Wenger on European Management Structures

Short and sharp opinion from Herbert Chapman’s worthy successor:

The great swami of the Emirates was asked what he thought of the concept of technical director, the role in which the previously obscure Comolli has apparently achieved such power at Tottenham that we are told the new manager, whether it indeed proves be Juande Ramos of Seville or a reincarnation of dear old, double-winning Bill Nicholson, simply cannot ignore him. Cannot say, for example, run along, sonny, and do a bit of paperwork or why not order some training cones?

Wenger paused, narrowed his eyes slightly and said, “My friend, the day you read that a technical director is coming to Arsenal, you will know it is the day before I leave.”

This is from James Lawton’s open letter to Daniel Levy at Spurs, and in it he confirms my feelings about the new threat to good football management in the Premier League:

You should really answer a vital question, not just for the benefit of the Tottenham fans who feel so wretched again at the familiar sight of Wenger’s Arsenal disappearing into the far distance, but also for your ability to rationalise a decision to follow in the footsteps of Chelsea’s Roman Abramovich and attempt to do something that has never been achieved before. This is to gain sustained success without handing the reins to a football man who can impose his authority on both the dressing room and the boardroom, someone who doesn’t have to watch his back – and deal with the problem of conflicting advice to the directors.

I don’t doubt for a moment that English football would benefit from certain European influences if it could see its way towards bringing them in.

But this is a specific bastardization of a European system – and, as Lawton says here, and I’ve said this week, it’s a political bastardization. A system designed to make football management workable is changed into one which is intended to make Championship Manager real.

It isn’t real, and it won’t work.

Chelsea, who started this trend, won 6-0 yesterday. Great teams can go on like that, flywheeling into a future without the boss who brought them together. Leeds United ended their first post-Revie season by reaching the European Cup Final.

Leeds went into long-term decline after that. It was, as Clough had said, an ageing side. Leeds did not have the money of a Liverpool with which to rebuild. Revie himself is rumoured to have said that continuing the success of the ’60s and ’70s was an impossibility.

Chelsea have the money, but, as things are now, do not have the structure to make it pay over another four or five years. So they won’t become another Leeds unless Abramovich bails out. The better comparison is with the Manchester United of the post-Docherty period: wealthy, entertaining, but curiously aimless and uncentred. Capable of cup runs, great European nights, possessed of some marvellous players, yet, come the end of the season, always far short of the title.

And of course, the whole point of that Manchester United era was to show that there is much more to football life than titles and European Cups: