Managing Change


In days of old, the cigar smoke would have filled the oak-panelled room. The fate of the manager decided as the brandy slid down the throats of the local great and good. The decision on whether (or perhaps when is a better word) to replace David Moyes would not have been so convivial nor based on solely on footballing reasons. Manchester United is a business first and foremost; their board concerned with the implications for the brand as much as the squad.

That decision, according to reports this morning, was taken as long ago as February. There may be financial reasons for not acting then but the sums involved are trifling compared to the potential rewards of finishing in fourth place. As it is, United are fighting for the chance to play Europa League football, hoping Tottenham replicate their collapses of previous seasons when push comes to shove. That cannot be ruled out as United play three times at home in the same time Spurs play twice away, leading into the final Sunday of the season. Perhaps the Old Trafford board accepted that once Champions League football was beyond them, there was not much of an issue in not making European club football at all. After all, no midweek games offer plenty of opportunity for lucrative friendlies to be arranged to underpin the brand in the Middle East and Africa.

As quick as the speculation about Moyes’ future came so did the view that unless Arsenal acted swiftly, there will be a dearth of managerial talent available should they need to replace Arsène in the summer. That theory presumes the board have not already made their contingencies and acted upon them. After all, if the United directors can quell the speculation about their own manager’s future until now, it is not inconceivable that Arsenal can maintain silence about the club’s actions in a similar respect. Indeed, they have; there is not much speculation about Wenger’s future despite the surface appearance of uncertainty. I am sure that the board know of his decision. Whilst not a certainty, it would be surprising if a man who has invested so much of his working life in one club, would leave them hanging in the air over his future.

Perhaps he has set criteria for renewing his deal or the decision to leave in the summer is being kept quiet so that it does not distract the players from the task of a top four finish. Perhaps the thought is that the players will be boosted by a renewal or fired up to make the FA Cup final a swan song if the announcement is made in the week leading up to Wembley. I don’t know, very few outside of the board and manager do; it’s speculation, the fuel which fires football.

The ability of the board to find a replacement is openly questioned by some. What hope, the theory goes, have they of getting it right with the hash of transfer activity being made? How can they be trusted with the lack of footballing experience in the boardroom. To be honest, neither is relevant. After all, there is plenty of evidence from football’s history to suggest that knowing the professional game inside out, is the biggest bar to appointing a manager. Every club gets managerial appointments wrong at almost every turn. Howard Wilkinson astutely observed that there are two types of manager; those who have been sacked and those who waiting to be sacked. It captures the modern game but is equally apt for the previous century and a half of professional football.

Whatever the decision made is, United’s woes are far from being proof that a change in manager is not good for a club. Indeed, Arsenal would do well to appoint Arsène’s replacement by doing exactly the opposite of their former rivals. Don’t go for Wenger-lite, don’t let the manager appoint his successor. Moyes had few obvious credentials beyond being seen as a younger version of Ferguson. Having been managed in a certain style, United obviously felt that it would be less challenging to the club for this course of action to be followed. The logic is easy to see but in the case of Ferguson and Wenger, acolytes are not the answer. The infrastructure will survive but crucially Moyes biggest mistake seems to have been in replacing a huge swathe of key coaching personnel. Arsène, when he took over, recognised the importance of having a conduit to the players and the club’s history; Pat Rice filled that role admirably.

The world of Arsenal will change when Arsène Wenger leaves. That he will do so is inevitable, the brutal truth is that the question is only in the timing of that eventuality. We have to face facts and accept that the frequency of managerial change will increase at the club. Whether it will be a hire-and-fire mentality which takes over or continuation of the patience that has marked Arsenal differently to most of the rest of the professional game, remains to be seen. Bruce Rioch might rightly believe that the former is the Arsenal way given the shortness of his tenure but he and Don Howe were the exceptions to the rule. Arsenal have only had seven managers in the last half century. Compare that to the 23 who have sat in Chelsea’s hot seat over the same period or 19 at White Hart Lane. Those changes say as much about the clubs in question as they do about managerial ability.

But the key lesson from United’s woes is not the change itself. Fear of change is inertia and as damaging as change for change’s sake. My view is that this summer is the time for that to happen at Arsenal, others differ in their opinions. The board have made it clear they want Arsène to stay, the decision is his. Whatever you think, making a point politely and respectfully is incumbent upon us all.

’til Tomorrow.

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192 thoughts on “Managing Change

  1. Yes he is, but I doubt he will see a single shot all match. Chavs have set up with Luiz, Mikel, Lampard and William in midfield with Torres up top.

    Costa v Terry is already heating up.

