The Arsenal Brand: A Failure of Leadership

The Arsenal Brand: A Failure of Leadership

This was written after witnessing the Liverpool-Arsenal fixture on August 27, 2017, a day that may be viewed as THE low point in Arsenal’s recent history

Who is responsible for the performance of a football team? In my view it is not a single person, rather the owners/senior management team; the manager and the players. In Arsenal’s case ALL three have failed well prior and certainly to leading to this season. Starting at the very top, the ownership group is split between Stan Kroenke who also owns several US sports teams and Alisher Usmanov; Kroenke controls the team with a 67.05% ownership. (Usmanov offered to acquire those shares in 2016 but was turned down). Mr. Kroenke is more focused on his entire portfolio – as he should be – but unfortunately that has been manifested with wanting to do well enough, but not win the PL or compete in the Champions League. (Many supporters believe Usmanov would act like his countryman, Roman Abramovich, who owns Chelsea and spend to sign more aggressively.) In other words, make substantial profits by playing decently; winning silverware that you can (occasionally) like the FA Cup and Community Shield. They – Kroenke and the President Ivan Gazidis have failed by not insisting more money be spent to remain truly and legitimately competitive and/or by keeping Arsene Wenger in place.
Their manager Arsene Wenger is one of the most successful and long-termed mangers in the PL. He deserves huge credit for what he has accomplished for the team in terms of silverware, global recognition and status. However, despite a record 7 FA Cup victories, Arsenal has not won the Premier League Cup since 2003-04 (his second title). Readers can count the years. Supporters agonize daily. While some of the blame/rationale has been related to expenditures on their new stadium, The Emirates, completed in 2006, which prevented more substantial spending on players. Wenger has taken a (too) conservative view and spent parsimoniously relative to other billionaire owners resulting in their 11years of title drought. This in turn has resulted in discontent among supporters, which has grown year-after-year resulting in the “Wenger Out” segment of fans.
Finally, the players who do not seem to care; want to leave, have no on-field or locker room leadership. They are clearly not motivated. They too are responsible.
Arsenal can no longer be considered one of the elite Premier League teams in terms of quality. Yes, they will make substantial – but lesser – profits, play some inspired even football but are patently mediocre now unless something significant changes.
Which brings us back to leadership.
Wenger signed a 2-year agreement in June, but one of the important conversations we need to be having now is who will replace him. Now because we need to eliminate as much as possible all of the breathless media speculation and a last minute, hasty, bad decision. One of the reasons I wanted Wenger to stay on was his – and managements’ – misguided waiting until the last minute to announce whether Wenger was staying. A change at the end of the season would have been more disastrous like the Manchester United succession plan, which has only righted now after 2013 when Sir Alex retired with Jose’s Year2 team.
The next questions concerns Wenger and his relationship with his players today. What to do?
For us supporters each year, every year looks like the same problems develop. Poor defense in general, poor defense of set pieces, poor true attacking capability, and poor “attitude”. Every year, ad nauseum as Arsene would say, la même chose.
First, sell the players who do not want to be at Arsenal for whatever reason, lack of ambition, not enough pay; not enough playing time, etc. This includes Sanchez; Ozil (if anyone would take him); and Oxlade-Chamberlain (who has been with Wenger since he was 17 in 2011). Take the money and run, as Arsenal will not make the Top 4, perhaps not even the Top 6 in 20017-18. Other less talented players should be shown the door; there are too many to list.
The top folks at Arsenal – Messrs Kroenke and Gazidis – need to make a long-term plan about how to compete for the Top again: If they want to.
Let’s also define for them the other completion – value of the franchise.
According to Forbes Most Valuable Global Sports Franchises, here’s how Arsenal has fared in this competition. I’ll not graph how they’ve fared in the PL or CL, as you understand by now.
2010 #8
2011 #7
2012 #10
2013 #10
2014 #16
2015 #36
2016 #23*
2017 #43

At this rate, have they not only dropped out of the Champions League competition, Premier League contention; perhaps even the Europa League after the 2017-18 season; and the Forbes List. That WILL hurt. In the film Trading Places, a famous Eddie Murphy line “…you know it occurs to me that the best way to hurt rich people is by turning them into poor people.”
Any organization needs to have objectives: what are they trying to achieve? While not publicly articulated for fear of losing fan support in this case, does Arsenal want to compete for the title? Merely saying it will not make it so. The Brand is tarnished and its current buyers discontented and it will be unattractive to future buyers. In Great Britain, the US and globally. Who would stand for this from a team with such a legacy? Not me, not my friends on both sides of The Pond. With international such a focus on the part of more and more Premier League teams, there is now new completion on a new pitch. It will not be easy to build or rebuild The Gunners internationally by fielding mediocrity.
Finally turning to a far smarter luminary who stated “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
So now gents please decide and get to it. It’s our Brand too!

*2016 Explanation: The biggest mover in the top 50 is Stan Kroenke’s Arsenal squad, which rose 13 spots to No. 23 with a value of $2.02 billion. The Gunners had the most expensive season tickets in the sport this year at $1,500-$3,000 for adults. Arsenal also received the biggest cut of Premier League TV money this season at $148 million, or $7 million more than Manchester City.