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Total control and total dominance can work, but in the end innovation in football suffers

by The Arsenal Philosopher.

When Arsenal invited Arsene Wenger to manage the club, they knew what they were getting – a man who exercised total control over everything in the club, from the menus to the transfers, from the design of the academy to who to give young player contracts to.

And now there is a story doing the rounds that if Arteta is going to be manager, he wants the same absolute control.

Of course I’ve no idea if this is true, but it is a thought that leads to an exploration of the difference between the two men and ultimately between two different philosophies.  When Mr Wenger came to Arsenal he had already won the French league with Monaco (their first in ten years) and the Cup, and he was on the way to doing the same in Japan.  Indeed Arsenal was his fourth team, and before arriving at Highbury he’d won four honours.  That’s a bit different from coming to one’s first club and making the demand of total control – if that is the case.

Indeed it wouldn’t make any sense since Arsenal is a club that has recently put together a collection of top men who run contracts, transfers, legal negotiations, fitness and the like.  Added to which we are up against a club in Manchester City with more money than any club has ever had before in the history of football.

Arsene Wenger could do it at the start because he had a worldwide knowledge of football and could not just spot top players, but could also spot top players who were under performing or not being given their chance, or were in a small club but could express themselves more fully among better players.   From Vieira and Henry to Fabregras and Bellerin and finally on to Mavropanos.

Mr Wenger was also proven at spotting talent early; Maitland Niles is just the latest example.  Nelson could well follow suit.

But now the world has changed; the situation is no longer the same.  The man with total power and control is what some fans have expressed as being not to their liking.  What would the award winning ArsenalFansTV say after three defeats in a row if Arteta got all that power?  And would having them moaning again really be any good for the club?

Of course I have no idea if Arteta is likely to be our new manager and if so whether he has made such a demand, any more than I know whether Mr Abramovich has had his visa held up because he is suspected of being part of the Windrush generation (the sort of cock up that seems to be central to the administration of immigration in the kingdom these days) or because there is a worry about some connection to the Russian state which is currently accused by the British government of conducting germ warfare on British soil.

However it would seem awfully silly to give a manager such control having gone to such pains to set up a system of arranging transfers and getting men fit; a system which can exist neatly alongside the manager.

Some people do like to have total organisation.  We’ve seen in Mertesacker’s autobiography, for example, how he took control of his body in a way that he notes most youngsters at the club do not and will not do, and he wants to change that.  That is easy to appreciate and applaud and if he can get the players to take his approach seriously, then we could see real benefits.

But total organization, in which the same thing happens over and over again, could be your dream of perfection or your ultimate nightmare.  I guess it depends on your outlook on life.

Those who prefer creativity to organisation, (the exciting player who delivers the unexpected and perfect 40 yard pass to unlock a defence, or can go past lumbering centre halves because neither they nor he has any idea which way he is going next, as opposed to the rigid 4-4-2 of the Graham years,) have probably enjoyed seeing our manager plucking  Bellerin, van Persie, Fabregas or whoever out of obscurity.

However I would love to be assured that the new manager can do that, before seeing him given total control.  After all, what’s wrong with having a year or two of a combination of the new man and the established team, before handing over the reigns completely?

And yet I get the feeling that absolute dominance of a situation is the theme of the day, both among individuals and in competitions.  Seven successive titles for Juventus, six for Bayern Munich, seven in a row for Celtic and not only that but they have won the Scottish treble twice in succession.  As I’ve said before, we already know who next season’s champions will be in England, France, Scotland, Italy, Germany…

These consistencies represent a form of total order; fortresses that forbid any other club from even thinking of taking over from the champions.  Persuading the second placed club to accept its position for now and forever through ceaseless dominance; persuading them to get over any desire to be champions and just accept being second.  Making even the thought of any other club being champions as some sort of stupid wackiness.    For these clubs it is more than becoming champions, it is the search for and demand of absolute dictatorial dominance, year after year.

It leads to a desire to control everything; which ultimately will include stopping other clubs from mounting a challenge not just now but at any time in the future by buying up all the promising youth players and shipping them off to the continent.  [Oh, sorry, Chelsea already do that].

