It’s clear from Tuesday’s press conference that Wenger is as excited by the idea of a Director of Football as Sepp Blatter is by an empty envelope. The Arsenal manager has had total autonomy for close to 20 years. Moreover, he is loath to relinquish the control he has accrued. Wenger is not naïve enough to believe that he is totally infallible – even he knows that change is necessary to ensure the sustained running of the club. Strategies have been introduced in the past, essentially to appease fans. When fans were calling for an ex-player to join the board, it was not Vieira or Pires or Adams who took up residence at the Natural Museum of History and Old Farts but Pascal Cygan – the least desirable of Wenger’s 21st century purchases. His promotion could only be bettered if Squillaci and Silvestre were appointed as the club’s chief negotiators, scouts and tacticians. His appointment was a nod to the fans - 'I recognise what you want but we'll do it my way.'
Yet Arsenal are in a strange position of power. For many years, Wenger has called the shots because he was valuable to the club. Consistent top 4, occasional title challenges, a reluctance to splurge money and a general acceptance that Wenger is a top class manager. However, with Wenger’s contract nearing expiration, the Frenchman has lost the trust of the majority of fans, looks set to miss out on Champions League revenue, has frittered a hefty proportion of his transfer budget away on unproven players and, probably most telling, seems to have lost the backing of key players. To add to these woes, it now seems that Gazidis is beginning to grow a backbone. Who can blame him?
For too long, Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis has been made to look - at best: a hypocrite, at worst: a fool. He claimed, in the past, that Arsenal could take on the best, bring in first-rate players and become part of the world elite. However, Arsenal’s dithering in the transfer market, lack of tactical flexibility and unwillingness to experiment and a general naivety in corporate sponsorship dealings have left the club leagues behind their foes. However, it seems like the Director of Football issue is one where Gazidis feels a stand is necessary.
If Gazidis had broached the subject three years ago, there is no doubt who the board would have backed. However, given the discontent amongst the fans and club’s current malaise – I have a suspicion that Wenger could be digging his own grave. I initially believe Wenger’s contract to be a formality (in fact I initially believe it was signed months ago and the club were waiting for the best PR moment to release it). However, as reports continue to drip from the club’s echelons – I believe there is more to it than meets the eye. This issue may be resolved but something tells me Arsene Wenger won’t get it his own way.
‘Til next time,