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Arsenal to appoint Aussie Rules guru as new director of high performance

By Tony Attwood

One of the unsung benefits of Mr Wenger signing a two year deal, is that it gives the club plenty of time to set up some changes to the staffing ready for the manager who will take over after Mr Wenger departs.

This can be particularly beneficial for, as Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool! have all found to their cost in recent years, and indeed as Liverpool! found out with 11 managers between 1990 and 2015 and Tottenham found even more, with 21 managers between 1991 and 2014, bringing in a new manager can work, but most of the time, it doesn’t work.

Proper preparation for the managerial change is never a bad idea, and I think it is good to see that forthcoming appointment of Darren Burgess as a new director of high performance.   Darren Burgess is currently working with Port Adelaide (the Australian Rules club) in Australia, and it is being said that he was specifically chosen by Mr Wenger.

The arrangement was apparently brokered by Ivan Gazidis with the arrangement that Darren Burgess will report directly to the manager.  However there is the suggestion that Darren Burgess will stay in Australia until the end of the Australian Rules season there in September.

It appears that Darren Burgess will oversee all areas on the technical side of the club apart from scouting, which starts with StatDNA and goes on through Arsenal’s own scouting team.  Mr Burgess is also regarded as one of the very top experts in fitness and conditioning in sport.   As such he will have overall control of medical matters, player fitness, psychology which is increasingly becoming seen as a highly significant part of football performance, and the analysis of performance at Arsenal.

Indeed in a very real sense this is the completion of the work that began with the purchase of StatDNA itself as it now gives Arsenal the highest possible level of information and analysis across all aspects of football.

It may well of course result in a number of bloggettas and newspapers rehashing their old “most injuries in the football league” stories, and TalkSport will probably get their favourite anti-Wengerian Stuart Robson back on for another rant or five.   But we’ve heard all that before, and as ever, just saying the same old things over and over doesn’t make them true.

The move means that fitness coach Tony Colbert, whom the media had suggested might be under threat of dismissal, will stay, working under Darren Burgess.   Also staying will be Shad Forsythe, the head of head of athletic performance enhancement who prior to 2014 worked with the German national team.

The Australian media (which I tend to keep an eye on as a result of my annual visits to see my daughter in Sydney) are also suggesting that Burgess will return to Port Adelaide in October and November to help plan the club’s pre-season programme and to help the recruitment process to replace him.  In fact in total Burgess will return to Alberton four times this year to manage the Power’s training program in the run to the finals and during the major round in September, if the team qualifies for the top eight.

There is also talk in the Australian media of an international partnership between the clubs which Ivan Gazidis will be involved in negotiating.

Port chief executive Keith Thomas is quoted in the local media as saying, “Arsenal have indicated their desire to be part of a new collaborative partnership with Port Adelaide in a range of areas including sports science, professional development and international growth. That brings some amazing opportunities with it and we look forward to putting that arrangement in place as soon as we can.  It’s part of our ongoing journey and desire to becoming a world class sports organisation.”

Burgess has also indicated his reluctance to leave, however.  “Reaching this decision has been one of the toughest decisions in my professional career”, he told the local media although one might say, “well he would say that locally wouldn’t he?”

Continuing Burgess said, “My family loves the lifestyle of Adelaide,” (and that I can understand) and more importantly we love everything about the Port Adelaide Football Club.

“When the opportunity came up to return to Port Adelaide, I had no hesitation in returning. Port Adelaide is like family and once you’ve worked in this environment with so many outstanding people it is very difficult to leave.

“It’s especially difficult knowing the club is on the right path for sustained success both on and off the field.”

“It was a once-in-a-career opportunity,” Burgess said at Alberton on Monday night after the Power secured a deal with Arsenal to keep the fitness guru involved in club programs, particularly in China, for the next two years.

And since the top 8 position of the AFL now has some importance to Arsenal, here it is

# Team P W D L Total Points For/Ag % Pts
1. Adelaide Crows 12 9 0 3 1426:1006 141.75 36
2. Greater Western Sydney 12 9 0 3 1202:1033 116.36 36
3. Geelong Cats 12 8 0 4 1234:1075 114.79 32
4. Port Adelaide Power 12 7 0 5 1262:939 134.40 28
5. Melbourne Demons 12 7 0 5 1221:1055 115.73 28
6. Richmond Tigers 12 7 0 5 1051:958 109.71 28
7. West Coast Eagles 12 7 0 5 1066:1039 102.60 28
8. Essendon Bombers 12 6 0 6 1143:1111 102.88 24

Please don’t ask me what the “Total points” and “For/Against %%” columns mean.  And if you do, I won’t tell you.  But if someone else would like to explain, that would be most helpful, and will allow me to expand my sporting conversations when I go back next time.

