Here I am again, writing something I don’t want to write after watching something I didn’t want to watch. Arsenal are a hot mess right now, having lost four straight and having fallen out of the conversation for the top four entirely, and even putting their fifth place trophy challenge in serious jeopardy.
And, just as a few days ago, the reasons for this are both clear and circular. The players look to have given up on their coach, their coach refuses to acknowlege that making his future plans clear is the first step in fixing the sewer-ific state of affairs that Arsenal are in right now, and everyone, it seems, is poised for some sort of next move in order to get things going one way or the other.
Everyone except the Arsenal board, that is.
The way most sports teams work, in any sport and any league, is that the owner of said team has all the power. As with non-sports businesses, the owner puts people in place to run the team, and when those people don’t run the team well, the owner replaces them with people who hopefully can. This is not controversial or experimental; it’s just how business works.
Soccer teams are set up a little differently than many US teams, in that most of them, particularly the ones that are publicly listed, have a board of directors who make decisions and shape the direction of the club. The function of that board is the same as the function of teams that have a sole owner, to shape the direction of the team.
It has long been known that Arsene Wenger, with his legendary record of success and his 21 years of tenure, has been the tail wagging Arsenal’s dog for a while now - when Arsenal were regular Champions Leaguers and the money was rolling in predictably, that was fine. But now, things are not going well, and they just keep going from bad to worse, and have done for two-plus seasons now.
This is where, in a normally-functioning club, a board would step in and say “you know what? Let’s try something different”. Whether that means a manager change now or a gradual exit that allows the long-serving manager some sort of graceful exit, the plans to do that would be in motion with every week of diminishing returns.
But the Arsenal board are content, it seems, to let things play out - whether that means play out until summer or play out until Wenger’s contract expires is kinda not the point. The point is, most organizations would have done something by now to either right the ship or ensure that the ship doesn’t sink until it’s righted.
The Arsenal board, though, are just sitting back conceding all the power to which they’re entitled to a manager who believes that he can fix what’s broken, despite a mounting pile of evidence to the contrary.
As I wrote the other day, I don’t believe firing Wenger now solves all of Arsenal’s problems tomorrow. There’s a lot of work to be done. Doing so would, however, signal that the Arsenal board are in fact willing to do the job that they have completely punted on doing so far - acting in the best interest of Arsenal Football Club. That is literally why the board of directors exists, and it’s a huge problem for me at least that, as the club we all love has started to decline, first gradually and now alarmingly quickly, the board is doing essentially nothing about it.
What that tells me is that they think Arsene can do the job. What that tells me is that they don’t understand how much the league has evolved in the last five to 10 seasons. What that tells me is that they value the status quo over changing things and trying to make them better.
And that, to me, is the most depressing part of this whole saga - the fact that the people who run the club don’t seem to want to address the problems that the club are going through right now, for some reason.
When Arsenal were routinely in the CL, it was easier to turn that blind eye - we all did it to an extent, because why not? Things were OK. But the CL, and Premier League relevance, is a rapidly shrinking set of taillights in Arsenal’s windshield now, and the board are still in the middle lane, driving the speed limit, wondering why everyone’s buzzing past them on both sides like they’re desperate to get their vacation started.