An Absence of Leadership

November 15, 2012

Leadership.  For any organization to be successful it needs strong leaders from the guy running the show to the guy who heads even the smallest department. Without leaders and leadership organizations are bound falter and lack overall direction.  Sound familiar? It should, as Arsenal currently suffer from an absence of organizational leadership.

As we said, leaders are found all through an organization, but the overall direction and approach to business is set from the top. In this case it shouldn’t come as any surprise that we are floundering and listless as we have no true leader at the top of Arsenal’s food chain.

American Stan Kroenke assumed primary control of Arsenal back April 2011 when he bought controlling interest of the club. At the time, we were cautiously hopeful that Stan might break the mold of how he operates and provide Arsenal with a direction and vision to move it forward in the modern era of sports. Sadly, and predictably that hasn’t happened.

Stan stayed true to form and only enhanced his reputation as ‘Silent Stan.’ He has been to fewer matches than I have, he’s laid out no vision for the club and his lack of involvement means that people who are running things seem to be running around with impunity and without the likelihood of suffering any consequences for failure to achieve anything. Without a strong leader at the top it filters down.

Arsenal aren’t bereft of smart people. Stan, Ivan, Tom Fox, and Arsene all are very smart and articulate people. They know quite a lot about their specific fields of expertise but being smart and a leader aren’t mutually exclusive.

Ivan Gazidis, as I am told repeatedly when I rail against him, was wanted by a slew of other clubs before he came to Arsenal. Oh joy.  I’ve interviewed 100s of people and a hired a few that on paper and in initial meetings looked amazingly good but when it came to performance they failed to live up to what was on paper. To me that is Ivan. Even if Stan and the board before failed to provide a vision, Ivan as the club’s president should be able to articulate one to everyone. On the face of things, he hasn’t.

He is supportive of the overall mantra that ‘average is good.’ Remember that from last week? It’s not a vision and it’s not something any leader would accept. I am sure that in some ways Ivan is  very good businessman. On the face of everything I’ve seen since he was hired, I’ve not seen anything that shows me he is the right man to move Arsenal forward.

As we move down the food chain you have to scratch your head at the emasculation of our manager. Here is a guy who came onboard and not was cerebrally better than the managers he faced every day, but his visions, his direction, passion and heart moved this club in a new direction and took it to heights that it had never enjoyed before.

But somewhere along the way Arsene Wenger forgot that. He forgot what made him successful at Arsenal and thought he could get by on his brains alone. The man who we all affectionately call “Le Professeur” has lost his way and no longer provides the direction this club needs in terms of it’s on the field play.

Has he become a victim of his own success?  Arsene is stubborn and arrogant. You know what? I am okay with that – to an extent. But when that arrogance and stubbornness gets in the way of leading your team and ultimately success, then there are issues. And that is where we are with Wenger.

Rightly or wrongly, he believes that he is the best one able to get the club out of its rut. That may be true. But a true leader values second opinions. They are open to change in order to improve things and they accept that at times they may need to change views in order to move forward.  I’m just not sure that Wenger sees it or is able to do it and right now that is one of the biggest hindrances to this club winning and finding success again.

With the failure of leadership at all levels of the club, one would hope that at least on the field, the players would have a leader available to them that would insulate them from the failures above them. But right now, that just doesn’t seem to be the case.

Thomas Vermaelen has become a shrinking violet in the face of the added responsibility of being the club’s captain. The man they call the Verminator, just has not adapted well to the leadership role he has inherited from Robin Van Persie.

At game time, on the pitch the players need someone to hold them accountable and at times strap them on their back and put in performances that carry them across the finish line. For all the criticisms and hate thrown at Robin Van Persie since his departure there is no denying he was able to do this and handle this. Vermaelen hasn’t.

But overall since Vieira left the position of captain has in my opinion been devalued.  It’s been given to an endless parade of undeserving characters. Gallas, Fabregas, Van Persie, and Vermaelen all were given the captaincy’s without thought to what it would mean. Fabregas and RvP likely were given the captaincy to play on the heartstrings and hopefully entice them to stay. Gallas was a petulant child who was given the Captaincy over Toure which never in my opinion should’ve happened.  Vermaelen, well it’s just made him shrink.

Who is there to scram in the face of player when they put the club at risk for stupid behavior. Who is there that is going to challenge the players to pick up their game when you;’ve conceded a goal in the first 2 minutes? Right now there isn’t anyone.

But the failure of leadership is systemic at Arsenal. And at every level as you drill down it only makes it worse because if there were a leader at some of the lower levels, then maybe just maybe things would be different in spite of the absence. But it’s not. Much like Arsene has devalued the captaincy in favor of a collective approach, leadership is not an important factor to how Arsenal are run.

Supporters are crying out for leadership at the club. Until it gets it we are in for more seasons like this.  With a serious lack of ambition and no vision coming from an established leader, Arsenal a club listing in the wind. There is no direction and the club hierarchy seem devoid of any knowledge that this is going on. If they do they are ignorant of it which makes it even more criminal.

How does it get fixed? That is the question. Just adding Alisher Usmanov to the picture isn’t the immediate panacea I think many will hope for but at the very least the inclusion of Red & White holdings to the board there may (hopefully) start to be some questioning as to why this void of ambition and leadership are allowed to go on.

But that’s only one fix. And that’s why I firmly believe in the growing prevalence of Arsenal-related support groups. It is the supporters who have to apply pressure on the club to change. We need to demand a vision from the top – that means Stan. That’s the first step. There are many steps to needed. We shouldn’t have to settle for the trite almost “how dare we question the club” answers we get at the AGM and other avenues. AST, AISA, BSM, and other groups popping up are driving the need for change. Change is not going to happen from within. Status quo seems to be how they prefer to operate and the status quo doesn’t seem to be working evidentily. Hopefully if enough external pressure is applied to the club, changes will occur.  It is only then I feel that Arsenal will move in the right direction. FORWARD.


  1. stag133 - November 16, 2012 at 16:33

    I can’t ever remember less interest in an Arsenal v Tottenham derby match.
    If we lose, so what. If we win, so what.
    There are no more “big game days” for Arsenal Football Club. The life has been sucked out of this company.

    • DaAdminGooner - November 16, 2012 at 17:37

      I wouldn’t go by what’s happening here on this site. The fact remains it’s the North London Derby and it means a lot to the supporters. Just because the commenting on this site has dropped off – the interest in the match is still strong. You only need to get on twitter to see.

  2. stag133 - November 16, 2012 at 02:35

    I don’t think I could have articulated the current problems at Arsenal much better… and have more or less said much of it myself… though maybe not as well!
    While management may be smart in the “business world”… they are really clueless about the gauging the pulse of the fan base.
    I’ll say it again… it does NOT have to be this way with the Arsenal Football Club.
    at some point, very likely this season, if things don’t improve on the pitch, the fans will stop showing up in filling every seat in the stadium… that’s what speaks to the board!
    nothing else does… if the fans keep showing up, buying tickets, food, beer and merchandise, it endorses EVERYTHING that the club are doing,and have done.

    by the way… for all those Fair Play dreamers… did you notice that the current first place team, has REDUCED its debt in a fairly significant manner… so, keep on dreaming that there is a financial collapse going to happen at ManU.
    It’s all a shell game for Arsenal’s money hoarders.

  3. Hunter - November 15, 2012 at 21:07

    There is a simple reason here. Arsene won’t buy any players who display a strong will or personality. He only surrounds himself and the team with people who will agree with him and not question his methods. This leads to a team full f player with no strong character and no leadership.

    I didn’t love Gallas but one thing he did was call it like it is. He called the team out when they didn’t perform and had no problem taking up issues within the team Arsene won’t have anyone like that in the team now and the club suffers for it.


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Founder, editor, writer, designer of When he’s not following the Arsenal,he’s busy coaching various age groups the right way to play the beautiful game

I am neurotic. Well, Arsenal tends to do that to you and due to this maddening love affair I have with this team across the sea, I rise and fall like everyday (given our current state some times more than 5 times a day.) I love this team and hope it comes through even slightly with this blog.

If I am not here blogging away, I am either working or writing coaching sessions. All in all, I'm loving it. UTA!

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