What makes Arsenal successful 3: the club has stepped beyond the media



By Tony Attwood

In part one of this little series of articles What makes some clubs successful and others not? I outlined seven factors that seemed to me to be important in the success of a club, and tried to suggest that none of them alone is enough.   These were getting the finances right, having a manager who had a workable plan while getting all the underlying planning right, ignoring the media and fans with their short term interest, and avoiding a policy of short term solutions.  I think if you look back at Arsenal from the start of Arteta’s reign you will find all of that.

In Part two I suggested that clubs that failed to progress made repeated bungles, and tended to think that (for example) simply having a sporting director is enough.  The sporting director, I argued, has to understand the club and cited the case of Edu as Arsenal’s first sporting director – something that worked particularly well because Edu understands the club and its identity.

Clearly Edu and everyone else at the club bought into Arteta’s approach of getting rid of critical players, reducing the number of yellow cards by cutting out tackling, and building a club in which youth played an ever more important role.  Thus when Jesus was injured in the world cup, Arsenal were able to continue by having Eddie Nketiah step up – something the media said would not work.

Of course, the media turned on Arsenal when Jesus was not replaced at once in the transfer market, and the headline “Paul Merson says that Arsenal won’t finish in the top four, let alone win the Premier League with Eddie Nketiah up top instead of Gabriel Jesus,” was a commonplace theme among reporters.

But while the media were whipping up a storm about Arsenal’s “failure” to get a replacement, and Arsenal ignored them, and although some supporters will always accept the hype and nonsense of the media, many more at Arsenal were by then believing in what Arteta & Co were doing.  Arsenal remained Arsenal.

But other clubs do not remain the same, and spend their time changing the whole style and approach of what they do.  From Tottenham Hotspur to Leeds United it is the same, sack this guy, bring in that one, find someone else.

And I think part of the success of Arsenal is that Arteta answers the nonsense questions from the media (and by nonsense I mean questions that begin “How” as in “How important was that win?” which show a total lack of insight and understanding of what is going on in the club, with quick fire comments that aim to get the interview over as fast as possible.

Thus the recent falling out that Leeds had with Orta and the bringing in of Allerdyce which happened at Leeds was not just a change of direction but an abandonment of a whole approach in desperation in the face of fan discontent.

Arsenal’s approach is the exact opposite of Norwich City who have as Sporting Director, Stuart Webber, running the club’s football strategy and the different heads of department, including the Head Coach, report into him.  He does interviews, talks to the media club strategy and is regularly linked with Manchester United, and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro during the January transfer window because the club had no money to buy anyone.   Norwich are 36 points behind Burnley in the Championship.

And of course there is Chelsea with two sporting directors, a technical director, and Joe Shields who was at Southampton and is now a “co-director of talent and recruitment” who then, as the Athletic helpfully point out, between them hired Frank Lampard to replace Graham Potter.

What makes life at Arsenal different is that both the manager and the sporting director are people of talent who are stable in their jobs and not prone to chattering mindlessly to the media who will of course take everything they say, turn it upside down and rebroadcast it without context or meaning.

The point about Arsenal is that Edu and Arteta work together perfectly just as Arteta and Albert Stuivenberg work together perfectly.   Stuivenberg was announced as assistant coach to Mikel Arteta within a week or so of Arteta joining, although he then continued as Wales assistant coach as well, until that contract ended.

Stuivenberg and Edu are exactly the opposite of the celebrity sporting director, assistant manager and goodness knows what else, that other clubs seem to be chasing, employing and sacking all day long.  They do their jobs and remain quiet.  It is I believe a major reason for Arsenal’s success this season in outflanking all the journalists who will always follow the shouters and boasters, and love nothing more than to report changes at a club.

Arsenal have stopped giving the journalists ammunition and with the journalists’ unwillingness to do  the hard work in analysing tactical changes of the type Arteta and co brought in the club is increasingly removed from the rumour mill, and is much more the better for that.

4 Replies to “What makes Arsenal successful 3: the club has stepped beyond the media”

  1. You’re very kind Walter. I’m glad you enjoyed them. I am planning to pull together all the recent articles on how I feel the media misrepresents football, into one summary piece.

  2. Not disagreeing with anything but it seems to me you can take it a stage further. Brighton seem to have reached a point where you not only have all parts of the organisation working in harmony but you can replace players and managers without any disruption.

  3. Absolutely agree Jod. I didn’t include them because I am not that familiar with exactly how they are doing it, but to keep the progress running while losing your manager half way through a season shows a remarkable organisation and structure. I’d love to find an article somewhere that explains how they are managing to do it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *