Happy 65th Arsene. The big 65. Wow. Huge achievement. You’ve done some things. Won stuff. Made some cash money. You’ve got it all.
Question though. I have questions. How long do you go on for? When is it right to hand over to someone new? When does continuity become detrimental? When are you just holding onto power because of ego? When do you say, ‘I can’t do this anymore’?
Interesting that I raised the age thing yesterday to great fanfare. When people question the age of the board, it’s cool. When you question the age of the manager and his relevance in football, it’s ageist.
So when it gets like that, you have to put numbers into the game. Before we play this, my view is this. Football is a young mans game these days. The sweet spot for great managers is between 42-55. I personally think the real talent lies at the lower end of that spectrum. Usually when managers have done their stint as an assistant and are ready to emerge with fresh ideas.
The reason young managers work well is they don’t have a formula. They have access to more tools. They’re part of a generation more accepting of technology and its evolution. They have more to prove. They also have more of a connection with the youth generation. Especially in football, where you’re trying to connect with teenagers.
The difference between football now and football of ten years ago is immense. It’s the same in marketing. My Dad ran a successful creative agency in the eighties and nineties, but things changed. Digital became more prominent, data became more of a focal point and the world went from less than ten channels to hundreds. When Wenger took over Arsenal, revolutionary was stopping players from drinking 10 pints, having a strong play on nutrition and raiding the French market for talent. 20 years on sport has changed. All clubs have access to the same tools. Tech is cheaper, smarter and it’s being mastered by experts rather than managers. Teams like Barca and City have video analysts sitting in the stands cutting video for half time. Prozone are integrating with Football manager to improve access to scouting. Football globalisation has lowered the barriers to entry to pretty much all the markets. Football is 80%+ faster than it was. The players are bigger and faster. Managers are more tactical and flexible. Clubs aren’t about the domineering manager who is jack of all trades, they’re built out so they own process IP… they’re built out into departments that are run by experts who feed into the main man who makes the decisions.
The game is a million miles away from where it was. Our manager, however, isn’t. He’s still sitting at the starting line refusing to purchase the bus ticket to the future.
Ok, so before I crack into this, there are a couple of anomalies. Firstly, Pelligrini. Personally, I don’t rate him. Also, he’s dealing with the Man City squad. Don’t come defending him to me if you’re the type of fan who uses City’s resource to defend Arsene. If Jose was at City, I think you’d see a far more dominant team. Ferguson is the exception but he’s retired. Heynckes was replaced by a Bayern Munich who understand what I’m making a point about here.
So above are the best coaches in Europe, either by performance or job. I’ve left LVG out of the loop because, let’s be honest, he’s going to be a disaster. Wenger isn’t an elite coach anymore. The rest up there have all won something major or they’re doing a pretty major job. Allegri perhaps shouldn’t be there, but he’s the new man at Juve, so there’s something in his appointment.
Anyway, average age of a top football manager in Europe is 47.5. Wenger is 37% older than the average, even when you factor in the City manager. 34% older if you wanted to the throw LVG into the mix.
Now, I’m not for a minute suggesting you can’t be dynamic at that age. I’m just pointing out that the clear trend with football managers is to opt for the younger man. I’m saying our problems stem from not accepting the future. Refusing to adapt. Not adapting the core team of backroom leaders despite clear failings.
Steve Jobs believed creative contribution post 30 was a tough ask citing musicians and artists. He had to go out of his way to keep his thinking radical and ahead of the curve, namely by always asking questions of himself. Mark Zuckerberg had a similar mindset when he was starting out Facebook. Now, whilst these are extreme examples and probably misguided (I am thirty, I don’t want to be useless), there is something in the idea that there’s a top out point when it comes to being innovative. There has to be a point where you say enough is enough. Looking at all our failings as a club, that all centre around one man who has been here for too long.
65 is great. Even greater if you’re still in a job. Not great if you’re only in the job because you’ve built an impenetrable power base no one can break.
Enough on the birthday celebrations. What about the game tonight? Well, Koscielny won’t be about. Still injured. Ospina has some how managed to crock himself for the next three months. His injury powers are strong.
Arteta could be available as could Aaron Ramsey. That’s good news. The more bodies we can get back the better. We want people firing as soon as possible. Wondering when we’ll see Theo back in the mix.
You’d hope we have enough in the locker tonight. We’ve not responded well to anything this season. We’ve looked like we’re on a permanent hangover all season. We need to wake up, we need to show a bit of passion and the manager needs to inject a bit of instruction into the side.
If you’re going, have fun. Stay safe. Drink all the Belgian beer!
I’ll leave you with this song by one of my favourite bands. I imagine Arsene Wenger singing the footballing equivalent of the below track in the shower.