Blog

Pandemic in North London, the strange Arsenal case!

Recently we could all watch a situation develop that for sure many of us questioned. How can such a big, powerful, wealthy and top club as Arsenal decide to make 55 staff redundant? Roles from administrative to scouts, and even including the first team rehab coordinator, were all axed.

This cut represents 10% of the club’s workforce but if you transform those 10% into money saved, with wages, for sure you will come to a much lower percentage as all together probably it doesn’t even represent 1 player’s yearly salary.

This batch also includes the Head of International Scouting and the head of UK scouting, which leads us to many other pertinent questions. So now how are the players identified and hired? Is it done randomly? And won’t a bad signing cost more in the end?

According to Arsenal, their revenue suffered a massive cut with the prohibition of having supporters at their stadium, equally to all clubs in the world due the pandemic state we face. Arsenal is the club that was more dependent on the revenue generated with ticketing and all that is involved at home matches days. That may be true but it is also questionable that it needs to be a motive for such a measure. It can have an affect but for sure it does not justify in itself the decision made.

Arsenal also cut players wages with the argument that it was for all staff to be able to not lose their jobs, which didn’t happen in the end. Again, we are talking about one of the richest clubs in the world, so either they are completely right, and in that case it is better for all the other clubs in the world to be very concerned or they are just making a step that can be ruinous for the club’s near future and a terrible example for the sports industry, showing that cutting back on the essentials is the way forward and that even with a billionaire owning the club it may not be enough to cover basic costs.

After this pandemic many things will change but if this is the way it may be better to re-think the entire football industry. Clubs pay over 100M for players and are willing to pay 200M, then cut the people that keep the machine running?

After this decision Arsenal communicated that their player recruitment policy will follow a different path with more focus on a data-drive system. Do Arsenal want to replicate Baseball and become football’s Arsenal A’s in honour of the Oakland A’s, the team that somehow changed Baseball and managed to “fight” much bigger budgets?

Baseball is a great sport, in the same way as football, but with a much lower number of variables and decision making from the players. The main 3 variables in Baseball are, Throw, Hit and Run. And what about football? Are the players are in constant movement. In football, players take an enormous amount of decisions during a match, with and without the ball. A pass for example cannot be measured precisely as a throw or a shot. A pass depends on the part of the pitch, where it is made, the score in that moment, the type of pass and even the climate and the pitch condition must be taken into consideration. That doesn’t happen in a sport played with the hands, with more standardized movements that can be measured accurately. Also, to highlight the fact that recruitment in Baseball is done mainly inside the country that does not require such different aspects in regards to a players adaptation to his new reality such as Country and Language and League Level being the main ones.

Was it based on stats that Arsenal recently signed 2 players over 30 years-old? Offering them unbeatable salaries that other clubs simply can’t afford and for a 3 year period when their rival just offered them 1.

Are Chelsea missing something or are they making honest decisions based on measurable and effective aspects, going after to concretise great signings and achieving great results instead with a professional scouting structure as it should be?

Just one example that I believe is enough to exemplify the explanation above and that I will leave with 2 question marks. How many duels, shots and passes Ronaldo missed during his first season playing for Man U? Could Arsenal sign him based on Stats? And where is he now at 35 almost 36 years old? We all know the answer.

Stats can be great to confirm some points that we watched previously either by video or ideally live. Even when filtering some initial aspects – but only the ones that can be measurable as some can’t be as important as other stats in a football team. The player’s personality and the way he will adapt and be the part of the puzzle are missing as football is a game where connections between players are crucial for success, not only on the pitch but also off it too.

We all also know that Arsenal are far from their past glory days and also look far from reaching them again soon. Taking this way, we will all watch the outcome, with curiosity, and to where it will lead the club, either to glory or most likely to an even darker future. I wouldn’t say to ruin it completely as it is a far too big a club for that to happen to, but we’ve seen it happen in the past with other clubs, so even being unlikely and a remote possibility, it’s not guaranteed that it won’t happen.

Every year, the Premier League is more and more competitive, we can see clubs hiring staff, players, coaches etc, basically continuously investing and not finding excuses. On the flip side, we have Arsenal.

For many years the reason advocated was the fact that they had to pay from their own pocket for a new stadium, so they couldn’t invest in their football team as many others were able to but the ones that follow football could see star players signing, astronomic wages being paid and the poor results achieved. Players ending up signing for rivals and even leaving the club for free.

Players like Samir Nasri, Alexis Sanchez, Cesc Fabregas, Emmanuel Adebayor, Alex Song, Aaron Ramsey, Kolo Touré, Robin Van Persie, Ashley Cole, Bacary Sagna, Gael Clichy, William Gallas, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kolo Touré were well identified, signed but not kept for some reason –  and we are not talking about good deals, we are talking about players that in most of these cases left the club directly to play for rival clubs and some of them even on free transfers.

A few days ago Arsenal played against Spurs and lost 2-0 as we all know. Before the match, during the press conference, José Mourinho was asked why he didn’t sign Willian, who had left Chelsea and joined Arsenal on a free transfer, and his answer couldn’t be more direct and clear

We cannot afford to pay astronomical wages like Arsenal”.

This says a lot. Not only Willian has that kind of salary either, but we also have Ozil’s situation that is even harder to understand. Ozil took a position, questioning why his wages were having a significant cut and to where his money was going, which I believe that any of us would ask.

He refused to cut his wages without an explanation and from that moment he simply didn’t play again, yet he keeps receiving his salary every month and will end up leaving the club in the same manner as the ones mentioned above. Is this a good policy? Ozil is the club’s asset, that must be potentialized, even if he’s to be sold or at least to help obtain good results on the pitch where he clearly makes the difference.

So for Arsenal’s board members, it seems that the solution is in cutting the “small fish” wages, dismissing them, including the ones that allowed the club to identify and sign talented players for a low or reasonable amount of money.  Who had no fault in the club not being capable of keeping them or renewing their contracts. This is a great example of bad politics and it can not all be justified by having an empty stadium.

It seems that the pandemic only affected north London, and one club, Arsenal!

More at www.hub-soccer.com/blog2

Nuno Milheiro is an experienced Soccer Scout with previous experiences as FC Porto youth teams scout, he was also the Head of Scouting and Co-founder at Athleads and FC Felgueiras 1932 Chief scout. He is currently International Scout for the German Club SpVgg Greuther Fürth and Head of Commercial Operations & Partnerships at Soccer HUB!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *