by Tony Attwood
Quite often, when a manager moves on, his background team are also removed, and the new manager brings in his own men to work alongside him.
For example, when David Moyes took over at West Ham to deliver them from the reduction in the cost of running the London Stadium (their rent to the taxpayer actually goes DOWN if they are relegated) he didn’t come alone. Billy McKinlay, Alan Irvine and Stuart Pearce all moved to the TaxPayers Stadium and Chris Woods (who was kicked upstairs) was the only person on Slaven Bilic’s team to be retained.
So it goes in football. But I suspect not at Arsenal.
My guess is that when Mr Wenger leaves, his immediate assistant Bora Primorac (known as the First Team Coach will either retire or move with Mr W if he goes to another footballing job). Boro is 63 next month, and he might fancy not having to work seven days a week even if his boss still likes it.
All that might seem normal, but behind the scenes something else is going on. There is a continuing revolution in fact, largely organised by Trevor Saving, the chief operations officer at Arsenal, and overseen by Ivan Gazidis the big boss. Indeed the number of members of the support staff working with the first team, PL2 team (the under 23s) and the under 18s has tripled in recent years. They are building a completely new club.
Those who have gone
Steve Rowley as chief scout is one of the longest serving members of the team, and one of the most recent to leave. He was at Arsenal before Mr Wenger, and had a few amusing tales to tell of how he adjusted from a role in which he went to watch possible targets next time their club was playing in London, to one where on the first weekend after the new boss’ arrival he was sent to a remote part of Brazil to watch an 18 year old. There is a suggestion however that he might work on a freelance basis for Arsenal, given the extent of his knowledge.
It was announced in September that Dick Law would be leaving, but I have not seen a date given. He was described in the media as the effective Sporting Director of the club. He left (or is soon leaving) for “family reasons”.
Those coming in
At the time it happened we covered the arrival of former Team Sky legal expert Huss Fahmy in July. He now oversees contract negotiations. He was formerly of cycling’s Team Sky, the executive who will be responsible for player contracts.
Some time ago we also noted the arrival of the head of high performance, Darren Burgess and we have mentioned David Priestley as head of psychology and personal development, who was one of the first of the new wave of employees of the club, arriving to work on the mental preparation of the Arsenal players.
Darren Burgess worked with Liverpool before going to Port Adelaide (the Australian Rules club) in Australia, and it is said that he was specifically chosen by Mr Wenger. Indeed so certain was the club that this was the man Arsenal needed they allowed Burgess to stay in Australia until September and then pop back for a while in October to handle the end of the season.
It appears that Darren Burgess will oversee all areas on the technical side of the club apart from scouting, which starts with StatDNA and includes 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, working with David Priestley in relation to psychology, and also working on 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 a better level of information and analysis across all aspects of football.
At the same time it seems Ivan Gazidis has tripled the number of support staff around the first team and junior sides at Arsenal. Among those arriving is a new performance nutritionist, Richard Allison.
The Borussia Dortmund chief scout, Sven Mislintat, has been suggested as an long-term replacement for Rowley but no final decision has yet been made on who will take the role
Tony Colbert, the fitness coach whom the media had suggested might be under threat of dismissal, is staying, working under Darren Burgess who works with the first team squad. Also staying will be Shad Forsythe, the head of head of athletic performance enhancement who prior to 2014 worked with the German national team.
Gilles Grimandi, one of the first players Mr Wenger brought to the club, and long time chief scout in France is expected to stay, at least until Mr Wenger goes. He was linked to the role of director of football about ten years ago, but nothing came of that rumour.
Why do it backwards?
Letting the new manager bring in his own staff is so ingrained in football it seems odd to reverse the process. But as Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Everton, Sunderland and Tottenham have all found to their over time, new managers don’t always work – and if they are allowed to bring in their own team, and then something goes wrong, the disruption level can get too big for the club to handle.
Liverpool brought in 11 managers between 1990 and 2015 and Tottenham had 21 managers between 1991 and 2014. Arsenal, of course, are working to ensure it doesn’t happen to them.
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