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An Absence of Leadership At Arsenal

It may seem obvious but leadership is one of the basic fundamentals of any sports organization (or any organization for that matter.) Through leadership (good leadership) everyone know which way they are rowing, what our ultimate goal is and what is our part in helping us get to that goal. Having effective leadership is essential if we want to achieve any success.

Now, let me ask you this question – where is the leadership at Arsenal?

Why do I ask this well,  if one of the aspects of leadership is establishing a clear vision for the path forward, can anyone honestly describe what it is we are trying to achieve as a club? Sure we’ve been provided talking points about a desire to “win titles” but do the actions of the club point to that direction?

It’s all rhetorical. Because if you honestly review things, you can see that across the board in all facets of the club there seems to be a distinct lack of leadership at Arsenal.

Leadership is defined by three styles of leading:

  • Autocratic – it’s authoritarian in nature. The collective isn’t taken into account.
  • Democratic – leadership where ideas are shared with the group and responsibility is delegated
  • laissez– faire – leadership where hierarchy stands aside and let’s everyone make own independent decisions.

If I were classifying the type of leadership that Arsenal are portraying it’s the last, laissez– faire. From the absentee ownership, to the social experiments of the manager, and to weak value placed on the Arsenal captaincy, Arsenal seem more like every man for themselves than everyone rowing in the same direction towards the same goal.

We’ve said it before that the biggest void in leadership comes directly from the top, from our majority shareholder Stan Kroenke. Going as far back as to the time he took control of the club he has failed to lay out exactly what he expects Arsenal to achieve. It’s never been articulated and based on his inaction it seems he has no idea what to do with Arsenal save for taking the odd £3m from the club for “services rendered.”

Because he has failed to articulate a vision or because he has decided his “hands off” approach is the best means to operate, those below him are left to flounder and go about their business without a direction to point to.

The Chief Executive, Ivan Gazidis, talked in the past of us coming out of the woods of our financial constraints and being able to now compete with the likes of the European Giants in Spain and Germany. But to this day nothing seems to be done to go in that general direction.

Sure we’ve got better commercial deals, but we still lag behind our supposed “peer” set. We have increased our transfer deals but not at a level consistent with those European Giants. And because a vision for the club hasn’t been set by the owner, no parameters of operation exist for the Chief Executive to extend to the levels beneath him.

The most visual representation in our lack of leadership comes from the manager. The man who is the face of the club. When the club extended his contract this last season, Ivan Gazidis came out said he was the best man for the job and that if anyone could change the direction of the club it was him.

Fast forward a few months and everything seems to be exactly as it was last year, and the year before and the year before.  Wenger still believes in his methods and way of doing things. He has been opposed to change within the internal structures of the club and has seemingly won that battle and because he has not been provided direction or the leaders above him have not set out clear expectations he operates in his own void doing his own thing sadly, to the detriment of the club.

Looking at this transfer window and how its developing into a mess of epic proportions, its clear to see that Wenger holds firm to his ideals and refuses to accept the realities of the modern game. Rather than operate within the market as it exists (no matter how crazy) he holds on to virtues that are no longer relevant to the way things are today.

A strong Wenger would accept the paradigm and operate within it and within the values of the club, providing a model for future Arsenal managers – something he has said he wants to do. However, the way he is running things from a footballing perspective are causing more harm to the club than help. Think for a moment of what happens to Arsenal next summer if none of the big contracts that expire are renewed. How is that a strong leader?

Finally, when we look at the field of play when things go all pear-shaped, where is the leader on the pitch to hold their fellow players accountable?  Per Mertesacker is by all accounts a vocal leader within the dressing room – but he’s not playing. So if he’s not playing and problems arise in game who is it that is calling out their fellow players?

I know we’ve moved away from the era of fiery players like Adams and others. But that doesn’t mean that a leader on the field can’t still hold their teammates accountable. Even in actions on the field where is the player who takes the team and says “alright you lot get yer heads out of asses and get on my back – here we go.” Simply put we don’t have that at any level.

I’ve likely skirted along the vacuum of leadership at Arsenal only touching lightly on each area. You could write an in-depth piece on each component from Stan down to the players. The fact is that because there is an absence of leadership in one area, there is an absence in all areas.

That leaves Arsenal, this proud club with great supporters listless. And because it seems listless, we the supporters are listless and have every right to be.

The 2017-2018 season is in early days but the signs are there for all the things we’ve seen before. It leads to a resignation that things aren’t getting better, even though we hope they do.

Leadership in sports is important. Its vitally important for a club like Arsenal, without it – well, we can see what it’s like without it, and it’s not pretty.


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