Thus clubs have found methods of gaining that control: by having access to amounts of money that seem almost limitless, by persuading the authorities that supposedly run the game that rules aimed at generating competition should be ignored, by exploiting loopholes in regulations…

For the rest a different philosophy is needed; one that accepts that dominance is not desirable for very practical reasons.  When one club can buy anyone it wants, and keep on replacing players year on year to maintain its dominance, an acceptance of this tyranny becomes the only manner for survival for many.  From there comes hopeless resignation.

Of course it is not the only approach.   True, the Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi wrote about the fact that humans have something within them that makes them want to control.  This explains the rise of the newspapers criticising the club, then the fanzines criticising the club, and now the blogs criticising the club.  People without control, trying to exert control.

And yet there might just be one way to overcome the dominance of the clubs that win the league every year.  For the opposite of control is the art of spontaneity.  The contrast is between a club built on unimaginable amounts of money and power and a group of people who are spontaneously creative whether they are paid millions of pounds a year or not.  It is the art of self-expression against organisation.

Such an approach doesn’t reject all structure but it puts at the heart of everything enjoyment.  It means breaking away from convention through valuing creative innovation above a system that always works, just for the fun of change.

In short, having one club on top of the league all the time, isn’t a way of running a football league, it is a way of avoiding managing a football league because it leaves no room for innovation.

 

 

8 comments to Total control and total dominance can work, but in the end innovation in football suffers

  • colario

    And this is why the Senate of Arsenal did the Brutus on its Caesar, because he wasn’t an innovator?

  • Chan

    “fortresses that forbid any other club from even thinking of taking over from the champions. Persuading the second placed club to accept its position for now and forever through ceaseless dominance; persuading them to get over any desire to be champions and just accept being second. Making even the thought of any other club being champions as some sort of stupid wackiness. For these clubs it is more than becoming champions, it is the search for and demand of absolute dictatorial dominance, year after year”

    I thought that was the desire of all big clubs?

  • Thank you for letting us know your thought.

  • Pat

    A creative leader who collaborates and employs the talents of all of his or her co workers can do great things, as indeed did Arsene Wenger. I certainly don’t believe the story of Arsene as dictator.

  • Alexanderhenry

    ‘A man who exercised total control over everything in the club, from the menus to the transfers, from the design of the academy to who to give young player contracts to.’

    That’s not actually the case. Wenger worked closely with David Dein, until Dein left.

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    Well, I think they say if you can’t beat them, why don’t you join them? Arsenal FC is an elite club side in the Premier League. And a North London giants club who has not won the PL Title in the last 14 season campaigns became of their not matching the spending power of the clubs that have won it in the last 14 seasons. Talk less of the club to win the UCL since it’s formation. So, why not Arsenal join them to restart winning the big Titles the won in the past and are yet to win.

    I think principally, Arsenal hired Arsene Wenger to help us carry the club to the next level of winning more Titles domestically and in Europe. And Initially he was doing great at the PL by winning 3 PL Titles and some FA Cup Titles too but not the League Cup Title in his first 10 years at the club. The League Cup Title he never won throughout his entire 22 years of managing Arsenal FC. But two major outstanding achievements he has left behind as AFC manager was the Arsenal 2003-2004 season unbeaten run which the club’had in their PL Title win. And the immersed energy and commitment he put in into the building of the Arsenal new Stadium renamed as the Emirates Stadium after the sponsor for financial gains. But superstitiously, is that renaming the curse behind Arsenal not winning the PL Title again for 14 seasons ever since the club moved from it’s Highbury Stadium to the it’s Arsenal Stadium but renamed as the Emirates Stadium? Well I don’t know. But something must be the reason for Arsenal not winning the PL Title since they’ve moved from Highbury to the Emirates. Ehn?

    But since Arsenal have stopped winning the PL Title for the past 14 consecutive seasons. Something positive had to be done to see the club return to their past winning ways again in the PL as from next season’s campaign. And I believe it’s in the light of returning AFC to the winning ways more especially in the PL that has led the Arsenal hierarchies to take the bold step they’ve taken to ease out their former club manager, Monsieur Arsene Wenger out of the club but gently to compensate him for what he has done for the club. And they are now searching for a new manager who is capable of moving the club to the next level of winning Titles for the club immediately he’s appointed and appoint him.

