Rodgers, Flores and now Ranieri and Why Arsenal are Better than that

I am a huge Wenger fan and will always be thankful for the football he made Arsenal play, the successes he has given us and the unparalleled loyalty he has shown to the club over the last 20+ years. If he stays another year, I will support him with the same enthusiasm as always. But getting a new manager excites me too and, I must admit, a bit more than the prospect of Arsene staying on, right now.

We have been very lucky to have had a steady, high performing manager for more than two decades now. A manager needs to fit the club’s philosophy and values and we all know that Arsene has actually shaped these himself and then stuck to them religiously. For me, really good organisations are based around a fit-like-a-glove philosophy and values. Because of these an organisation will withstand easier the hard times and flourish more during the good times. And it will also attract and then retain the best talent.

But this does require that a club stands by their manager and maintain a long term vision, rather than sack them after a spell of disappointing results. Wenger, almost single-handedly, has, through his loyalty, dedication and miracle-working during the really lean times, transported the club to the highest financial  echelon of world football. And the added, indirect contributions to the beautiful game in this country should also not be underestimated. Without Wenger football in England would be much poorer now, and in more than one sense.

Yesterday’s sacking of Ranieri is a sad day for football. It actually really puts me of football at the moment. What crazy Claudio has achieved with that club in such a short space of time is simply magnificent. He even got LC a more than acceptable result in the CL this week, with a decent prospect of making it into the last eight. Yet the club sacked him unceremoniously because they can, and they don’t care.

Like their most famous fan, Lary Gineker, I find this very shocking and most of all stupid. What a lack of vision and stamina by the board; what a lack of people management skills and PR handling! But LC do not stand on their own.

Watford’s gutless decision to not prolong the contract of the beautifully named and impressive football manager Quique Sanchez Flores, comes to mind. He had only been given a one year deal but still convinced his ex-wife and children to come and live with him in London…. Ten months later…he is told to Flores off.

And then there is the forever restless Liverpool who got rid of a manager that got them closest to the title in a very long time and made them play football that at times was better than Arsenal’s. In fact, some of the best football I have watched in recent years was when Rodgers came to the home of football with Liverpool and played us totally off the pitch for the first 45 minutes. Miraculously, they did not score though. 🙂

And of course there are many more ludicrous manager-sackings to report on.

Why do clubs not stick to these visionary and successful managers a lot longer but sack them as soon as there is a dip in performance? Where is the vision and with what sort of values do these clubs operate?

Wenger out or in is of course a big question. But whatever happens next, our class, philosophy and values of the club will be at the base of all our key management decisions, and we will see another long period of stability and sustained success, based around sexy football. It may not be another twenty-plus-years manager, though… 😉

By TotalArsenal


43 thoughts on “Rodgers, Flores and now Ranieri and Why Arsenal are Better than that

  • You feel club management who stay the course and stick to long held beliefs/philosophies that ‘it is all about the game and competition’ are a dying breed. There is a new breed of owners/managers for whom it is win or bust, and this is down to the money that’s flowed into the game, especially with the advent of sugar daddy owners, who know little about the game but still run and see things as they do their (non sports-based) companies.

    There is a new level of greed that has pervaded the game that it is hard to feel this isn’t a bubble that should, surely, burst some day soon. To be fair, a lot of academics schooled in old economic theories (Wenger included) had long awaited that burst but the increased interest in the game has defied all known expectations which rely on these theories. This I think is owing to new growth areas (Asia, USA) and the globalization of the fan base (Asia, Africa, USA, etc.) which in turn, has swelled revenues at different stakeholder points of the game thus, sustaining the “pyramid” of money spinning opportunities. Then, there is the corruption which is fuelled by the high stakes involved in the game today. As for the EPL, the massive sums being offered by the sponsors have made the league more attractive to both owners and players/agents.

    It is easy therefore, to find that teams showing signs of desperation if their sides are not keeping up or start to get relegation-threatened, will not hesitate to fire managers that are not performing optimally. There is a need to find a scapegoat which is usually the manager.

    With Arsenal, I do not know what philosophy the next manager will bring but I doubt it will be sexy football as much as effective/efficient football. Whoever comes in will have large shoes to fill and will be under some pressure from the get go. Of course, that will depend on what the owners tell him the objective is.

    My two pence.

  • TA, there is a hidden intent in yourself for us to get a new manager, but you also mentioned that the person should have the same values as the club, and not like modern managers do, which is just get the players to be involved with winning.

