- In football, one day very soon, the dam is going to burst
- Newspaper attacks refs and PGMO, but still refuse to see the main problems
- Today’s Arsenal anniversaries (and happy birthday Thierry)
By Tony Attwood
What does a club need to become successful? Of course to an extent that depends on what one means by success, for obviously if one defines success in terms of winning major trophies Arsenal are not a success. But if success means improving and getting closer, then yes Arsenal at this moment are indeed a success.
But as we have noted before, the success Arsenal is currently enjoying, nearly didn’t happen. In a survey in the summer of 2021, the Arsenal Supporters Trust (a fan group often known as AST) did a survey of its members which asked “Are Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (KSE) good owners of Arsenal Football Club?”
One percent of those answering said yes, the rest the opposite.
Another question asked, “Is the current Arsenal Board fit for purpose and doing a good job running Arsenal?” Again 1% said yes, and 89% said no. The rest were unsure.
Of course, the board and the owners did not take any notice of this AST survey which was held after Arsenal had come eighth in the league. And fortunately for most of us Arteta stayed, taking Arsenal to fifth in the league the following season, followed, as you may recall, by second place.
I mention this now because at any one time there will be a substantial number of clubs where supporters will be playing the same game of demanding a replacement of the chairman, board and probably the rest of the structure.
Indeed we might perhaps take a look at Tottenham’s results over time. In 2019 Tottenham reached the Champions League final and moved to the new stadium. 46 per cent were confident of the clubs future and another 43 percent “somewhat confident”.
At the end of last season those figures changed to seven percent being confident and 18 percent somewhat confident. Three percent had full confidence in the owners.
What comes through from these figures is the disparity between the time it takes to turn a football club around, and the desire of some supporters (nudged on always by journalists) to demand change now.
Most supporters of course have no experience of running a club, nor indeed of running a business. But as a person who (before age took its toll) ran a plc for some 20 years, I can say that in my experience running such an operation is a case of taking decisions constantly and trying to get most of them right, while putting right the wrong ones, as quickly as possible.
But on this score, the problems for a football club are multiple – not least the fact that as the Arsenal surveys above showed, people can express a total lack of confidence in a situation which in fact is on track to bring significant progress.
However, there is another element in all this which is peculiar to football. Footballers by and large reach the end of their working life at around 35. As one report shows “An estimated 40% of professional footballers go bankrupt within five years of retirement, and many more struggle financially in later life”.
To help themselves, some try their hand at punditry and quickly find that what the journalists who interview them want are shock-horror headlines. “I think he is making solid progress and in a couple of years the club will be challenging for honours,” is unlikely to impress a journalist doing the interview.
“Arsenal board sent Mikel Arteta sack warning after disastrous start to season” was a typical Mirror headline that was published under two years ago, and that sort of headline is loved by the media. Paul Merson is quoted in the article as saying, “Mikel Arteta will have til the October international. If they haven’t done anything by then he will be under pressure.”
On 2 September 2021, when that story was published Arsenal were bottom of the league. By 2 October – the deadline date Paul Merson gave Arteta, Arsenal had risen to ninth in the league. At the top at that moment were Chelsea.
Arsenal finished fifth at the end of that season, five points behind Chelsea. The following season Arsenal finished second, 40 points ahead of Chelsea.
What would have happened if Arteta had been sacked as the journalists and those hanging on to their coattails had suggested? Of course, we don’t know, but we can say that sacking managers is not always a good idea.
In September 2021 with Arsenal bottom of the league, Chelsea had Thomas Tuchel in charge. Since then they have had Graham Potter, Bruno Saltor, Frank Lampard, and Mauricio Pochettino as managers, and although the last name can’t yet be blamed for anything, the reality is that this constant change of managers has seen Chelsea slip from four seasons finishing third and fourth, to finishing 12th, along with a third-round exit in both domestic cups.
And that is the message that never seems to get home. Overall replacing the manager is more likely to make things worse than it is to make things better. But keeping a manager is not news, the journalists don’t like it, and some of these supporters groups are very easily led.
Which brings us to the one magic ingredient. Patience. And clear planning. (Sorry that’s two). And a bit of luck (ooops three). And refusing to take any notice of journalists…
- Arsenal continue to make more progress than the rest of the big seven
- Arsenal v Tottenham; the team and some rather jolly recent history
- We are running out of referees, and the reason is the PGMO.
- Arsenal v Tottenham: the key fact the media won’t to tell you – and why they won’t
- Arsenal v Tottenham: different clubs, different managers, different successes