    But the big question that begs for Answer from the Arsenal board of directors is,.is Mikel Arteta who is limitless in managerial experience more so at giants club side like Arsenal fit this bill? Or appointing an experienced manager like Unai Emery, the former PSG boss who is reported by the Sky Sports today will hold talks with the AFC board to see if he can become the board”s preferred candidate above Arteta and be appointed as the new Gunners boss?

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    Please, my above comment is edited and repost again.
    .
    ,Well, I think they say if you can’t beat them, why don’t you join them? Arsenal FC is an elite club side in the Premier League. And a North London giants club who has not won the PL Title in the last 14 season campaigns became of their not matching the spending power of the clubs that have won it in the last 14 seasons. Talk less of the club to win the UCL since it’s formation. So, why can’t Arsenal join them to restart winning the big Title they won in the past and are yet to win?

    I think principally, Arsenal hired Arsene Wenger to help us carry the club to the next level of winning more Titles domestically and in Europe. And Initially he was doing great at the club by winning 3 PL Titles and some FA Cup Titles too but not the League Cup Title in his first 10 years at the club. The League Cup Title he never won throughout his entire 22 years of managing Arsenal FC. But two major outstanding achievements he has left behind as AFC manager will be the Arsenal 2003-2004 season unbeaten run which the club’ had in their PL Title win. And the immersed energy and commitment he put in into the building of the Arsenal new Stadium renamed as the Emirates Stadium after the sponsor of the Stadium for financial gains. But superstitiously, is that renaming the curse behind Arsenal not winning the PL Title again for 14 seasons ever since the club moved from it’s Highbury Stadium to the it’s Arsenal Stadium but renamed later soon as the Emirates Stadium? Well I don’t know. But something must be the reason for Arsenal not winning the PL Title since they’ve moved from Highbury to the Emirates. Ehn?

    But since Arsenal have stopped winning the PL Title for the past 14 consecutive seasons. Something positive had to be done to see the club return to their past winning ways again in the PL as from next season’s campaign. And I believe it’s in the light of returning AFC to the winning ways more especially in the PL that has led the Arsenal hierarchies to take the bold step they’ve taken to ease out their former club manager, Monsieur Arsene Wenger out of the club but gently to compensate him for what he has done for the club. And they are now searching for a new manager to appoint but who is capable of moving the club to the next level of winning Titles for the club immediately he’s appointed.

    But the big question that begs for Answer from the Arsenal board of directors is,.is Mikel Arteta who is limitless in managerial experience more so at giants club side like Arsenal fit this bill? Or appointing an experienced manager like Unai Emery, the former PSG boss who is reported by the Sky Sports today will hold talks with the AFC board to see if he can become the board”s preferred candidate above Arteta to be appointed as the new Gunners boss? Well! Let the Arsenal board of directors do their best by appointing for Arsenal a new Gunners boss who can take the club to the next level of restating to win the PL Title, win the ELC Title and other Title like too like that of the League Cup all in the next season’s campaign.

  • Andy Mack

    AW didn’t come into the club with the intention of running it. He did it because the majority of directors at the club had other jobs and worked for AFC in part time roles.
    On top of that they weren’t former players and had little knowledge of the details of how foreign clubs worked, even though they wanted to copy that model to some degree. Stuff like changing the diets of players never occurred to the non-football staff, so AW found a dietitian and brought him (or her) on board.
    AW supposedly decided what crockery and cutlery were bought for the training centre, but he didn’t go out shopping for it, just deciding which of the (maybe) 4 or 5 sets shown to him were best. He may even have made the decision purely because Ken, David and Danny were all busy working whilst AW was visiting the site pretty much every day.
    I’d suggest that because he made those sound decisions the club asked for his opinion on many more things.
    I’m sure he had a say over the Gym but he didn’t do it without having some sports scientists recommendations.
    I’m also sure he had input (and maybe even the casting vote occasionally) on many other things within the club, but suggesting he had total control over the club is wrong.

    There are very few top clubs where the manager isn’t an important part of the transfer team and I hope that our next manager will not be a coach that has to work with players he doesn’t want. We’ve seen many big clubs have quite expensive players appear in a great fanfare but hardly show in the team as they don’t fit the managers tactics or personality.
    That may be OK for a club that can afford to spend without a result, but we can’t do that.

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