HOW A FOOTBALL CLUB CULTURE FAILS (LONG READ)

by .

When Mikel Arteta arrived at the club, he came armed with a vision for how he wanted to play, and a remit to change the culture at the club. As it stands, it looks like he’s failing on both fronts.

Building a culture is about establishing a unifying set of standards that everyone can exist in. There are things you can do to reinforce culture. Armies have exacting standards over uniform, Toussaint Louverture, the Haitian general that led a revolution against France, decked out his free slaves in uniform to make them feel worthy and give them visual structure (they successfully drove Napoleon out of Haiti). Facebook created a ‘break stuff fast’ mentality to ensure they were ahead of the curve, and to let employees know that breaking stuff wasn’t a career-ender (that risk-taking approach had to change when they reached a certain scale). Apple has built a machine so focused on elite design, if you work them as an agency, you have to hire a world-class deck designer because the smallest error can throw a meeting.

Culture is important. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not. Understand the rules that make a place tick gives everyone a very basic common grounding. Again, going back to the army, time is hugely important. If you are 10 seconds late, you’ll be punished. Why? Because in battle, those ten seconds could be the difference between life and death.

Arteta had a list of non-negotiables that he brought to the club and it all made sense. We knew Ozil would fall foul of them because he’d been drumming to his own beat for years. We knew Matteo wouldn’t be able to hack it and he was one of the first talented casualties of the regime. This is standard stuff, Netflix, a company I often write about, has a no assholes policy. Why? Because when people are behaving badly, others gossip, and office gossip leads to a lack of focus, lowered morale, and inefficiency.

Culture is hard though. It’s very easy to punish weak links because you don’t need them. It’s much harder to hold everyone to the same standard because not everyone delivers to the same level. But you simply have to bite the bullet and do it. You know the wheels are coming off an organisation when bad behaviour goes unpunished and standards are allowed to drop because it is easier to let things slide. Another sign of a culture failing is when leadership starts to treat people differently. When justice is arbitrary and equality is not sensed by all… you get problems.

I had a no assholes policy in my London job. The worst I’ve ever felt is when someone very young on my team told me his boss was being awful, I glossed over it because that boss was driving revenue… and this person pulled me on it and said they were disappointed. I’d made concessions for money. That was wrong and I have tried never to do that again.

Mikel Arteta is all over the place. There is no clarity in his system which is starting to look like an irrational authoritarian dictatorship.

Let’s look at some of the things that have gone on:

Willian breaks covid protocol to go to Dubai, isn’t dropped

Shocking performances are rarely punished unless you are Martinelli who was bombed for 10 games after a bad 60 mins versus Aston Villa

Nico was chastised for a stupid red (correct) and apologised. Granit Xhaka drops a horrible challenge, takes a red, kills the game, gets a pat on the back, and does not apologise.

William Saliba has a great loan spell in France, doesn’t get the chance to compete for his place in this seasons squad despite fitting the exact profile we look for in a defender (and being told he’d be given a chance) > Kolasinac, who was told to f*ck off in January, had a shite loan that saw his team relegated, was accused of being part of a coup on Christian Gross, keeps his place in the squad, then gets a start in central defence.

Cedric Soares is just bang average, everyone knows it, he’s basically our worst right back, but he starts against City. Ainsley, who is the right profile we are looking at for signings, has had MoTM performances in big games, apparently tells Arteta he will play full-back, gets banished to the bench and told to f*ck off by Arteta.

You can sometimes survive this sort of behaviour if you are at the very top of your game, but even then, at some point, the players get bored of you and you lose the dressing room. Just look at the Conte or Jose cycle, it’s usually a 3-year limit. Arteta doesn’t have the credibility to be this inconsistent, malicious, and wrong.

The story today is Eddie will not be moving this summer. Palace are looking to Edouard because we’re looking for too much money. So what do we have here? My suspicion if this stays the same is we’ve realised Balogun is too far off the pace to be a 3rd choice striker, so we’re going to hang on to Eddie as a stop-gap. So what of Eddie? Does anyone think the treatment he’s had over the last year has been enjoyable? Is he going to show for Arteta? Will he feel loved?

Unlikely. Wenger was many things, but he was never malicious and he had a laser focus on making people feel wanted. To his detriment, because we were basically a creche.

I covered off how overall leadership at the club has been absolutely dire. But here we have the story of what happens when you aren’t disciplined. This is the output of vindictive behaviour. This is what happens when you let a narcissist run riot without controls.

None of these problems can be isolated. They are all interlinked. This is what dysfunction looks like.

Something needs to change because this isn’t a bad luck aberration now, this is who we are, and there’s no experience to sort it all out.

