I posted a little later to see how the grim story of this week would pan out.
The movements that seemed most important were:
- The scouting realignment sits separately of the redundancies. Essentially, the scouts were terminated. Still not nice, but a fact of life at the elite level of the game. This is important because it means they can be replaced.
- The redundancies, which many found out about today, will be more on the non-playing side of the game.
This news, as expected, has generally gone down very badly with the fans, the players, and the coach. At a basic level, it looks like the leadership team doesn’t grasp what Arsenal has been or where they want it to be moving forward. We lack a vision. Decisions are short-term, they seem to be made in a vacuum, and there’s no one at the highest level who sees the bigger picture and how the pieces intertwine currently to tell an incoherent story about our values and wanted future state.
The club is a total contradiction.
THIS IS BUSINESS FAM
Yes, the pandemic is real. The lack of fans will be painful. Costs will need to be cut.
We all understand the business implications of the moment because we’re living in it. Most of us don’t need to be educated on what covid means for the bottom line.
However, there are some absolute basics that Arsenal seems to be getting wrong.
1. Be absolutely clear with your staff about what is happening.
Arsenal players were apparently shocked and horrified that the club were making aggressive redundancies at the club. Firstly, they’ll be upset because now it looks like their 12.5% pay cut (£29.5m per annum or £567k a week) was a wasted exercise. Now, you could say that things change, and I could agree, but the point is, the players thought their money was going towards keeping the normal staffers at the club.
Pay cuts should have been clearly explained. The ramifications of redundancies should have been known early. No one should be shocked further down the line when something like this happens. Get your bad news down in one sharp hit, trickle-down morale tremors put people on edge and reduce trust in leadership.
This isn’t a hindsight thing either, it’s business basics 101.
2. Don’t treat the people like fools
The all-in cost of losing 55 people was reportedly about £2.5m. That’s an average salary of about £45k a year. Not a lot of money for people living in or around London. 5 weeks collection of the 12.5% player pay cut. Also, a tiny amount in the grand scheme of football. That £2.5m is not helping Arsenal move from 8th to 2nd this season. It was a super grim way to frame redundancies.
‘I know we hurt a lot of people here, but hey, imagine how you’ll feel when you see Gabriel in central defence?’
If Arsenal were moving on people that now had nothing to do, they should have framed it that way. If they were getting leaner because the corporate team had bloated. Say so. The fact they wrapped the decision in the playing squad was because they knew a football club like Arsenal would look terrible making aggressive cuts to the workforce in a pandemic. The self-awareness of this makes it worse.
3. Live your values
If the club wants to position itself as cost-conscious, those values should be operationalised on every level. If you are concerned about £2.5m to the level where you’re happy to put good people out of work in a market with no jobs, then you should be looking to make savings elsewhere.
Dropping £130k a week 3 year deal for a 32-year-old does not look like a move a cost-conscious club would make. Paying a super-agent who was briefed on the clubs’ structural changes also doesn’t make sense. What value does Kia bring? He convinced Arsenal to sign an injured right-back for £5m with 6 months on his deal that no one at elite level wanted, he was behind a £24m deal for David Luiz on a one year deal, and he’s also pushing us to sign an out of favour Coutinho. What value is he bringing from a cost-conscious clubs perspective?
It’s like your company cutting salaries then throwing an away day in the Bahamas.
4. Communicate the plan
We’ve hacked out our scouting system as part of a reimagination by Edu. The Evening Standard hilariously indicated that the vision is that we move to a data-centric approach. I say hilarious because the values Edu and Raul have been living do not indicate that data has played a role at Arsenal very often. We binned Sven Mistlintat and Jason Rosenfeld for Kia, Arturo, Mendes, and Raul’s mate at Lille.
… snark aside. Why doesn’t Edu speak to the fans? If you don’t speak, the people will fill the gaps, that is sport I’m afraid. The gaps aren’t hard to fill, the Edu operation is backwards, unimaginative, and rife with conflicts. It is not data-driven unless data-driven means a USB stick with a spreadsheet of Kia’s players driven to Edu’s office. It is littered with unsavoury characters and weird backroom deals that make little sense if we’re a club looking to make future-facing decisions.
What’s the plan? Who are the hires? Who are the scouts? How are we modernising data? Why are we leaning on ways of the past? At which club does contacts scouting work at the highest level? What is the glorious future vision beyond throwing a hodgepodge of players and an elite young coach?
If the answers are good, surely it’d be a smart move to share them with the public? Liverpool people have been speaking on the record about what they do for years. Where is the Edu interview about what he’s been up to?
What I have found interesting is how many people defend what is going on at the club.
There’s a section of people in society that absolutely live for grift. They live in a fantasy world where being a bit wonky is some sort of attribute of greatness and that this turn south for Arsenal is what has been needed. Those people are fucking clueless. Do big clubs go to extremes? Yes, they do. The New England Patriots get up to some weird stuff, but you know what? They also do some incredible innovative smart things. They find value in places no others look. They use data. They have elite coaching. You can question decisions, not intentions. The sorts of things we’re doing have us in 8th.
Arsenal isn’t a beacon for anything interesting at the moment, the best thing we’ve done is hire a young manager at the second time of asking. We’re directionless at the top and lack leadership. Our decisions are made with the next week in mind, outside hiring a young manager, not a lot of what we do at the highest level has the future in sharp focus. We look like we’re being run by 1980s M&A consultants. The power has all been centralised in one place, dissent has been muzzled or moved on, the people being brought into the club are doing what works for their futures, then they’ll move onto the next shiny thing. The moves that are being made now look like the moves of people on the way out. It feels like we’re in zero fucks territory.
There needs to be a clearer articulation of what Arsenal is. The football lacked identity for years, I think we might be solving that on the pitch, but as great club of prestige, we’re lost. Who are we? What do we want to be? How are going to get there?
With great leadership, you can see it. You can feel it. It’s in the air. Every decision ladders back to the grand vision and as a result, it all makes sense. The fans, employees and stakeholders know where they stand because they’re all on the same journey. Arsenal needs some of that because the poor communication and the bad PR of this week stem from the lack of clarity around the direction. The fact that a 38-year-old rookie coach has given more clarity to what Arsenal is over the two leading the club tells you what a mess we’re in at the very top.
Your biggest weaknesses always shine through in the rough times and here we are. What are the club going to do about it?