We’ve discussed the players, tactics and the related glamorous stuff in this review series. This article is dedicated to the people who are pretty much behind the scenes but perform an important task. Their contribution might not be visible at all times and it would be really tough to directly connect their work with results or glory but there can be no doubt that we need the very best people in these roles.
I’ve already talked about the need for more focused defensive training. I don’t know who takes care of our defensive training right now but given the number of “silly mistakes” we make there is good reason to ask for an improvement.
Interestingly, it’s not limited to the first team alone. I was watching the U-18 Academy League play-off final against Nottingham Forest and even the juniors struggled to cover the wide channels and that left our keeper exposed time and again. At times I’ve seen the juniors struggle against a straight ball over the top, on other occasions they are caught out while playing a high line, and so on.
I’m not trying to criticize kids who are learning the game but the point is that there is a pattern to our problems, it’s been there for a couple of years now, and it’s visible at all levels.
I can’t believe Arsene is not aware of these issues but I can’t see any steps being taken to address this either. The way I see it, hiring a good defence coach is not a big gamble. If it helps us well and good, otherwise we don’t really lose much. It’s not that such a guy would charge millions and it’s definitely easier to find proven coaches than to find proven players!
In the same vein, we could use a set-piece specialist. I’d love to know the stats because we are likely to be the team that wins the most number of set-pieces (corners, throw-ins, free kicks) in the opposition half and the final third. We are a threat when we have the full team available, especially RvP, but the fringe players can certainly improve their value to the club if they work on some specific drills.
Pat Rice has been associated with Arsenal for over 40 successful years and Boro Primorac has also been around for a long while. I’m not trying to belittle their work but just as we need a bigger squad in the modern game, we could also use a bigger coaching team. I think the new coach can perform another critical task of monitoring the players from the touch line and provide some defensive guidance, inspiration and if necessary a wake-up call! The youngsters can certainly benefit from it and neither Arsene nor Pat Rice has the personality for such a task.
Apart from the football related staff we also need to review our medical and legal team.
We need to be innovative and work towards some form of preventive maintenance of our assets, the players. This means we need to monitor people even when they don’t have any complaints. I’m sure we do this to some extent but it’s obvious that we need to do more. It’s logical that we’d need a larger, perhaps better or more specialized medical team.
We also need to be more proactive. For instance, we’ve been blaming the Dutch FA for incorrect diagnosis of Van Persie’s injury but in my book he is our player and we should have had a guy flying out to check on him immediately. If the full extent of his injury had been diagnosed earlier we might have saved a couple of weeks and the Dutchman might have been fit for Barcelona. Do I need to mention how valuable that could have been?
I don’t know the technical complications of dealing with national federations but I doubt if anyone will refuse permission for a doctor/medical person to visit and injured player.
Injuries are down to bad luck and we can’t change that but we must change and improve whatever is in our own hands. That way we can mitigate the negative influence of luck to an extent. Who knows how much that will help, but at least we can be confident we did what we could.
The same RvP incident also showed that we need a better legal team or at least a team that has complete grip on the situation. We didn’t have insurance for Van Persie when he was playing in a friendly and for some strange reason and crazy rules of FIFA even the Dutch FA were not obliged to carry insurance for him. I’m not completely sure what happened there but I think we had to pay the wages of an injured player from our pocket and that makes a mockery of the whole idea of taking out insurance for players.
If we paid his salary for 5 months, which should ideally have come from insurance, then we probably lost over a million pounds. This money could have come in handy for new signings or enhanced contracts.
Our legal team should also look at the media and the rumour mongering a little more seriously. I know this is a complex issue and even United struggled with it when Real went after Ronaldo but we must offer at least a semblance of a challenge. And if we are convinced there is no legal recourse then we need a rogue team capable of responding in kind. Like Van Persie said,
If you want to play football, we can play football. If you want to play hard, we can play hard.
It’s applicable to the business side of the club as well, why should we be soft off the pitch and accept the underhand tactics of some cheap, classless clubs? I appreciate the principles of the club and don’t suggest that we violate them. But we have stand up to violence on the pitch and fight back in a rightful manner, the same applies to the business side of things. If nothing else it can provide a big boost to the morale of the squad and the fans when they realize that the club isn’t impotent.
I realize this particular article is rather vague and the issues I’m talking about are not important in the eyes of many. Still, in my mind, there is no doubt that an improvement behind the scenes can lead to a big improvement on the pitch. It might not be easy to quantify it or measure it but that really isn’t an excuse. I hope Gazidis looks into this with some seriousness.