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Arsenal Need a Director of Football. . .Now

This past Christmas, my grandmother came to participate in the festivities with us. My granny is a 94 year old Scot, who unfortunately now lives in a home. She has been there for the 2 years since her husband of 63+ years Albert passed away.

Granny stayed with the parents and the day before Christmas had to be rushed to the emergency room due to low blood pressure. There was lots of worry. We didn’t know what was causing it. For a 94 she is usually pretty spry and always in good spirits when we see her.

In talking with her attending physician he offered up this possibility – that granny was indeed fine but out of the confines of her environment at the home, where everything is taken care of, she panicked and it caused her to have this episode.

In simple terms granny had become institutionalized to her environment and without it there to support her she freaked out.

To be institutionalized means 1 of 2 things – established as in practice or custom or established as part of an official organization.

Hopefully you see where my slight jaunt through nightmare lane is going.

We are facing a huge unknown when Arsene Wenger leaves (whenever that is.) He has been around so long he has become – you can fill it in can’t you – institutionalized at Arsenal. We only need to see what happened to Manchester United when Sir Alex Ferguson left what that can do to an organization.

I am sure at the time nobody thought that Fergie’s departure would affect so many aspects of the club. It’s quiet likely they suspected they had his hand-picked successor, they had Ed Woodward taking the helm of player recruitment. Everything was going to be alright.

Well we know how that has turned out. I am not even sure they are still on the up and up.

The fact is this, Fergie was a part of the very fabric of that club. Nothing at United was done without it being in some way tied intrinsically to the culture that Sir Alex Ferguson created. To remove him from that meant that even the smallest area of the club would be affected.

Fast forward to now. We know that the time is near it’s end for Arsene Wenger. Whether he leaves at the end of this season or within a year or two, he will leave a substantial void in Arsenal.

When he took over he not only changed the face and trajectory of our club but English football. But it is really his impact on every facet of the club that will suffer when he’s gone. The culture, the way of doing business, the focus on youth, the development and recruitment of new players and everything in between.

All of that is impacted by Arsene Wenger. And to believe that just naming another big personality manager will stave that off is a little nearsighted if you ask me.

So how do Arsenal insure that the disruption to club is minimal when Arsene leaves. Appoint a Director of Football (DoF).

When Arsene Wenger steps down (he’s not getting sacked – ever) he will be the last of a breed that is long dead and gone. That is tentured managers. He will be the last manager who set the tone for every aspect of their club.

Never again will we see a manager secure such tenure – no matter how much Jose craves it. The fact is that model is dead. The high demands of the game in this new modern game takes an exacting toll on managers and burns them out. They reach a zenith and by then are so sapped of energy that they need to find the newest challenge to reinvigorate them.

No, we’ll never see a manager last 20 years. I think it very unlikely we’ll see another big manager stay at a team beyond 5 years.

That means the culture of the club has to reside in someone else. Someone who can offer sustainability and a bridge between managers. Someone who is a driving force at the club and let the manager – just manage.

That role is the director of football. In place of long-tenured managers, I suspect we will now see an era of the big named Directors of Football. Monchi at Sevilla looks to be the cream of the crop right now.

This doesn’t mean the manager won’t have a big influence. That won’t change but they will no longer be the biggest driving force at a club. No, that will stay with someone else.

But back to a DoF and Arsenal.

If Arsenal want to insure that a seamless transition from Arsene to the next manager occurs it would behoove them to appoint a DoF before Arsene leaves. If the board were really smart (there is some question to that) they’d appoint someone with a link to the culture of the club, someone who knows the club as it currently stands right now.

We can talk about candidates another time (*cough* Bobby *cough* Pires *cough*) but Arsenal really need to be forward thinking in this.

As a club who usually sets the bar and establishes traditions and changes to the game – appointing a visible and strong DoF will insure continuity and consistency that United didn’t (and still don’t) have.

Does a DoF mean we won’t experience hiccoughs? No, of course not. There will still be some. But, a good DoF can mean us suffering a slight wobble to us becoming the next Liverpool.

As for granny – well she did alright but we took back to her home immediately after Christmas and she is happier than a bagpiper with a bunch of sheep.

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