  2. For all those that want Costa but not Balotelli make me laugh, because Costa is just as volatile if not more than Balotelli.

  3. @C

    I would imagine most people on this blog would recognize by now that I think it is in fact time to move on. It is just my opinion, and one that is not universally shared both on this particular blog or indeed the Arsenal community at large. I accept that, I even understand some of the counter arguments.

    For my part, I don’t fully understand the actual role that Arsene has with the club beyond the role of manager. I think it is apparent that Arsene is held in high regard by the board, to the point that they have rewarded him with lucrative contracts down the years. Arsene was also the figure head (point man) for the move from Ashburton Grove to Highbury. I think it is obvious his reach within the club is more extensive than that of a typical manager employed to oversee the football setup at an EPL club. This is where I think people get caught up in the whole issue with regards to any potential departure, what will the full impact actually be? I have to say, I have no idea because at times he looks like the chef, waiter, sommelier and owner. Obviously this cannot be true, but such is his image portrayed at times. Regardless, whether this is fact or fiction, I do believe that his role is significantly more complicated than simply that of coach/manager. I think the board are paralyzed at the mere thought of his looming departure, and this would speak to the more encompassing role. However, inertia is not going to help the club either and Arsenal do need to be bold in their decision whatever that decision may be. If Arsene has been offered a contract then he should sign or state his desire to leave, perhaps this has been done internally, again I am not privy to such conversations.

    I’ll support the man if he stays, it doesn’t help us at all to constantly be on his back. That is not to say I think it is the decision that should be made, as I pointed above, I more in the leaving camp. I do think if he stays then time for sentiment has passed, judgment should be reflective of results. No man, not even Arsene is bigger than the club.

  4. Cech might need to be subbed off after a corner.

    Funnily enough their 2nd best keeper plays for Athletico!

  5. Cech is being subbed off for Bill’s favorite Swartzer. The way Cech is holding his ribs and elbow could be something with that.

    That’s a massive loss for Chavs.

  6. Diaby played well apparently, looked composed and steady. Couple of good passes and a shot at their keeper.

    Taken off at Half time.

    Arsenal U21 leading through a Bellerin goal, st up by Hayden.

    Arsenal U21 1 – 0 Chelsea U21

  7. @MA

    I agree with you completely. While I have stated that the ONLY way that I think Arsene should stay is if he loses his seemingly dictatorshipish power and it is given to people that actually specialize in these.The biggest question as you have said is what is his actual role at Arsenal outside of Manager. Generally though I think we have all figured out that Arsenal more or less has has final say on anything futboling wise when it comes to the club. I think that is why we haven’t progressed.

    I agree with you though, especially about the decision. I think if he is set to stay then sign the contract but if he is not then hopefully internally Arsenal have already started to prepare for life post-Arsene i.e lining up managers and what not, but he is not doing the club any favors with basically holding them hostage, though I would be very comfortable placing a bet saying that the club want him to stay and don’t mind waiting.

    I completely 100% agree with you and your last paragraph. If he stays then all built up good will has been exhausted and if he can’t produce then results MUST dictate everything. Arsenal were a great club before Arsene and they will be after he leaves!

  8. @Moe

    Thanks mate.

    Bellerin just continues to impress and you can see why Barca fought so hard to try and keep him.

    Hayden is another one that I think could potentially break through.

  9. Well Oh Dear, he’s obviously a lot more in touch with the club’s history than you. We have won the odd trinket of two in the past. I am sorry but I am expecting a lot more from contributors. Unless you think Arsenal only began existing in 1996?

  10. On balance I am more in the ‘AW leaving’ camp but, given that I accept he is staying, my intention is to support him fully and not waste time wishing him gone. I hope others will follow suit as it could get rather tedious on here – moaning about things out of our hands.

    That said if he again vacillates and fails to address the squad issues in the summer, I may have a bit of a moan myself. Just once it would be nice to go into a season not with ‘hope’ but in confidence.

    It’s very much in his hands. 😉

  11. C

    Yeah Bellerin is very good, maybe abit light for the Prem?

    And you know what i noticed about the Athletico players, they all look solid. Strong and forceful. Every player in their team seems to win every arial battle, every tackle and every 50/50. And they are bloody work horses too.

    Compare that to our player’s and you can see why we get bullied off the ball so much.

    Costa is deceptively strong. Doesn’t look huge but so so strong. Bloody mammoth.

  12. Jonny says:
    April 22, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    Yep completely agree. I have a feeling he will stay. And i will support him if he decides that because we can’t do anything about it so might as well get behind the team.

