Text by Tony Attwood; Picture by Walter Broeckx
Today, Dominic Cummings, the former chief adviser to the UK Prime Minister, gave evidence to the Commons science committee about a new UK research funding agency.
Today, Lee Bowyer became the latest manager at Birmingham City who has been trying to revive the club which is owned by a Hong Kong-based holding company. He is the club’s eighth manager in just over four years.
So what is the connection, and what does this have to do with Arsenal?
Both the Cummings tale, and the story of situation at Birmingham, are similar – people coming and going resulting in a constantly changing plan which ultimately has yet more people moving around, new brooms getting stuck in the glue left over from last time, and further disasters.
We can contrast this with the time Mr Wenger arrived at Arsenal, for he not only brought in new players, he also asked for, and got, a brand new state of the art training centre, which he has noted from time to time, everyone else then copied. The picture above comes from the time our friends at the Belgium Arsenal Supporters Club were invited to visit the centre.
As we know, Mr Wenger’s changes worked big time for he delivered 19 seasons in the Champions League – a record for an English team, and an achievement only exceeded by Real Madrid.
And what of Cummings? He said, during his questioning by MPs that the Ministry of Defence has a £10bn black hole in its budget because of disastrous decisions taken in defence reviews when George Osborne and David Cameron were in power.
He also said that he would expect “a large percentage” of the projects to fail. If they don’t, they are not taking enough risks, adding that maybe one third of ideas might succeed, and the rest fail.
Birmingham City, with their endless change around of managers might take that as meaning that what they are doing is all right. Except that since Mr Wenger arrived at Arsenal they have had 18 managers and are still sinking fast. True they have won a trophy – the League Cup, beating Arsenal in the final as it happens.
But in the last four seasons they have finished 17th, 19th (twice) and 20th in the Championship.
And that’s the problem with Cummings “large percentage” approach to failure and the Birmingham City approach. If you have enough money you can run a government or a business on failure, on the basis that ultimately something works. But people can get upset along the way and failure can become a habit.
Such a habit leads to change after change and increasingly things go wrong simply because everyone is firefighting rather than looking at the whole situation.
So in the case of Cummings he is saying the Ministry of Defence has a £10bn gap in its budget because someone took the wrong decisions. In the case of Birmingham City, the stadium (which the club no longer owns) has now failed a safety inspection, and it seems unlikely that it will be able to open next season.
And where does Arsenal fit in with this? From 1996/7 to 2015/16, Arsenal were a top four club. In the last four years we have been 5th, 6th, 5th and 8th. This season who knows. It is possible we can climb up to sixth again (see Arsenal in the best form to make the top six) but if any of those clubs above us really get themselves into gear then the chances are we won’t. We also might win the Europa League, but we might not.
If next season we have no European football because both those routes in fail, we are going to find it harder to hold onto players. The youngsters who had such fun this season winning all six of their Europa group stage games, won’t have a competition to play in. The big names won’t want to be outside of Europe for a season.
Incoming players will look at Arsenal and notice not just the slide, but also the three managers we’ve had of late, and the way that certain players have been publicly put out to grass, without a thought of their careers and futures.
In short, we need a clear strategy which can be seen to be working. A continuing run in the Europa, and run of wins in the League are basic requirements.
When Mr Emery left the table showed us in 8th, equal on points with the team that was sixth, eight points off fourth.
The table below shows in the first line how Mr Wenger finished in his last season, in the second row, how we were when Mr Emery was booted out, and in the final row how we are now.
|8||29 Nov 2019||13||4||6||3||18||1.38||19||1.46||-1||18||1.38|
|10||17 March 2021||28||12||5||11||37||1.32||29||1.03||8||41||1.46|
Because the number of games played is obviously different at each point three more columns are added.
FpG is goals scored per game. This has been considerably lower since Mr Wenger left.
ApG is goals conceded per game. This is the improving row – we are letting in fewer goals than under Mr Wenger in his last season or Mr Emery.
In the final column PPG is points per game. We are still a long way behind Mr Wenger’s achievement in his final season, although doing a little better than Mr Emery when he was sacked.
If we consider the relative merits of the three managers in terms of games won we find
The win percentage of the managers has been declining, but if Mr Arteta can keep improving he can overtake Mr Emery, although which a much lower level of goalscoring activity. But to be better than Mr Emery, in the next seven games he needs five victories, two draws and no defeats.
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