Tune into the weekends content. We’ll be back tomorrow with a very big podcast to assess where we are right now.

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663 Responses to “HOW A FOOTBALL CLUB CULTURE FAILS (LONG READ)”

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  1. Ishola70

    If Leno was world class overall then we wouldn’t have had so many fans crying when Martinez left.

    I know people think we have bigger problems and we do such as midfield but Leno is becoming more and more of a problem and it just didn’t magically appear this problem. It had been evident before.

    The writing looks to be on the wall for Leno anyway. Looks most likely that he won’t be at Arsenal for the long run.

  2. Emiratesstroller

    Valentin

    I answered the point you make.

    Arteta in his role as manager offered to do the “dirty work”. Wenger and most probably
    most other managers would have done the same.

    The point, which I made in the past was that Arteta was promoted prematurely Manager
    and should have been still Head Coach. Then it would have been the responsibility of his
    boss.

  3. Matt

    Actual quotes from Kia on Willian taken from the daily mail:

    ‘He didn’t go (to Arsenal) for the money. He went for the project and the project wasn’t there.

    ‘What player has gone to Arsenal recently and has not been a disaster? Willian wasn’t the problem.’

  4. Black Snake

    So is it possible Arteta sold Willian a dream, Willian found out the dream was bullshit and decided to get out

  5. MidwestGun

    Transfer team? Hello,transfer team? Midfield? Am enquiring about midfielders?
    _______
    Well actually Tomiyasu started his career in central midfield. so… you never know.. 😀

    Hahaha … I kid …. I kid. Been reading some of his quotes.. basically he sounds like the Japanese Ben White… In his own words.. He said …. He is someone who likes to build attacks from deep. Even though I play as a central defender I also like to build up attacking play from the back by making the first pass. My strengths are I can play with both feet.

    Anyhow.. I hope he is does well for us.. as I think players from the Far East in general are an untapped market.

  6. Valentin

    Leno was never world class. He always had the same exact flaws that he has exhibited for the last 3 years.

    It is just that his reflex saves blinded most people of his inconsistencies (~6/7 mistakes per season that directly lead to a goal every season for the last 5 years), poor distribution, lack of courage under the high balls.

    The main difference is that the external factors highlight his flaws:

    + Emphasis on defense => regular mistakes that lead to goals

    + renewed focus on starting from the back => poor distribution.

    + lack of dominant in the air CB => rooted to his line

    + poor attack => inability to quickly restart game for counter-attack

    When Cech was our goalkeeper, until Emery started that fad of wanting to start from the back, nobody complained about Cech poor distribution. It is the same with Leno, his flaws became an issue because of the way Arteta wants us to play.

    But because now, other managers have seen the flaws, they are exploiting them. Most teams already know that he is rooted to his line, so Arsenal is facing more crosses than before. Safe in the knowledge than any mistake in the air by our CBs will be punished, because Leno will not catch the ball and bail our defense like EMI used to.

  7. Biggles

    Do we honestly think a loan for Bellerin to Betis is in the club’s best interest?

    A year ago we were talking about selling him and how we’d probably get £25m+ for him. If we loan him for a year and we don’t have some kind of option in his contract, that means that next year when the loan is over he’s got one year left. He’ll be worth next to nothing then. I think we’d have been better trying to flog him this window.

    I also think that shipping AMN out is a mistake given some of the rubbish we still have in the squad. He’s one of the few properly athletic players we have. Oh well.

  8. Valentin

    Ishola70,

    The people who think that Leno is not a problem in goal tend to be the same people who think that Xhaka is not a problem in midfield. Or that Lacazette on the left side of midfield is also not a problem.

    Blindness and refusal to criticise Arteta does not begin to cover it.

  9. Ishola70

    Kia is talking shite though in regards Willian even though he does a favour in having a dig at Arteta.

    Yes Arsenal and Arteta is a mess but signing Willian was never right and would never be right.

    And us signing him shows the mess we are in.

    Willian now goes to Brazil where old past it Brazilians stroll about in matches and this is where he should have gone straight from Chelsea and not via Arsenal.

  10. TR7

    “Kia is doing a dirty on Arteta”

    Every rat will jump off the sinking ship that is Arteta.

    AMN and Kia have fired the first salvo. Many rounds still left.

  11. Matt

    Kia’s comments, whilst not untrue, show the lack of respect that just about everyone has for this club now. It’s like open season on Arsenal and everyone is having a shot, even people with intrinsic links with the club.

    Where is good old AFC forever to tell us again what a highly respected club Arsenal is with all fans of other clubs!? We are a joke and in truth, have been for a while and very likely will be for a long time to come.