    But if he pulls the same shit he did for the past few seasons then even the faithful of the fans will turn the Emirates into a poisonous place to be.

  13. Oh dear, most of us recognize the value of CL football. It would be nice to feel like we were in the competition to do more than get out of our group–but that would mean reinforcing in a very concerted fashion. It is a key basis for moving forward, so I hope we make it since we finally have good conditions and resources to build a strong side and actually attract the top level players. Most of what we have signed the last 2 years, when we have had increasing resources and could have tried harder to keep players like RvP, have not been of the level where CL football was required to recruit them, I don’t feel. If you are at Lille, Montpellier, Cologne, Southampton, Werder Bremen and so on, Arsenal could afford wages and be attractive in Europa or out of Europe for a year for most players from these clubs as a step up. Now is, and last summer was, the time to recruit a better class of player. We did with Ozil, but it was in other positions where recruitment was most neded.

  14. Diaby refused to be paid by Arsenal while out injured. I like that. Rightly so as well. I would have done the same thing had i had the same history as him.

  15. C, where is Adrian? Not even on the bench. Mourinho is the enemy of even mildly entertaining football. Dire stuff. I really hope Atletico go through.

  16. Yogi,

    Who you talking can I finish my gag from yesterday as I wss rudely interupted by something.

    You know talking to yourself is the second sign of madness….

    First sign…,,,,,….is seing suggs.

    Harrys fur coat.

  17. Talk about Bus parking. This is the best parking i have ever seen.

    There is not one iota of Chelsea that is remotely attacking ,interesting, enjoyable, colourful, creative.

    It’s like bloody Mordor, there are so grim, they suck the life out of any game.

    Mind you, Athletico have also kept it tight. However at least they are attacking.

  18. Is anyone still watching the chelsea game, im talking to poo young tee from one of yogi’s ads now im so bored.

  19. @Moe

    He is young so I think there is time for him to fill out, but technically he is a joy to watch.

    They are all athletic, technically very good and as you say, solid. They play a good mix direct futbol and intricate passing. Not to mention they don’t mind shooting from distance.

  20. i would like us to use the money from cl football to build a squad capable of winning it for once..rather than just being in it all the time and getting our arses kicked everytime we come up against someone good and saving all the dosh and then saying ‘look at our bank account’..
    very nice
    i love our bank account. its very over fucking joyed..

    but the ignorance in me says wheres our fucking striker?

  21. @LSG

    I’m not sure, I was looking at that. I think he has fallen completely out of favor unless he is injured.

  22. C

    Under 21 lost again tonight, 2-1 to Chelsea. Hayden was injured as well.

    This only happened however because we took off Pleguezelo and reverted Bellerin to right back at half time.

    Something tells me if we hadn’t done that we would have won.

    Do you know anything about the league table for the Under 21’s? Apparently Arsenal U21 are in big trouble.

  23. Dukes

    It’s more turgid than anything GG served up so no, I’m not watching it. In fact if It was on I’d rather watch It but It might scare the kids more than the football would 🙁

  24. @JJ

    “i love our bank account. its very over fucking joyed..
    but the ignorance in me says wheres our fucking striker?”

    I completely agree and I think that is the general sentiment amongst all Arsenal fans.

  25. our academys in big trouble.
    weve got nobody good in it we keep having to buy players to put in it. its a complete waste of time
    its been neglected over the years its not what it was..
    southamptons kids are better. weve knicked 2 of them..

  26. @C…
    No probs with length of post… i enjoy a good read especially if it is logically stated…

    I was not happy with the sale on any of our then key players especially coming out of the 07/08 season, i doubt thee club managers sold with as much glee as we the fans think though. If we had taken that yrs Pl, things may have been different I think i recall a time when AW actually said we needed to sell players in other to cope or something along that line… I think the period the Nasri contract renewal was unfortunate… AW bought him and rated him, just did not have the resources to pay what a Man city was willing to pay..maybe in this year for example he would have had a better offer as hopefully Sagna may yet get and stay on… a few years back and Sagna being gone would have been a foregone conclusion. I really do believe keeping the team together and only adding to it is a better proposition going forward.. we have passed the stage of needing to sell key players, so we simply must not.

