Arsenal dropped a Vinai x Edu collab so dense in information, I’m about to give you a 2000 word analysis so you can digest it. The newly empowered duo rolled up on a fancy lawn looking like the two new Godfathers in town. There was a lot to unpack.
The big news.
- Vinai is now the CEO of Arsenal Football Club
- Mikel Arteta is now the Manager of the first team
- Edu and Mikel are on the same level in a shared football leadership role
Ok, so let’s go deep on this.
Le Grove has called for this sort of communication for a while. We need to know how the club is setting up for success, we need to know what the new structure looks like, and we need to hear from our leaders. Vinai acknowledged Arsenal had been weak on this a few weeks ago. So what is the plan? Well, here it is.
‘We belong in the Champions League. Yes we’ve been in European football for the past 25 years, which is a great record. But the past three years and this one, we are in a competition we don’t want to be in.’
‘We want to get back in the mix competing for the Premier League – and doing it the way Arsenal have always done, playing the entertaining, engaging football our fans want to see.’
We don’t need to ask for the timescale, Mikel Arteta has told Willian he wants to win the Champions League in 3 seasons, it’s clear how fast we’re moving.
The CEO Title
Arsenal made a huge error when Ivan G left in handing over the keys of power to two people. It generally doesn’t work in business. Human nature is a one leader system, don’t fuck with nature. What tends to happen without clear leadership is a power vacuum opens and people land grab. If you work with two leaders, you can play them off against each other. If you are the two leaders, it creates paranoia, arguments, and stand-offs that are unproductive. I know because I work in an industry where you have to partner with people in leadership and I hate it. No one is truly accountable (or one person is totally accountable), which can also lead to excuse-making and dropped balls (‘I thought you were doing that!’).
Netflix recently turned to this leadership approach and its share price dropped. Raul was not of the standard needed when he was paired with Vinai and the lack of oversight on what he was up to led us down a very dark road. Vinai taking on the CEO job in its totality is what is needed. Pure accountability for direction, execution, and performance. He is the leader of the commercial side of the business as well as the football side. That is how it should be. Is he young? Yes. But he has 10 years under his belt at the club. He knows what has worked and what has not (bit like Arteta). He needs to be ambitious, bring everyone together, drive the staff forward, and keep the fans (and sponsors) excited. Today was a good first step.
Mikel Arteta has been given a promotion in a pandemic, saucy. The Adidas kit launch video positioned him as a rockstar at the club. The job title bump gives him the power to really make changes.
“This is recognition of what he has been doing from the day he walked in the door and also the capabilities we believe Mikel has,”
“He has walked into probably the toughest nine-month period this football club has had in its 134-year history. He’s on a long term contract and we’re really comfortable with what he’s doing.”
This is massive. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, Arteta is a generational coach. He’s an obsessive freak of nature. Creative, driven, innovative, as well as being an elite communicator. This bump is recognition of those traits. It’s also a reflection of the love he’s getting from everyone at the club, especially the players. The bet Arsenal is making is that he’ll bring some of the Manchester City IP into our setup, but also bring people in that can help him shape that knowledge into something uniquely Arsenal. The best artists copy and build upon the greats work. There’s no greater manager in world football than Pep. He is the ultimate artist.
Additionally, I think this is a protective measure. The club is hedging that the chances are, Arteta will do pretty well and attract attention from other clubs looking to jump on the young manager bandwagon. The concern, I suspect, is that when Pep bins off Manchester City, they’ll come knocking for Arteta with a big deal. Remember, they were promising him the head coach role the first time we came knocking. This is horse before the cart, but at the top end of business, you have to plan for every eventuality.
The Technical Director
It was great to see Edu rolled out to talk about his plans and step out of the shadows. He spoke glowingly about the manager and the project.. then Vinai dropped a bombshell.
“So in terms of how that will work, going forward Mikel will join a really strong team with Edu and they’ll be working really, really closely together to manage all the other elements of our football operations that are so important, whether that is analysis, recruitment, high performance or medical, they’ll be looking after those areas together.
“And they’ll also together be responsible for our technical recommendations, whether that’s players that we’re going to buy, whether that’s players that we’re going to sell, whether that’s players that we’re going to loan.
“Of course, working closely with me and the board and working closely with the owners on the financial elements to make final decisions. But those are going to be their responsibilities and I think we’re going to have a really dynamic team to drive this club forward.”
Yes, you read correctly. After experiencing first hand what power-sharing looks like, Vinai has dropped the same model on his subordinates, placing the Technical Director and the Manager on the same level.