  12. Guns of SF

    how much longer in the window?
    I knew that Edu took Mikes word to wait for Ode.
    Our attacking juggernaut.

    Arteta has done the opposite this summer of what he was supposed to do

  13. Ishola70

    Valentin

    I don’t think those today “defending” Leno are sympathetic to Arteta as well. In fact the contrary. They seem to be blaming Arteta regarding Leno.

    But we are in agreement about Leno yes.

  14. Ishola70

    TR7

    “Every rat will jump off the sinking ship that is Arteta.AMN and Kia have fired the first salvo. Many rounds still left.”

    lol yes.

    It’s manifesting itself clearly.

  15. China1

    I’ve just watched some of his YouTube compilations

    Everyone looks world class in their YouTube best bits so I don’t read much into the quality but something which does seem to be true

    he’s big, fast, an athlete and seems to be a bit of an action man sort throwing himself around. The former parts are good, the latter depends on how good he is if it’s a strength of weakness.

  16. Dissenter

    “He came for the project and the project wasn’t there”

    No need to get offended
    We all know Arteta called Willian multiple times and even promised a CL final in three years
    Experienced players that have played under world class managers can quickly see there’s nothing under the hood.

  17. Emiratesstroller

    Valentin

    Your analysis of Leno is 100% correct.

    Whether Ramsdale is the right replacement will be another topic of conversation.

    Arteta’s decision to offload Martinez was the start of his demise. Martinez is not a great distributor, but he was a “safe pair of hands” and a” good decision maker”.

  18. Gonsterous

    Isoha

    People cried over martineZ because he was a very good GK, and fits into the way arteta wants to play out the back, which leno struggles with.

    Leno is the better shot stopper and has better reflexes.
    Martinez is good with crosses and has a better command of his box.

    Before martinez came on, people were convinced our season was over the moment leno got injured.

  19. Dissenter

    It turns out that Arteta was the driving force behind the Willian signing, went above Edu’s head to the Kroenkes.

  20. Samesong

    Unpopular comment but I think Ramsdale will be a good goalie for us in the future. He’s got big cojones man!

  21. Matt

    Ishola

    But as it stands, his mate Edu is still the tech director of the club that he has just publicly rubbished and called a disaster. I’m not sure that is doing his mate any favours?

  22. Gonsterous

    Valentin

    The people who think that Leno is not a problem in goal tend to be the same people who think that Xhaka is not a problem in midfield. Or that Lacazette on the left side of midfield is also not a problem

    Jesus that’s a big leap. Re read your post again, and then scroll up and try to find one poster who said leno wasn’t a problem in goal.

  23. Majesticgooner

    Is Takehiro Tomiyasu the first signing of conte? Apparently he was a target for inter, could it be like Wenger signing viera before he arrived at the club? After listening to kia, it sounds like people are already anticipating arteta getting the sack. I really would be surprised if arteta survived, too many things going wrong.

  24. Ishola70

    Gonsterous

    Valentin very succinctly put out the problems regarding Leno and it looks obvious.

    As he says teams will look to put more crosses in because Leno is so meek dealing with crosses and always has been but it has become even more evident so opposing teams will try that on with us even more.

    He is a problem no doubt.

    He will keep making some eye catching shot stopping saves but he will continue to be a big liability as well.

    That’s not an overall good goalkeeper.

  25. MidwestGun

    This window… seems pretty damn strange… one for two seasons from now. Could have some very good players.. But didn’t do much for the here and now. When we currently have yet to score a goal in 3 matches and given up 9.

  26. Ishola70

    Matt

    “But as it stands, his mate Edu is still the tech director of the club that he has just publicly rubbished and called a disaster. I’m not sure that is doing his mate any favours?”

    It’s obviously the blame game going on.

    Kia as he is matey with Edu is obviously laying the blame of this disaster at Arteta’s door.

    He doesn’t want his mate Edu sacked for this he wants Arteta sacked.

  27. Gonsterous

    Ishola

    Oh yah most definitely, people are going to target leno.

    I’m not claiming leno is world class at the moment, all I’m saying is, when we have a new manager and a new GK coach, we will definitely see an improvement in Leno.

    I say this because his decline in form correlates directly to the time trajectory of when arteta has been managing arsenal.

    Poor man management at it’s best.

  28. Valentin

    Gonsterous,

    People who still refuse to acknowledge that selling Martinez and keeping Leno was a mistake. They do exists.

    Some are quieter than other now, but they will resurface as soon as Leno makes a great reflex save. They will come up with all sorts of argument such as the sample was too small, the fact that only Villa went for him is proof that he is not all that.

