By Tony Attwood
When Arsene Wenger left Arsenal the club had a magnificent chance to restructure everything. After all Mr Wenger had been at the club 22 years and because of his success record had the opportunity to create a club structure of his own design. Indeed it is said that once he sold Anelka for a £21m profit, he personally oversaw the physical design of the new training centre, and as a result of that started to build a youth structure that we still see bringing forward talent like Saka, Maitland-Niles, Willock, Nelson, Nketiah, Saliba, Smith Rowe, John-Jules, Balogun
It was natural he would decide who he wanted there, just as he decided who he wanted in recruitment, who was to be in the psychological welfare team, who negotiated wages etc etc.
When Mr Wenger left quite a few people went with him. I can’t find a definitive list on line but most certainly his coaching team departed as he did, and were compensated for the early ending of their contracts. Likewise when Mr Emery went, his team went with him.
Which makes it rather surprising that now we have another 55 people leaving the club, including the head of recruitment, Francis Cagigao (who came in with Mr Wenger) is among 55 staff members who will leave the club after a swathe of redundancies was announced. He was responsible for bringing in Cesc Fàbregas, Héctor Bellerín and Gabriel Martinelli – all three staggeringly brilliant transfers, the first two of which didn’t cost Arsenal a penny in transfer fees, the latter costing £6m, which is peanuts when you look at the talent on show.
This is all in addition to the 12.5% pay cut for the coming year accepted by most of the first-team squad and all the coaching staff. But it was said at the time that the cut is due to drop to 7.5% as a result of Europa League qualification. And that qualification has now been secured again, yet it seems the people who managed to put together the team that achieved that, has now be decimated.
True, the club has continued to pay staff in full during football’s lockdown instead of falling back on the furlough scheme. The club’s 14 executives agreed to a one-third salary cut for the next year.
And it is important to remember that redundancy, in English law, is not like dismissal. You can only make a person redundant because the post that the individual held is no longer in existence in the new structure. In other words Arsenal will no longer have a head of recruitment. To be clear you can’t make the head of recruitment redundant and then appoint a new head of recruitment.
Now for all those people who are endlessly saying who Arsenal are going to buy this summer, that must be a worrying sign. No head of recruitment? Who is going to oversee the transfers?
In business, the companies who get this type of cost saving wrong are often typified by a “You can do that can’t you John?” approach – devaluing the task the redundant person has been responsible for, and declaring it to be so trivial that another untrained person simply takes it on as a side line.
But here, all the people who might have the knowledge on this score, such as the head of UK recruitment, Pete Clark, and the former Arsenal player who has been manager at Reading and Leeds Brian McDermott, are also out.
So what on earth will happen? How will any of the 120 players with whom the club has been associated this summer, be pulled in a signed up when Arsenal not only has no head of recruitment, be seemingly no recruitment team? Somewhat has to sort the wheat from the chaff – who does that?
The players’ agents are probably rubbing their hands together at dealing with … well, no one. Just putting a name forward and having him signed off.
Obviously Arsenal’s MD Vinai Venkatesham, and the head of football, Raúl Sanllehí have approved the change, and yes, with Arsenal ending up in their lowest position (8th) since Boadicea the Victorious faced the Roman army, it might seem that change was needed.
Because it is easy to chop out a whole staff structure, but hard to build it. The structure that has just gone was 22 years in the making and apparently 22 days in the destruction.
Mr Sanllehí said. “Revenue from broadcasters, matchday and commercial activities have all been hit severely and these impacts will continue into at least the forthcoming 2020-21 season…
“Over recent years we have consistently invested in additional staff to take the club forward but with the expected reduction of income in mind, it is now clear that we must reduce our costs further to ensure we are operating in a sustainable and responsible way, and to enable us to continue to invest in the team.”
Arsenal might well simply be at the forefront of a move that will be reflected in all clubs, in which case they are to be congratulated at getting the job done quickly. And yet that worry remains: these people did jobs which now we will have no one to do. So what happens?
The most obvious answer is that we hope that the wonderful array of youngsters who have come up through the youth teams continue was not just a lucky run – but part of a continuity.
Of course it might be that Arsenal’s top dogs read our article “Buying more players is exactly the opposite of what Arsenal need now.” But I didn’t mean it this literally.
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