Let’s have this clear: Power sharing does not work.
This is a demotion for Edu. There will always be a dominant partner in a ‘power share’ and that is going to be Mikel Arteta. ‘We really love each other’ is not a technical rationale for this move. I don’t want to hammer anyone, but I have heard whispers that there is a lot of convincing that needs to happen for Edu to work his way into the good graces of the Arsenal people.
My overarching concern here is that we’ve spent years trying to move away from a superstar manager structure, and we’ve just walked right back into one. If things go well, then the concern is moot… the problems come when things go badly, or, the superstar manager leaves. What are you left with?
That’s a story for another day. What I will say is this: Edu was the driving force behind hiring Arteta. His trip up to see the City coaching assistant in December blew the race wide open. If it wasn’t for his pressure, we’d be looking at Perreira or Nuno as the Arsenal coach at the moment. So, we have to give him credit for recognising elite talent and making an effort to bond with our ex-captain.
What does a Technical Director do?
We all asked wtf is an Edu? Well, let him explain.
“It is simple for me,”
“With my position here I want to put in place one clear process how we are going to sign, who gets the responsibilities, where we start to understand where we need the player, the position we need, the characteristics we need. That has to be very clear internally right now.
“The decision we made, to change a little bit our infrastructure, it is clear for me. I want to work with less people. I want to work with StatDNA a lot more, which we have internally here at the club and is very important.
“I don’t want individual people working in one area or for one country. I want a group working together. Less people with much more responsibility. That is my vision and for me in this process the most important thing is that everyone is very clear on the responsibilities which everyone has to make the right decision.”
I love this. The old scouting approach of 50 people sitting around clocking timesheets is over. The technology these analysts have now is unbelievable. We have had all the tools needed to be a top data club since 2013 when we purchased StatDNA, now, it seems like we’re finally going to activate the tools with elite people that can pull the insights and action them.
What people don’t realise is there has always been a lot of very talented people working at Arsenal, we just haven’t used them properly. Edu is speaking the language of elite business. The job of a director is to unleash talent. We want the best people in the world employed at Arsenal feeling absolutely empowered to do their best possible work. When you create a high-performance culture, every cog is vital, the competition between people should be real, but healthy, and all in the name of the best possible work outcome. I am excited that the talk now is about how well we’re executing against that vision, versus having to debate whether the ‘contacts’ approach was about to come roaring back into relevance.
The other comment I liked is the stake in the ground when it comes to agents.
“It is important to be clear,”
“What I would like from now is that everything related to football has to come through me. All the contacts, agents, internally, externally, people outside Arsenal, have to see me — and my name — as the first one to call or connect to. It is important because sometimes they feel unclear about it. To be clear and open that is how we are going to operate.”
Vinai had a crack at this, trying to pretend that the last 24 months didn’t happen when he stated the people writing about agent influence were wrong. No we weren’t, but I guess he wasn’t about to dig up the past. The important thing Edu now knows is that if you step out of line, you will not be working at the club. Part of this rebirth has to be about restoring the values we hold dear as fans. Edu, like Vinai, has made it clear, he is in charge when it comes to this part of the club, and everyone has to fall into line.
What about transfers?
Edu seemed to be fairly bullish about moves.
“Everybody is waiting, everybody wants to do swaps, everybody is talking about loans. What is important is that we have a clear plan on the players we want to keep, the players we want to loan and the players we want to sell. After that, we have to be patient, to understand how the markets are reacting, and then to make the right decision.”
I think we’re going to make the signings we need to make. I suspect there will be a few days when everything goes crazy and we make all the signings we need in quick succession. It appears that we’re about to move on Martinez for £20m. It’d be sad, but if it adds to the coffers so we can sign Aouar, I’ll take having an average back-up keeper. I am very confident we’ll have the squad we need to compete for top 4 this season.
Arsenal is mostly doing the right things. The power share thing is a nonsense, but in a relationship based on bromance, it might just work out. For the moment, as long as it’s being led by smart people making smart decisions, for the right reasons, we’re in a great place.
We now have a proper club to support, the banter is hopefully in the past. We have a young and dynamic leadership team. We have one CEO. We have a manager. We have a Technical Director that wants to lean on data to drive the club. We have our best player signed. There is wind in the sails and momentum is working with us, not against.
This is a GOOD time to be an Arsenal fan. You should BE excited this time. I cannot WAIT to share this season with you.
Big love, now fire up the record player and inject some Le Grove into your ears and listen to our NEW podcast.
P.S. The new Newsletter lands today. Let me know what you think.