    The same with Xhaka and his extension. There are still people who will try to justify such stupid decision.

  29. Matt

    Ishola

    He then went on to say ‘Willian doesn’t blame Arteta, we all want Mikel to do well.’

    So on face value, it could be read as a genuine defence of Arteta, but I think you are probably closer to the truth and by specifically bringing Arteta’s name into it, he is trying to lay the blame firmly at his door, even though on the face of it, it looks like he is defending him.

  30. Ishola70

    Following on from Stroller’s comments the mental toughness between Martinez and Leno is like chalk and cheese as well.

    There is no way Martinez gets bullied on his own goal line like we saw with Leno at Brentford.

    Leno is no different to nice ball playing CBs that look good on the ball but can’t deal with the physical demands of the EPL.

    He is the goalkeeping equivalent to those dandy CBs.

  31. Tom

    Leno was never the biggest problem at Arsenal and Arteta and the club might’ve not ruined him but they definitely haven’t helped him.
    If you have played even at a park level you now having a set back line is key to stability.
    Defenders hate when keepers are being rotated and keepers don’t like the constant merry go around right in front of them.

    Leno has his problems for sure — Arsenal official website even named them for all to see while promoting the signing of Ramsdale ( no joke), it’s been taken down since—but posters go way overboard blaming him for every other goal ever scored.

    Don’t get beat at the near post, whatever you do, but also cover your back post so you don’t get beat there …..according to some critics who most likely never actually stood between the posts of a regulation goal. It’s pretty big.
    Meanwhile our CB’s give up headers to 5’7” attackers on the regular , who only score those headers against them btw.

    Leno’s got his problems but he definitely wasn’t the main problem , until he decided he wanted to leave of course.
    That’s a problem.

  32. Dissenter

    Ishola
    You’re reading too much into Kia’s comments. He’s just advocating for his client [Willian]
    I agree that his comments puts Edu in a clumsy place in the team because they were directed mainly at Arteta.

    Kia is saying the truth though, players are regressing all over this club at the moment.

  33. Ishola70

    We have so many faulty players that are not suited ti the EPL.

    We have Leno who can’t deal with the physical and crosses.

    We have Xhaka who again can’t deal with the physical in the EPL.

    We signed Mari again a player who loooks lost against physical opponents.

    Why do we keep on doing this? Is this the Arsenal way? Having players unsuitable for the league?

  34. Emiratesstroller

    Samesong

    Ramsdale may have cojones, but he is not exactly a talisman.

    The last 2 clubs he played for Bournemouth and Sheffield United got relegated! If we promote
    him and we get relegated that would be three in a row.

  35. Sly

    People who still refuse to acknowledge that selling Martinez and keeping Leno was a mistake. They do exists.Some are quieter than other now, but they will resurface as soon as Leno makes a great reflex save. They will come up with all sorts of argument such as the sample was too small, the fact that only Villa went for him is proof that he is not all that.The same with Xhaka and his extension. There are still people who will try to justify such stupid decision.

    Not sure this is really a bone of contention Val
    Most folks think selling Martinez was a bad idea
    Are you contending that Leno’s performance has declined due to poor morale and coaching?
    LG does tend to under rate the role of good coaching and loves the black and white brush

  36. Dissenter

    Valentin
    Martinez forced his way out of Arteta because he didn’t want any ambiguity as whether he would be the starter.
    He made it too easy for Mikel by requesting to leave. It’s possible that he would have still ended up as number one because he was the better keeper but he didn’t want the completion.
    Martinez saw his chance and he went for it.

    I’m not Arteta fan but I wouldn’t put his exit on Arteta. Emi saw his chance and forced an exit. This was about a player who used his window of opportunity decisively not about a manager who didn’t stand in his way.

    From a manager’s perspective, Emi solved what would have been a constant headache for a young manage in his first year of coaching. The mistake we made was buying a joke of a keeper to replace him.

  37. bacaryisgod

    Just an amazing Jim White (and Simon Jordan, I think) interview with Kia.

    1) He confirmed that the amount Willian gave up was ‘mostly accurate’. To me that means it was less than 20m he gave up but not way off.

    2) Willian was very much the centre of Arteta plans and Arteta told Willian in several presentations that Willian would be the’ focus point’ and that t’he team would be built around him’.

    3) Now for the Arteta takedown.

    Jim White: ‘The move was a disaster for him Kia, let’s be honest wasn’t it ?’
    Kia: ‘Well, I mean, you know, unfortunately, I would have to say, you know, which player who has moved to Arsenal has not been a disaster the last couple of years?’
    Jim White (laughs) ‘You’ve hit us back hard with that one!’
    Kia: ‘That one I talk as a fan’

    This is staggering. The agent of Edu, Arsenal’s technical director, who just met with Arteta and Edu yesterday, is saying every transfer in the last two years has been a disaster. Does he realize he’s throwing Edu under the bus too? Maybe Edu really has been neutered in Arteta’s power grab and so Kia is just firing at Arteta.