    I don’t think there is a famous person named Lary Ginecker. At least, not to me.

    Modern footy is about getting everyone, from the board to the whole team of players, to be thoroughly involved in what and how to make the club better.

    I know our top level decision stops at Wenger, which makes recommendations to who he wants, and if the board has enough to cough up.

    Other nitty gritties of player welfare and the such goes to Wenger and the coaches.

    If we are to be a modern winning team, the whole board have to get themselves involved in the day to day running of the whole club, and the welfare and detailed planning have to go to the board to relieve stress on Wenger, who can then be more prudent in solving the mistakes at the back that we are looking at.

    I know that I am not a insider, but somehow this should make sense if you see the amount of workload that Wenger is undertaking.

  • Really nice contextual write up TA. While I think Arsenal would benefit from replacing Wenger with a manager who is more tactically astute, has a clearer and more defined playing identity for the team and is more capable at rotating a 22-25 man squad in a systematic and structured way, ultimately I think Arsenal need to adopt an Ajax like approach to their footballing ethos.

    Ajax as a club has a defined 433 setup and style of play which is consistent throughout all of their academy sides and in the first team. That setup and style of play persists irrespective of whichever manager is in charge of the first team and all of the club’s recruitment activities are based around acquiring players with specific strengths that correspond with the particular requirements of individual positions which comprise that setup and style.

    Specifically Ajax’s 433 setup is comprised of:

    1) A physically strong but mobile centre forward, with good aerial ability and off the ball movement

    2) Two dribbling wingers on both flanks who can get to the byline, inside the opposition’s box, and cross or cut balls back as well as shoot from long range

    3) Two creative attack minded central midfielders either side of a tackling central midfielder. The two attack minded central midfielders have a tendency to shoot from long range as well as make off the ball runs into the opposition’s penalty box to provide the team with alternative goal scoring options. Conversely the tackling central midfielder tends to sit deep, spray long passes to the wingers and centre forward and occasionally shoot from long range. All three central midfielders are also responsible for working together to quickly transition the ball from defence to attack.

    4) Four defenders who are strong defensively (i.e. in terms of tackles, interceptions and aerial duals), with the left and right fullback occasionally getting forward to put crosses in for the centre forward and attack minded central midfielders to get on the end of.

    In terms of Ajax’s style of play:

    1) They attempt to stretch the play vertically to provide their front three with space to attack.

    2) Their back four and their tackling central midfielder are predominately responsible for the defence, with the two attacking minded central midfielders shuttling back to assist.

    Most significantly their setup and style of play is set by the club not one particular manager. That provides the club with a permanent identity.

    It’s an identity Arsenal are very much lacking and I don’t see that changing whilst Wenger is in charge. While Arsenal football club is indebted to Wenger for the style of play and success he cultivated in the first ten years of his tenure and his vision to move the club from Highbury to the Emirates, the last ten years of his tenure have been characterised by inconsistency both in terms of recruitment and tactics, a deficiency in squad management and a loyalty to particular players to the detriment of the team. I think the time for change has come.

  • When it comes time to replace Wenger, I would love to see Arsenal establish a footballing committee comprised of former greats to define the setup, style of play and ultimately the permanent playing identity of Arsenal. For example that committee could be comprised of the following former players, with the head coach and coaching staff also drawn those ranks:
    – Seaman
    – Dixon
    – Adams /OLeary / Graham
    – Bould
    – Winterburn
    – Ljungberg
    – Vieira
    – Petit / Parlour / Gilberto
    – Pires
    – Bergkamp
    – Henry

  • Waldo, it is interesting to see your comment about employing former greats.

    Pires is training with the team. Did his involvement make the midfield more mobile like he did in the past?

    I am not saying that they shouldn’t, just that the player-coach relationship is a mentoring role but the players are by themselves on the pitch.

    So, maybe more than going through the tactics and paces, drill them for the mentality on the field?

  • Personally I think a team’s on field mentality more so comes down to good recruitment, simplifying a player’s role and holding them accountablte for their performance rather than the mentoring influence of a manager or coach. The impact of hardened experienced players on a team’s mentality cannot be underestimated either. I always remember Vieira, Bergkamp and Henry commenting on how much influence the hard nut approach of Tony Adams, Martin Keown and Lee Dixon influenced their game and mentality.

    As for the influence of former players on the performance of Arsenal’s current squad, while Wenger is there I honestly don’t believe any of Arsenal’s coaches, outside of Wenger, fundamentally influence the team’s performance. Wenger is an undoubted control freak and appears to surround himself with yes men coaches who won’t challenge him on his footballing philosophy. Personally I think that’s why Wenger didn’t want Vieira and to some extent Henry to be part of his coaching team. They are strong characters who I suspect Wenger thinks would challenge his footballing decisions.

    And while I don’t think all former players make good coaches (and in some instances that may not want to coach), I think Arsenal need to do more to draw upon the collective on field experience of those successful former greats to shape the club’s on field setup and style of play and move away from bestowing all of that power in one individual manager.

    That’s just my opinion though and my observations as to how well that collective shaping of a club’s on field identity works at Ajax.

  • A manager should be selected with all due sense of responsibility because he has to be given free reins. That manager who has his philosophy then selects the crew that would help him attain his goals. That crew share the same philosophy and it becomes wrong to classify them as yes men. If the manager’s performance proves unsatisfactory then he is relieved of his job and a new captain engaged. Leadership detoriates to infighting when it becomes a collection of people with conflicting ideas. Wenger and his ex-players need not be necessarily compatible in their philosophies.

  • Well said, Pony eye. Reading Waldo’s thoughts on that particular sub-set of the issues he addressed (I agree with him in places), I feel some of the suggestions, while desirable, are fantasist, to put it mildly. Teamwork requires persons who are compatible and compliment one another, while not necessarily agreeing with every position of the leader, who has the responsibility to pick his ‘men’ in the first place.

    I am not sure any other Arsenal manager has allowed as much free entry and opportunities to ex-players, as Wenger has done. Most of them have come in to work for their badges, trained for fitness and even obtained roles as scouts and ambassadors. His one criticism may be staying loyal with same assistants; for instance, he’s stayed with Boro Primorac and Neil Banfield for a long time. Pat Rice, Steve Bould, Kwame Ampadu and Freddie Ljungberg are all ex players who are in the system. We know the story behind Vieira and how he made the choice to stay away. There was a sense of entitlement there, which isn’t a good thing, usually. Henry was always around the team and did get appointed on a part time basis, to work with the academy teams. When he needed his badges and had to coach full time, it was a choice between working for Sky or Arsenal. He chose Sky. What did Wenger have to do with that except honour a long held value of team work? You can’t work for/with me in the morning and against me in the afternoon. Can anyone name me another full time clubside coach who is also a full time, paid pundit? NONE! The media enjoyed the narrative they spun of some rift between the men, but recent meetings have shown there’s no bad blood between Henry and Wenger.

    Let’s have perspective on these things.

  • Hey TA, that’s a very good post, so, while I have access to a bit of internet, I think I might chime in…

    My devout interest in the team, I think, (or maybe I hope…) will end when AW leaves the club, which I believe will be this summer. I just think the pressure of each match being a referendum (a cup final–with even the Gooners or a loud portion of them against you…) is too much on this set of players. We have good depth but you can only play 14 guys in any one match. Santi out for the season hurts us. Iffy fitness for guys like Koscielny and Ramsey (Lucas, Welbeck, Theo, etc., etc…) and our top players like Alexis, Ozil and now even Bellerin (our best young player in a while) with one foot out the door–or at least making noises about testing the waters–also undermines the situation. As I’ve said before, I think results will suffer if Wenger goes…although a recalibration of expectations is probably EXACTLY what the fan base needs.

    When you talk about a style of football you reveal yourself for what you are, the rare (and getting rarer) fan of the game who actually watches the football. IMO, and I don’t mean to be too harsh here, England doesn’t have the greatest tradition of actually watching the team game where the ball moves easily between players. Muddy pitches and Ale-addled supporters are hold-overs from when the game was watched in the stadia. Now, with television, there are the Saturday 3 o’clock blackouts meaning it’s all about MOTD and radio or on-line narratives, i.e., received opinion, which is always meant to sensationalize and focus in on results. Smash and grab wins are lauded as are results that are handed one way or the other by referees who seem very subject to intimidating (usually) home crowds and personal biases if not outright corruption. Very rarely do I hear about results being undeserved based on the actual football that was played.

    So, at least as I see it, the English game is weighted quite heavily towards supporters (I’m tempted to use the quotation marks here…) who ONLY value the results or maybe the result plus a bit of individual heroism (great runs or blasted goals)… Moreover they are “slaves to the moment,” as AW puts it, living and dying with those results, not particularly interested in longer term issues at all… Values? Style? Who cares?

