The Dismantling of Arsenal FC
Arsenal are now out of the Europa League and sit 9th in the Premier League table with a real risk of no European football next season.
To be knocked out by former coach Unai Emery is a pill that makes the taste of this result even more bitter.
Fingers will rightfully be pointed at Mikel Arteta who has led the team through the worst campaign of any Arsenal side since the early ’90s but this is an amalgamation of problems that goes far beyond him, too.
When Kroenke first became the majority stakeholder at Arsenal he must have thought this is the easiest gig in the world. Sit back, chill out, and let Wenger do all the work.
No need to invest, no need to care, as long as the club stayed being absolutely middle of the road what reason did he have to feel the need to change?
After all, he didn’t buy Arsenal to win trophies.
However, when Wenger was finally found wanting it was down to the Kroenkes to build a club that can grow without him and they have well and truly failed that task.
The focus is usually on the money (or lack thereof) that Kroenke puts into the club but the bigger problems are his poor building and dismantling of this club behind the scenes.
Arteta and Edu will receive criticism for the performances of the team but let’s make no mistake that they are stranded in the middle of the sea right now.
They are both inexperienced and are alone with the task of bringing freefalling Arsenal back to the Champions League, a task that gets further from fruition as the season’s pass.
So why have they got such a painfully pitiful support system to aid them? Let’s look:
A new dawn for Gazidis?
Ivan Gazidis is much famed as the man who claimed Arsenal would be competing with Bayern Munich after the move from Highbury to the Emirates stadium and many hoped Wenger’s departure would give Gazidis the power to modernise Arsenal.
Because this was all Wenger’s fault, right?
Gazidis was always very silver-tongued when it came to communication but the fruits of results that proceeded that were unfortunately never as sweet.
As always he promised the world to Arsenal fans as he gushed over the many new pieces of the full jigsaw that would supposedly see Arsenal return to the top but that obviously hasn’t been the case.
In preparation for the departure of Wenger, Gazidis and Kroenke decided to create a new transfer strategy that consisted of two completely polar opposite approaches.
Sven Mislintat, much revered for his very successful spell at Dortmund, was hired in November 2017 to help Arsenal identify young and under the radar talent that could be bought low and sold high.
Former Barcelona director of football Raul Sanllehi more favoured a contacts approach to transfers which consisted of relationships with agents, something Wenger has always fought against.
The transfer strategy with the two in tandem wasn’t really one or the other, and it also wasn’t a balance of the two, it was more sometimes this or sometimes that.
No real plan, no real strategy, no real consistency.
Needless to say, these two ideologies found it very hard to coexist and eventually Mislintat left the club talking about a number of “broken promises” that forced him to leave.
A team of “experts”
In the time since Wenger left Arsenal hired various people in a lot of areas that supposedly would bring world-class expertise to the club.
One of these was Huss Fahmy, a renowned contract negotiator who had worked with Team Sky.
Fahmy’s appointment was an attempt to end Arsenal players going into the final years of their contracts against the wish of the club.
His appointment didn’t seem to change much, though. Players like Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey all left in frustrating circumstances for the club.
The one high-profile contract he was able to secure was that of Mesut Ozil – a deal that didn’t exactly stand the test of time in the eyes of the club.
Another one appointed was fitness guru Darren Burgess who ironically lead a purge on the medical department at the club before eventually being let go of himself within two years of being hired.
Ivan jumps ship
If the saying is the captain goes down with the ship Gazidis seemingly didn’t get the memo as he decided to leave his newfound power at Arsenal to join AC Milan in late 2018.
In the wake of his departure, he was replaced by a team of Sanllehi and Vinai Venkatesham who looked to create a partnership of football and commercial knowledge.
Their short partnership was full of nice little soundbites but once again when it came to tangible results they were found wanting.
Call to the invincible
The next strategy by the club was to bring in Edu as technical director. The former Arsenal midfielder had experience in Brazillian football and both club and national level and was seen as a young, modern mind that would help modernize Arsenal’s transfer and operating approach.
The jury is out on him for the moment – at his peak, he was a big reason for the signing of Gabriel Martinelli, a player whose talent and price have been a real coup for the club.
Although at his lowest, he was also a driving force in giving 32-year-old Willian a three-year contract at the club – a decision that has definitely not looked particularly astute.
Raul gets the boot
In a pretty abrupt turn of events, Sanllehi was the latest person to be deemed surplus to requirements to the club which left Vinai, a man with no football experience, having to rely on Edu and Arteta to control the entire footballing process at the club.
So in the time that Wenger left the club, we’ve seen:
- Chief executive leave
- Head of football relations join and leave
- Contracts expert join and leave
- Fitness expert join and leave
- Head of recruitment join and leave
- The scouting team stripped bare
- The medical team stripped bare
- The club put in place a head coach system and be forced to ditch it
Now ask yourself out of all the changes at the club what is the one thing that has stayed the same? The Kroenkes.
There is no well-run club that would allow their management team to have such an abject and visionless level of support.
Football is a results game, we all know this, so if Arteta is sacked for the failings of this season I don’t think anyone could really complain.
The only food for thought I feel the need to add to that is the fact that I don’t there is any manager that is good enough to push against the tide that’s forcing this club to exactly where we currently find ourselves.
As fans, we will magnify the players on the pitch and the manager in the dugout but without a coherent and consistent support system to fall back on how can any manager truly prosper at this club?
This is 5+ years of the club being systematically dismantled and reassembled poorly with wrong people being put in positions of power and constant flip-flopping on the choice of internal structure.
The blame for that has to go straight to the top.