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12 comments to Arsenal to appoint Aussie Rules guru as new director of high performance

  • Usama Zaka

    Here is the official statement from the Aussie Club.

    http://www.portadelaidefc.com.au/news/2017-06-19/burgess-bound-for-arsenal

    From what I have read, Aussie Rules Football is the most high performance demanding sport in the world. Due to that coaches like Darren Burgess are top priority for any team in AFL (even more than a head-coach).

    And in the high performance demanding AFL, Darren Burgess took Port Adelaide to one of their most successful campaigns until now. So all in all he is one of the most highly regarded coaches in the world of sport sciences and performance.

    Interestingly their also official statement says:

    “Burgess, who was handpicked by Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger, will commence his new role in July.”

    “Port Adelaide will pursue an arrangement with Arsenal to grow sports science and professional development opportunties.”

    Well done Arsene and Arsenal. Darren Burgess will a great addition to the club.

  • Melgooner

    You divide the points scored by the points against to give a percentage and when two teams are level on points on the ladder the team with the highest percentage has the higher position. Often percentage decides whether your team plays in the finals or not, the top eight teams play finals.
    Go Saints (St Kilda), my 2nd favourite football team!!

  • Lachlan

    OK the Total Points For/Ag % are a bit like GD. Points for is your team’s score and against is what has been scored against. % is that figure points for divided by points against multiplied by 100.

    Pts (points for short are essentially Premiership Points) are used to order the teams from top to bottom. Like in the EPL or other leagues the team with the most points has the highest position. Of course here I should add that we have a finals series where the top 8 sides play off and the eventual champion is the team that wins the Grand Final regardless of where they finished in the top 8 at the end of the home and away season. % is used to separate sides with the same points.

    My team the Essendon Bombers (8th but on the way up) absolutely smashed Port adelaide almost 2 weeks back. Burgess has a fine reputation over here. This stems back to an excellent rise in the team’s onfield fortunes where they absolutely sucked around 2012 and most of the credit for their on field resurgence in 2013 is due to Burgess and his training and fitness regime. They narrowly lost the penultimate match of the season to the eventual Premiers (Hawthorn by less than a goal and had they beaten Hawthorn would in my opinion won the Premiership the following week. Port ran games out till the end and often finished over the top of their opponents. Hopefully Burgess can work similar magic at Arsenal it would be fantastic to have our full squad most of the time.

  • Lachlan

    I should add that the finals series usually starts on the first weekend of September and finishes on the final weekend in September. I say usually because that has been the tradition for most of if not more than 100 years, but due to fixturing and sometimes the lack of availability of the MCG, the finals have stretched over into the first weekend in October. Teams finishing in the top 4 get the double chance meaning that they cannot go out in the first week of the finals. Fingers crossed Port don’t get top 4. In fact it would be better if they missed the finals altogether.

    Oh and a win in most Australian Rules competitions is worth 4 Premiership Points and a draw is 2 PP’s

  • Polo

    YouTube an AFL match and watch the difference between an AFL player and a football player when a player get knocked. AFL players put football players to shame. When an AFL player get knocked, he get up and continue with the game, no rolling around as if he had been shot. If only football players were like AFL players, the game would be much better.

    AFL players are really fit and physically strong, so well done to AW for selecting this guy as head of performance. Media say he was employed by Liverpool in the past so he will be familiar with the EPL.

  • colario

    Polo. Checked out your link. Thanks. I think I have missed something. What is meant by Guernsey numbers?

  • Gord

    Looks like a cow joke to me Colario. I think we call them jersey numbers. A guernsey is another kind of cow to me (first). But, they are both Channel Islands. According to wikipedia, the cow gets its name from the Island.

  • Channel Island cows are very important, as they a unique and unpolluted breeds. There were three breeds, one on each of the 3 main islands, Guernsey, Jersey and Alderney. Most of the pure Alderney cattle were removed from the island to Guernsey in the summer of 1940, after the occupation by the Nazis, as it was impossible for the remaining islanders to milk them. The remaining cattle were killed and eaten by the Germans as food shortages on the island increased towards the end of the war. Guernsey and Jersey cows are unique breeds prized for their milk, and of course simply because they are unique breeds. (Part of my family on my mothers side comes from Guernsey, hence the arcane knowledge).

  • Polo

    Colario, it’s jersey number as Gord say.

  • nicky

    Guernsey cattle are renowned throughout the world, due to the purity of the strain.
    Visitors to the Island are often surprised to see only the Guernsey breed at pasture in the fields.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Sounds a good appointment, congratulations to all involved.
    Also signed a guy from Team Sky it seem….contract negotiations and other things.
    Not bad so far from a manager who blocks all change and a CEO …who is regularly questioned what he does…putting it politely.
    Looks like a club moving forward