As we talked about elsewhere, there is a story floating around about a split in the Arsenal boardroom over the direction of the club, and specifically over who should be the next Arsenal manager. Ignoring for a minute the fundamental problem that Arsenal have shown no inclination to remove its current manager, a bigger issue with that split right now is that, while it may not rise to the level of an outright boardroom fight, the lack of clarity of who is actually in charge and speaking for the club in business matters may well be causing external problems for Arsenal.
It seems that when there’s nobody clearly in charge, nobody outside the club knows who to deal with for mundane things like transfer negotiations. For the last 21 years, of course, all an agent, or any other person desiring of doing business with Arsenal, had to do was pick up their phone and say “Operator, get me Arsene Wenger, and quick!” in their best 1950’s telephone voice*, and Arsene would come running to the phone** and he’d do his Arsening, or call in the recently departed Dick Law (departed...the club, not the earth) to do and conclude some fancy negotiatin’, and all would be good.
Now, though, there’s the beginnings of a Big Ol’ Corporate Structure in place - we’ve got Raul Sanllehi as the “head of football relations”, Sven Mislintat as “head of recruitment”, Ivan Gazidis as chief executive, and Stan Kroenke as Guy Who Writes The Checks.***
Among the questions this new structure raises:
- What is a Head Of Football Relations?
- As “head of recruitment”, does Mislintat fully replace the departed Dick Law, or does Gazidis have a role here too?
- Does Gazidis have veto power over the decisions Mislintat/Sanllehi/Wenger make?
- Does Kroenke have veto power over Gazidis?
- At a more prosaic level: if I’m an agent trying to shop my client around, what’s the first phone call I need to make if I want to talk to Arsenal?
The other big looming issue there is: with Wenger still at the club, do people deal directly with him as has always been the case? If so, what’s the point of having the new guys around right now? It’s not realistic to cut Wenger out of the process entirely, even if there are now people at the club whose job it is to reduce his portfolio - ego, precedent, and operational reality are all things, and people aren’t going to be comfortable calling the club and asking to talk to not-Arsene about transfers if Arsene’s still around and still the boss. 21 years is a lot of history.
None of these are unsolvable problems, for sure, but as Arsenal head into a very transitional phase here in the next season or so - regardless of whether Arsene stays or goes this summer - I hope the relatively bewildering structural changes being made in preparation for Wenger’s eventual departure (I mean, it has to happen at some point, right? Please?) don’t mean too much confusion for people desiring to do business with the club.
*this may or may not be how phone calls work these days
**this may or may not be how phones work these days
***this may or may not be how money works these days