    Pundits actually use those terms to pummel our manager and our club. I believe Wenger is in fact quite tactically astute and the whole bit about our good-looking and/or attacking football–at least at present–is another piece of received wisdom handed down by the pundits who don’t watch us regularly. These past couple of seasons, esp. with Cazorla hurt and Alexis becoming an even more selfish player, we’ve become a much more sit and counter-attack sort of team. Ozil gets blamed but he’s about the only spacing and pass oriented player out there, to my eye at least. (Ballerin is perhaps 2nd best in these regards)… Coquelin is hardly a midfielder and, try as we might (sometimes…) we can’t really play the ball out of the back these days. Again, who cares? Route 1 is the English way and sometimes we look pretty handy on the break…

    The loudest fans certainly don’t (care that is…). Have they ever really? I only started watching in 2006 so I cannot tell you about the invincibles but my impression is that beyond the wonder of Bergkamp and Henry it was all about the ‘ardness of Vieira and the (inherited) back four and the dashing runs forward from the likes of Pires, Ljunberg (and PV) which, I’m sure, at the time, were state of the art for the English game.

    That sort of game works just fine, when results follow. Conte is awesome at Chavs this season as Rainieri was at LC last year playing even more on the counter. Tuning in for MOTD and seeing the great forward runs for goals is pretty sweet too… If it’s your team, that is. Otherwise, sack the manager and hope the next one gets ’em going (or maybe buys N’Golo Kante)… Arsenal haven’t followed that model but consistency is the very essence of boring even if the extra CL matches fatten the pocket books and bring in some ambitious players who want that extra (and non-English) spotlight.

    To conclude–and this is why I think Wenger will quit after this season–it’s that eye towards (the better football) of European football that is AW’s great disappointment. A few years back they tried to market the Brit-core but that was never Wenger’s idea (I don’t think, but what insight do I have?…) and the inability to make a successful blend of players from around the planet (and Britain) who could compete both at home and abroad–all in a self-financed, sustainable model–has been the great failure. If it had worked the good (i.e., sexy) football would have been more of a by-product. It hasn’t happened (unless you value the consistent participation in the CL–which I do…) so it’s over… Unless, of course, we run the table and win every match from here thru the FA Cup final in May. We need that cup plus a strong second place finish in the league, going out of the CL with a respectable 2nd leg vs Bayern and good wins at Pool and Spurs and vs the Manc clubs at home etc., etc., etc. Unfortunately, I see us unable to muster the necessary enthusiasm vs Klopp and Anfield, losing by another few vs Bayern and Wenger making his sad announcement in March rather than April…

    Excitement or not, I wish the next fellow good luck…

  • Watched Reiss Nelson playing for the u23 team and he looked like a good number 7. Maybe play him in the first team next season?

  • I did leave a nice long comment yesterday, but it disappeared a la Retsub.
    Not sure why?
    It wasn’t ‘that’ bad… 🙂

    I’ve not seen Nelson play 84, but he certainly seems to be highly rated, whenever I read about the Stiffs.
    Watched a bit of the Everton vs Sunderland game and young Pickford is a really good promising goalkeeper.
    Why not sign him and loan him back to Sunderland?

  • T A agree very much with your first para.
    We need a manager who can get things done. Look at Poccechino, there is a rumour that he has been so successful at getting out of Europe twice this season already, he is going to be put in charge of Brexit ( wish I could claim I made that up)

    Kevi, yes it’s happened to me a few times recently, normally when I have composed a masterpiece.

  • Yep, that was me yesterday Retsub, I thought it was an amazing post, sadly it’s gone off into another dimension. 🙂

    Yeah, the Spuds, the gift that keeps on giving… 😊

  • 17HT I have read your long note about 4 or 5 times with as always a genuine interest in trying to understand your perspective as you see things totally different to me. I am not saying there is any right or wrong answers here, but I believe the following to be true

    The invincibles were in my opinion by far the most entertaining Arsenal side I have ever seen. Yes Wenger did acquire the defence and yes he did acquire Dennis Bergkamp ( we also got David Platt who despite a few important goals I don’t remember being that great) so thank you Mr Rioch.

    I firmly believe that if the current side had the likes of Adams and Vieira in the team , we would be a far better team, who don’t roll over when the going gets tough. In my very humble opinion despite all of Wengers success , his biggest failing has been not signing the tougher players needed to thrive in the premiership.