    Some decisions are hard even for the manager to take although some seem to have the impression he gleefully enjoys selling players… I think he really did make more effort to make Cesc stay than many of the others… I think for Cesc the combined status of a great barca team in their prime, plus Pep his idol as coach was too great a lure and less about moving for the highest wages…

    I am the last person that expected RVP to come out with that statement an hence make his position with the team untenable… i doubt he would have been sold otherwise I am surprise you think he was sold with that level of casualness… Obviously SAF was desperate and it all worked out for him in that last season… In the end it is wrong to strengthen your rival but i think it is also a sign of confidence that you can move on from any player else it be theory when they say no player is bigger than a team!? I do not think the initial plan was to replace RVP… rather a backup – he was one of those bought early along with Poldi i think…

    This season reminds me of 07.08 again i hope this time around we do better in keeping key players and with Theo and Diaby likely to start pre-seaon with the team… any other addition beyond a striker will be a strengthening instead of a replacement since every other person will be a season older in experience.

    I really do feel going forward this team will do better

  27. @Moe

    That is a shame. Hayden injured is not good at all. Have you heard how bad it is?

    Yea I saw the U21 league table and I want to say we are quite a ways down the table, like lower table side.

  28. jj

    Southampton’s kids are way better. It’s quite sad because the Arsenal youth used to be so good.

  29. C
    of course it is
    you cant on one hand say we are skint and its not fair and theres all these rich clubs and we need to keep selling players and raising tickets and we cant afford this and we cant afford that

    and then on the other had announce 140mil in the bank – pre sponsership…

    its fucking ridiculous and ppl have spent years falling for it..and then telling other ppl they should fall for it too..

    fuck off..

  30. @JJ

    We do have some good players in our academy, the problem is that ALL of them are ACM so they all get sold and will NEVER break through to the 1st team especially now with Ozil only being 25.

    Outside of Bellerin, Hayden(who plays both CDM and CB) and Pleguezelo we have no defenders but Akpom as a CF is one I really hope breaks through. Akpom loves to play on the shoulder and loves to make those runs to get behind the back 4 and he is a finisher.

  31. Terry now coming off injured. Atletico need to take advantage. There should be 6 minutes at least with Chelsea time-wasting.

  32. @JJ

    Completely agree with you!

    And then on top of that say your going to pay Arsene himself 8M a year and make him if not the highest, one of the top 3 highest paid managers in Europe.

  33. JJ,

    Our yoot set up has definitely declined these past few years, maybe to do with the realisation that project youth doesnt work. Or since we have become extremly dripping in cashola.

  34. Moe.
    it makes you wonder how far we have fallen behind.
    the irony is we had to spend years pursuing a youth project but it was everyone elses youth becuase ours were ignored or they were sold.
    jack and gibbs the exception but jack came from westham and gibbs came from wimbledon

    is it just ashley cole in almost 20 years?

  35. Terry coming off is massive since he was hte one dealing with all the headers on the back line. If I was Athletico, I would gladly take my chances against Luiz and Cahill.

    Lampard suspended for the 2nd leg with his yellow this match. He should have just been sent off for that challenge on Costa.

  36. C

    That’s what i’m talking about. The 8m a year thing pissesme off more than anything.

    Why does he earn so much, when he cares so much about our finances? Why do the fans have to be the ones that pay the price but the manager is living it up 8m a year?

    Does he deserve that much money anyway? I say no.

  37. Not a challenge I was mistaken, for a blatant handball.

    Massive loss for Athletic though in the next leg with Gabi suspended for the 2nd leg.

  38. Yeah but Gabi misses next match for a yellow–that’s a bigger loss of captain for Atletico, C.

  39. Of course he does moe, how much money has he made the club in player sales he has made our company millions..

  40. @Moe

    Completely agree.

    Even more troubling is the fact that we could have had Higuin or Suarez if Arsene was willing to pay that extra 5M more for them but instead it is going to his contract. We could have had several players this summer, like Bender from Leverkrusen but we didn’t spend it and now it will go to Arsene if he signs this new contract.

  41. what happened t all the kids who won the youth cup?
    bartley JET frimpong lansbury
    all sold
    jack made it but the others didnt even get a chance..

  42. @LSG

    Yea that’s true. A bigger loss might be Cech for Chavs though especially since they play at Anfield this weekend.

  43. Raul Garcia has had several chances, but just not technical enough. 18 attempts, 9 on target but not threatening enough to be great chances.

  44. C – nice long post @ 6:02, on the button and well argued.

    As for ‘Oh Dear’, well a very apt moniker, clearly knows sweet FA about AFC and most likely football in general. Or he’s a Manc….

  45. Fancy flying over to watch this tripe?
    You would be better walking around el prado- more life there!
    In fact at the dog and duck in wokingham, a punter had two poodles called lampard and terry, they were quite lively.

  46. @JJ

    A lot of those youth weren’t good enough to be honest but they all played the same position and I think that is the problem at present.

  47. this is why madrid told him to fuck off because they dont spend 100mil on one player to win trophies by defending for 90minutes..

  48. That Diaby refusing wages story has absolutely no evidence to support it – just empty rumours.

    In other news how much fun does this look?? 😀

  49. bartley could have made it..
    he was never given the chance which was a pity seeing as though squillaci was dogshite and we still a cb short now..
    lansbury was decent but yeah we had too many mids for him to break through.
    as for jet..well all i’ll say there is its a pity he wasnt french.

  50. @team spirit

    The bottom line that I was trying to get at and even that you continued unknowingly is that everything that has happened has come down to the board and Arsene and since that is the case, the only way that things will improve and we really push for titles and silverware is if Arsene leaves and we find a manager that doesn’t see 4th as a trophy but see 1st place as a trophy period.

    We have the money and talent to build around so lets do it and start winning things starting with the FA Cup.

  51. jonny

    Oh my god. I almost died laughing.

    I want to try that, that looks so much fun, they look like little oompa loompas..

  52. Well mates in off to watch my neice play her first game as a striker.

    Hopefully she has been paying attention to all the Podolski goals that I have been forcing her to watch!

  53. Shit match maybe, but he got the job done.

    Did the same thing against the supposedly unplayable Barca with 10 men.

    Rubbish to watch but if they get to the final as a result I doubt many will care.

  54. @ C… I agree decision making buck stop at with the club managers…

    The little difference is that i think we really did not have as much money to spend before now as all those statements from the cub seemed to imply – some of that may have just been PR posturing or truly – who knows all the behind the scene details… Thise loans may have their conditionalities we do not know about – some may be related to making profit in the perion – just saying –

    This summer was the one where we emerged from this cash strap thing… we did start off well enough with Ozil (or should that read finished off. lol). Only the addition of Suarez more would have seen us there i think – we can pick up from there….as long as we keep the current squad with the addition of a suarez type player and promotion of the likes of Akpom, Hayden and Bellerin… maybe Campbell… Theo back from long term injury… gradually eased back in… We are likely one major signing away – in attack… Diaby finally back – hopefully getting some games in unscathed… that would be a few more players promoted in the squad actually

    Some persons think not getting Suarez was just related to additional 5M matter – really? For me, I don’t think Suarez wanted Arsenal… think he preferred Madrid… else he would have done enough to be off – he has previous for that me thinks in his move from Ajax and i think even to Ajax, cant remember from where. There is more to transfer issues than meet the eye.

    I do not have any qualms with a man being given a pay rise with a new contract… Players also have their new contracts with pay rises so why not the manager?

  55. For those wondering, looking at U21 table , Arsenal is 17th it seems (Liverpool are top ahead of Chavs)…

  56. I dont think so Miami. More like a message to the players and fans in the sense that he is looking for a response. Is it worth staying at Arsenal? Do players and fans believe in Arsenal or should he just pack it and go and enjoy his last years without the hassle of having to defend players and/or having to deal with lunatics calling him inept and so on.

  57. Yogi’s Warrior says:
    April 22, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    Right… cause Arsenal was competing with Real Madrid and AC Milan before Wenger, how silly of me?

  58. Arsenal u 21’s are RELEGATED and will be in the second div next season.You know I wish Untold Arsenal,with their love of in depth ref reviews and articles on other clubs not doing things the right ie the Arsenal Way,would actually bother to research the issue of what the hell has been going on at the Academy ,how kids are refusing contracts and leaving the Academy, and how the clubs reputation at this level is at an all time low.All under Wengers tenure.He might not have been in charge of the Academy,but because he rules the club from top to bottom and refuses to delegate,he has taken his eye off the ball.Ruining our youth system is as much Wengers legacy as the sodding Emirates Staduim.

  59. Ods 11’02
    ‘Lunatics’ calling him inept
    Smells like born again zealot speak to me

  60. Oh dear positiva,

    Were not competing with them now either are we seings as our ties with them end in the first legs.

  61. Good morning. I am terribly sorry clock-end. Did not realise you are one of them. I should have been more kind. Suppose i should say yes to people of your condition. He woke up one day and forgot what his job is all about. If it makes you happy..

  62. I get the feeling Jose will hand Liverpool the title this Sunday and concentrate on trying to win the Champs league, imagine they imploded massively and we finished in 3rd and they 4th, i’d laugh so hard considering we’d possibly have an FA Cup triumph. “Specialist in failure” Jose….

  63. Od 7’39
    Sarcasm? Banter away! No problem there!
    My condition? You mean courtesy to others?
    Most certainly!

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