New faces at Arsenal but what good will they bring?
Too many cooks spoil the broth it has long been said and you wonder whether this might apply at Arsenal with their recently authorised string of new appointments. Out with the old, in with the new.
Darren Burgess, an Australian, takes charge of fitness and having previously had three years working at Liverpool; said to be Wenger’s own choice.
Huss Fahmy arrives from Team Sky to deal with player contracts. As we know problems here have arisen in the cases of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. Both can walk, come the end of the season, when they will be out of contract.
That the club has allowed matters to slip this far seems bewildering. Sanchez seems determined to leave, Ozil has reportedly asked for £300,000 a week. So unless both players are transferred in the now reopened transfer lists, they can depart for nothing. Sheer common sense would surely have initiated a pro active policy long ago put into place.
Steve Rowley, for many years the chief scout, has been sent on his way, to be be replaced by Sven Mislantat from Borussia Dortmund on the back of a fine record of discoveries and signings, among them Robert Lewandowski. Bayern Munich had apparently wanted him to join them. That looks sensible enough.
Raul Sanllehi has been enlisted from Barcelona where he spent 14 years, becoming the club’s director of football. At Arsenal, he will be head of football relations. Whatever that may mean.
Behind these appointments one discerns the figure of Ivan Gazidis, the club’s chief executive who at the end of the Gunners’ last disappointing season, when they failed after many years to reach the Champions Cup, declared that they had had a most successful season. Successful for him surely since he was reported as receiving a bonus of a million pounds.
These new appointments would one hope have prevented the alarming situation with Sanchez and Ozil, which surely could have been resolved by a dash of common sense.
Meanwhile, at last the delayed contract of Jack Wilshere, in coruscating form of late having been strung along for much of the season, is to be resolved. He was previously limited to a role in the second choice team which competed in the lesser European competition. Now he is belatedly back in the top team, he has at least been offered a new contract. Not as generous as the last one, depending to some extent on appearances, which does make some sense since he has alas been prone so often to injuries. But his present excellent form suggests he should have been picked for the first team weeks ago. A player remember who has been with the Gunners since the age of nine. He was outstanding even at West Bromwich recently, where the performance of the team was mediocre to a degree.
How different from the remote days after the Second World War. One thinks of Joe Smith, the manager of a then very successful Blackpool team who was never known to give a team talk. One Saturday afternoon in the dressing room before an away match he surprised his players by telling them he wanted to address them. “Right,” he said. “At the end of the game, don’t change out of your football gear, put on an overcoat, get straight on to the team bus, as we’ll catch the 5.45.”
Yet even Matt Busby, father and inspiration of Manchester United, had a curiously casual approach to tactics. When at half-time in the 1948 Cup Final his United team was a goal down to Blackpool, all he told them was, “Keep on playing football.” Which they did and ran out winners.
Another tale of Joe Smith. At an away match with Blackpool he was standing in the hotel toilets, excoriating one of the club directors. Suddenly a chain was pulled and out came the embarrassed director himself. “And what’s more,” he said. “He’s a bloody eavesdropper.”