Arsenal rocked the football universe yesterday when they acted decisively on their Head of Football.
The framing around the story has been absolutely predictable. If you work in big business, you’ll recognize the familiar feel to the ‘my work is done’ narrative put forward by Raul here and Vinai in this ‘interview.’
… and you know what, who cares how it’s framed, the reality is Arsenal have moved on an exec that operated in a way that wasn’t conducive to the sort of efficiency you need to have when running a club like Arsenal in a moment like the one we’re going through.
Here’s how I imagine it went down.
Arsenal hired in Tim Lewis to look at costs in and out of the club.
He identified areas of waste within the player dealings process that reflected badly on the exec in question.
There are two options in this moment. The club either goes to war with the exec in a drawn-out gardening leave type investigation. Or they agree to part ways on amicable terms if certain stipulations are met as part of the exit package.
For Raul, the best thing for him was going to be to escape the club with his head held high. A ‘job well done’ and ‘I love the club and respect everyone’ works for his next role. For Arsenal, moving on from the situation cleanly, likely without having to offer a massive pay-out or going through a big media circus, is absolutely perfect. Big business, in any industry, will go out of their way to avoid bad PR. I suspect the club is gagging to have an ‘AUBA SIGNS DA TING’ or a ‘Gabriel joins the revolution’ headline to shift the news cycle.
Covid-19 as cover is perfect for both parties. If it makes you happy as a fan to think that’s why we no longer have our top football exec in position, then stick with that story. If you are of a more curious nature, just read some of the previous posts I’ve penned that might lead you towards the reasoning as to why Arsenal put the highest-paid non-first team football person at the club on the cut list.
Everyone wins in this situation. The club can plot a more modern approach forward. The fans can be safe in the knowledge that the deals being done are in the best interests of the football. The execs in America know there’s a sharper focus on making sure their dollars are spent well.
The cold hard reality is that we’re still skint. There’s not a lot of money swilling around the coffers. That’ll mean this summer has to be very creative.
Someone asked yesterday what Edu would have to do for the fans to see this summer as a success.
We’re starting from a pretty low cash position this summer. That means we’ll likely have to sell to buy anyone of substance. Selling in a market where Barcelona are delaying firing their coach because of the £3m contract he’s on tells you how big the challenge of cash will be this summer. There’s not a lot swilling around. There are players that will attract the attention of cash-rich clubs, we need to be strategic there and make sure we max out those opps.
You’ll see a lot of player exchanges and you might see more players given free transfers to move. Arsenal needs to be smart here. If we’re going to swap Lacazette, we need to make sure what we get in return justifies the move. If we’re considering swapping Matteo, it has to be for a talent like Aouar. I don’t want to see Ashley Cole for Gallas like deals going down.
Reshape the profile
Part of the challenge we’ve had over the past few windows is a lack of coherrance on our player profile. We need to get back to Arsene Wenger basics when he was good. High levels of technical ability, rugged fitness, and outrageous athleticism. The midfield is where we need the most attention, and clearly, central defence.
Communicate a plan
Edu has very much been behind the scenes at Arsenal, it’s unclear exactly what his role is at the club, and he’s been shy about talking to the press. I like that we have a visionary coach and I’m a fan of his bromance with Edu… however, we can’t go back to an Arsene Wenger situation where it’s all on the one with the special sauce. I’d love to know what the vision is for the club. Where are we going? What does ‘data and analytics’ mean? Who are we promoting to bring this to life? Who needs to be hired? How long is the plan?
I read somewhere that player recruitment isn’t Edu’s strength, not sure how true that is, but if it is, how are we solving that? A manager doesn’t have time to run that side of the club as well. We need him focused on making the team great. How are we structuring that side of things?
Arsenal fans are rabid. We need information. If we know where we’re going, we’re less likely to fill the gaps ourselves. The club, particularly Vinai, has a history of being open with the fans. It’d be great to get back to that after a fairly opaque period in our history.
We’re constantly in transition at Arsenal, but right now, I feel like we’ve found our ground zero. I worried for a long time that we’d have to waste a few more transfer windows before the powers that be realised we were on a path to nowhere. Now they’ve acted, I think we can expect to see aggressive progress.
I have my reservations about Edu, but I think it’d be unfair to expect him to take us to promised-land in one window. This is arguably the hardest transfer window in history. What I’m looking for is a progression of the thinking and some decisive action that excites. If we can get to that and the football next season is a little more expansive, I’ll be very happy. Arsenal should be seriously threatening the top 4 next season, we have the young players, we have the coach, and should we make a few really smart moves this summer, hopefully, the squad.
This really is the time to ‘be excited’ about the future. We have all the component parts needed to kick on. Let’s see what the new direction of the club can bring.
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