    Either way, one of them is going very, very soon. I expect it will be Edu but hopefully Arteta will be following very quickly.

  38. MidwestGun

    B.i.g- pretty much goes back to the chicken and the egg thing… when in fact it is both the chicken and the egg. We need better quality players and we need better coaching.

  39. Dissenter

    I think Edu will work away
    He’s a former footballer who’s accomplished in his own right, probably doesn’t need the drama.
    We recruited him directly from Brazil so it’s not like he was scraping a living and begging for a job.

  40. CG

    BIG

    ””””This is staggering. The agent of Edu, Arsenal’s technical director, who just met with Arteta and Edu yesterday, is saying every transfer in the last two years has been a disaster. Does he realize he’s throwing Edu under the bus too? Maybe Edu really has been neutered in Arteta’s power grab and so Kia is just firing at Arteta.”””””

    Edu and Kia are best buddies!

    A&E sending Arsenal to the foot of the table and even worse besmirching its great name with this tawdry public slanging match.

    Where is Garlick in all of this??
    Talking of garlic- A. Wenger odds for a return halved.

  41. bacaryisgod

    Interesting question for all of you. Who was the opposing keeper in Arteta’s first match as Arsenal manager?

    This is Arteta’s first line-up a little more than 18 months ago:

    Leno, Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Luiz, Saka (as LB), Torreira, Xhaka, Nelson, Ozil, Auba, Lacazette

    Subs: Pepe, Mustafi, Martinez, Mavrapanos, Willock, Guendouzi, ESR

    BBC Man of the Match: Torreira

    The damage Arteta has done is immeasurable.

  42. Graham62

    Dissenter

    and there lies the problem. An inexperienced manager having to make an important decision. Arteta wasn’t up to it, as he isn’t up for many things.

    Any manager who has the good of the team at heart would have looked at Martinez and told him “stay, you’ve earned it. You’re my new number 1” What’s the worst that could have happened? Leno gets pushed back and has to fight to get his spot back. #1 or #2, who cares, it’s based on form. Martinez would have stayed, I’m convinced of that, if Arteta had put the team first.

    This subject has never died a death because it has had massive consequences on the team dynamics.

  43. Valentin

    Sly

    “Are you contending that Leno’s performance has declined due to poor morale and coaching?”

    Where did you read that in my comments?

    Quite the contrary, I clearly explained that Leno always those flaws in his game. It is just that external decisions made them more visible.
    The same way Cech always had a poor distribution, but that was not an issue until Emery decided to start playing from the back.

    Leno, despite being a great shot stopper, was never suited for the EPL and Arteta build from the back approach. He does not command his box and his distribution is poor.

    Le Grove tend to over estimate a player based on highlight and same thing to underestimate and castigate a player based on feeling rather than reality.

    Look at Tierney. Everybody love his enthusiasm and Passion. Nobody wants to admit that he is not a very good defender and that in view of our type of striker (smallish bad at heading) his crosses are not going to yield a lot of goals. Also his willingness to chase lost cause may be endearing, but it is also one of the reasons why he is quite often injured. Nacho Monreal was underrated.

  44. LithuanianGooner

    Before the divine inspiration forcing me to support Arsenal, my life was deadly boring; now it is not – permanent (melo)drama: the tragicomic pretender manager (evidently has taken some PR class), the billionaire loser, spin doctors, the impressive EPL table (the first and the last place), crazy salaries, dumb fashion icon (the former footballer who is still somehow allowed onto the pitch) Bellerín lecturing about politics, about how to live, what to eat, etc etc. I’m so happy.

  45. Guns of SF

    Sami Mokbel
    @SamiMokbel81_DM
    ·
    15m
    Ainsley Maitland-Niles has held clear the air talks with Mikel Arteta. He is staying at Arsenal and been assured he is part of Arteta’s plans this season. More on @MailSport

  46. Ray+in+LA

    Hey Lietuvis

    Perfectly sums up the state of our team at present

    Never a dull moment…pity there aren’t a few more good ones

    Be interesting to see if the Netflix project sheds any light behind the scenes of this soap opera

  47. Valentin

    Guns of SF,

    Who is the leaker?
    Find me the leaker.

    If The info about the clear the air meeting had been leaked by AMN, he would back training with the kid. 🙉🙈🙊

    As it was done by Arteta’s PR team he is in the clear.