opportunism… and a bit of a power grab.
The biggest sledgehammer apparently went to the scouting department. That’s where a lot of the cuts will be directed. Are we really surprised though? The 3 years of Don Raul, Sven, and Edu was not the moment the weird recruitment started. We’ve been pretty bad at bringing through the cream for a very long time, so it’s hardly a surprise leadership is looking to upgrade there.
The big question Arsenal fans will have is: What is the plan post-lay-off-shake-up looking like? At the moment, this has the feel of a dictator hollowing out government institutions to concentrate power.
Most fans are spitting feathers because we’re not hiring in expert talent, we seem to have outsourced decision-making to cronies of Raul and Edu. Jason Rosenfeld of StatDNA quit, Sven Mislintat was moved on because he despised the approach, a whole collection of youth scouts didn’t have their contracts renewed, Cagigao who was promoted post-Sven is out, and Brian McDermot has apparently been moved on. We can pay £24m for David Luiz for a year, but can’t afford scouts and some corporate admin, really?
5 or so weeks ago, Kia J, the Shadow Tech Director numero 1 said this when he was asked about David Luiz’s deal.
‘There are several issues within the whole structure that will be resolved.’
Kia isn’t just a fee printing machine and an average talent spotter, he’s also clued into Arsenal’s restructuring plans that involved people losing their jobs. That comment on Talksport Radio now looks even more disgraceful than it did at the time. How can that not be a breach of trust or some sort of corporate protocol? It’s basically him admitting that ‘problems’ at Arsenal will be resolved. What problems were they I wonder? One can only speculate. Either way, if I came out and said something like that about one of my clients in the media, I’d be kicked off the business and I’d be in big trouble.
The whole thing is very sloppy. The worst thing is that Arsenal aren’t out ahead of these very obvious PR problems. That press release doesn’t cut it with a fanbase that chases down the planes of players on transfer deadline day. Where is Raul to explain what the future holds?
I understand that staff are having conversations this week on the redundancies, so maybe they are waiting to make things official before they come forward with a plan. However, from my understanding, if you make someone redundant, you have to kill the role, or the redundant parties can file for constructive dismissal. If the scouts are being made redundant in that 55, we can’t legally replace them, so we’ll be running with a severely depleted department or relying on junior talent to pick up a lot of important slack.
We’ll have to wait and see where that lands because I’m sure Arsenal’s head of HR is well aware of the law and will have made sure Arsenal has the maximum flex to do what is best for the club.
Regardless, I’ll say it again, days like this remind you that Arsenal is not being run properly. The lack of leadership, true expertise and empathy is palpable.
Gutting data, scouts, and dissent is not a plan, if KSE thinks it is, we’re in trouble. If cronyism is the strategy, watch Arsenal burn, I’m sure QPR fans loved it initially when Kia was pulling the strings at their place, ask them how they feel about that now. Ask Barcelona how their ‘we don’t need scouts’ approach has gone for them… no, ask Lionel Messi. We’re gravitating towards football structures most clubs are trying to get away from.
Doing things the hard way is the only way, shortcuts always end in tears, especially when super-agents are close by. Our infrastructure should be built out with elite specialists in every department. Technology and data should support experienced people making tough decisions. Our staff should feel empowered to find marginal gains, innovate processes, and eke out advantages where others aren’t looking. Raul should have the whole club pulling in the same direction with a grand vision for the ages. There should be no doubt about where his priorities lie because he should bleed Arsenal like Arteta and the fans do.
Still, there’s time for a plan. We might see it this summer. We might make some elite backroom hires in the vacant positions. We might mix it up with the players. I might be totally wrong about our leadership. This summer could be the one. My worry is that all the things I’ve told you to watch out for haven’t just happened, they’ve gotten markedly worse in a very short space of time.
This summer feels scary, promising, weird, exciting, and a little bit sad.
Fingers crossed it works out. We can’t afford another disaster. Arsenal has to get it right.