Scapegoat. Interesting word, supposedly originating from Leviticus. The spelling now and usage is old English, which is quite apt when you think about it in the context of the current woes of Arsenal. An olde English football club in decline. Rudderless, or run by people drinking copious quantities of Ruddles; the outcome is the same.
Steve Rowley, chief scout, finds himself under the microscope this morning with reports that he’s considering his future at the club. It’s not the first time this situation has arisen and according to reports, he feels he’s the scapegoat for our woes in the transfer market.
There have been issues with both scouting and transfer business, with Dick Law returning to the USA! USA! USA! for family reasons. Rowley is apparently next in the firing line as we go full on Billy Beane with StatDNA. There’s nothing wrong at all with using analytics; it’s how you interpret the data which is the key to the process.
Our transfer record suggests the problem isn’t with the analytics but other parts of the process are broken. However, if you want to effect change as Ivan tells us he does, heads must roll. I’m surethere’s a metric which tells us the scouting department overachieves for its budget.
The popular belief was that Arsène’s departure would lead to a steep decline unless it was handled properly by the board. We can take it as read it won’t be and the slide into obscurity we’re currently witnessing will be much steeper than thought.
George Graham’s team was declining through poor investment in the transfer market. Wenger is heading the same way albeit in a more sedate fashion. Post ’91, we finished 4th, 10th, 4th and finally 12th in the season Graham was sacked. We’re not quite that Jekyll and Hyde yet.
Eyes Down, Looking for Numbers
Wenger future is decided next summer. If the club is to be restructured and the manager’s role divested of tasks, it means Arsène giving up power long before then. Maybe forcing him just to focus on the first team is what is needed for the last hurrah!
However, the longer the situation goes without an appointment as ‘sporting director who is definitely not a director of football’, the less likely it is that the Frenchman leaves at the end of this deal; a one-year extension is coming.
Every aspect of the club is scrutinised like never before. Scouting, medical, commercial; everything is under the microscope. Manchester City’s results put pressure on the commercial department although we don’t know how much of their ‘improved’ performance is down to income from related parties.
It’s more pressure, if the club wants to compete with the likes of City on the pitch. If we’re going to do that, we need as Ivan put it, to be better at everything: scouting, medical, commercial, etc.
We also need to play our strongest side. The omission of Alexandre Lacazette was simply baffling. His goal proved he is ready for the highest level, as does his £52m price tag. Even by Arsène’s standards, it was a perverse decision which suggests he hasn’t learned from the 4 – 0 drubbing at Anfield.
That said, the point at Stamford Bridge was won without Özil, Sanchez or Lacazette in the starting line-up. But it feels like a lifetime ago with too many disappointments inbetween for it to be relevant any longer.
The North London Derby will tell us much about this Arsenal squad and the manager. It’s four years since we beat them at home in the league, an unhealthy reminder of the early 1980s when they were ascendant in the league.
It’s the Hope Which Kills Me
Which is the basics of it all: the football on the pitch. Too easily forgotten amid the headlines which scream crisis. Alexis is leaving in January, or maybe not. Özil is available for £30m or is close to signing a new deal. But only if he can have the Number 10 shirt; it’s important for his ‘brand’ y’see. Jack Wilshere, peeved at giving up the number 10 shirt, is off on loan but only after signing a new deal.
It’s all fluff. The international break is perfect for this kind of story, saved up when there are no matches of import at club level. Tonight sees the beginning of the World Cup qualifiers and good luck to Northern Ireland, Italy, Republic of Ireland and Croatia as they seek to win their way to Russia next summer.