  • The mancs were completely outplayed and only remained in it because of a combination of wayward shooting, keeper brilliance and assistant referee error. Suddenly, the Charity shield and league cup have become major trophies because United have won them. Lol.

    Retsub1, the myth about Wenger ‘acquiring’ that defence has been passed around a bit, to be fair, despite the fact it is not fact. Wenger actually signed on or nurtured every member of the invincibles backline. Remember the defenders were Lauren, Sol Campbell, Kolo Toure and Ashely Cole; all Wenger buys/products. Of course, Martin Keown also featured prominently, interchanging with Kolo a few times. Keeper was Jens Lehmann. I have seen articles make out like Wenger doesn’t coach defending, even ascribing the defensive feat of 10 clean sheets in the run up to the 2006 champions league final to the involvement of Martin Keown in the coaching department. Well, hard to know for sure but, I always believe success or failure rests with the “leader”, who in this case, is Arsene Wenger.

    Oh, to get back those days when he was young, hungry and revolutionary.

  • Goonereris

    My first reaction to your note was ” this guy doesn’t know what he is talking about”. But having checked back. Let me apologise as you are totally correct.. I put it down to old timers disease. Let me change my original statement to say. wenger acquired an already sound deference. If I remember correctly wenger sold Keown to either Villa or Everton and then bought him back again.

  • Hahaha! Retsub1. For an “old timer”, you sure are up to speed with your game though. Memory lapses happen to the best of us.


  • In Keown’s last season (2004), I remember how he grabbed Wenger by the shoulders, begging to be allowed to come on in the dying minutes of the “dead rubber” last game vs Leicester city (Arsenal having already wrapped up the title and being ahead in that game 2-1), in order to meet the minimum 10 league appearances required for his medal. Never seen any player relate to Wenger like that. He duly waited till very late in the game to bring Keown on for a medal earning cameo. Unforgettable scenes after that game.

  • Eris, I am still quite young, and I remembered that Keown tried to kill Wenger jokingly by strangling him. Not holding Wenger’s shoulders. Couldn’t erase the image from my brain.

    He is one player that I like, and he is a very hardworking player. I would have liked him to joining us as a coach, as he is good tactically and technically.

  • Jk, you are quite right. Maybe, respect for the boss couldn’t bring me to think Keown actually had his hands around Wenger’s neck, jokingly threatening to strangle him, (if he cost him an invincibles’ medal, I’ll think). It is not something you get to see often; Wenger had a smile on his face too. Lasting image

  • Hi retsub… Geez, you read my comment 4-5 times…That’s more than I did (with that one, at least) hence all the typos, etc… Nonetheless, I appreciate it and you should know that I value your comments as well as your (much) longer term perspective.

    The fascinating bit for me in watching Arsenal and English and Euro football more generally is the movement of the game from a local one, observed (or “consumed”) live in the stadia or by a local community and then discussed face to face, usually with drink in hand…Now we’re watching the game on TV and internet and discussing it in places like this. (Who knows what’s being drunk, smoked, snorted or injected…) The fights (over the discussion) may have drawn more (actual) blood in the past but they are probably even more violent these days–at least in terms of words being hurled and hard-line stances taken.

    The game has exploded and a neighborhood club like Arsenal is now a billion pound business (or is it multiple billions…depends on how you want to do the counting). AW saw it all coming and has delivered (to ownership) on all the opportunity of the situation. Has he delivered to the customers–the supporters? That’s in the eye of the beholder.

    My earlier post (if you want to read it again… 😀 ) focused on the MF and attack as that’s where I believe most of the sexy (entertaining) football takes place. Watching closely as I do, I’m well entertained by defensive play which is how you become invincible–play a season of nil-nils and you will match the historic season. Wenger–and Thierry Henry–(and maybe Fergie and Van Nistelrooy) led the way, I think, but the silly money clubs bringing in guys like Drogba (so strong to go down so easily… and maybe Torres, Suarez and Aguero) changed the reffing just a bit. Every now and then CBs like Huth and Morgan are allowed to foul enough that amazing things can happen. Letting the fouls go (and keeping the game moving) is essential to the English brand… So, yes, tough guys like Adams and Vieira are still important. My two Arsenal kits (both won in fantasy leagues… 🙂 ) are Sagna 3 and Koscielny 6… AW has recently signed the latter to an “over 30” 3 year extension (I think)… If only he’d done likewise with the former… In the time I’ve been watching, the Chavs have won titles on the backs of guys like Ivanovic and (ugh, I hate to say it…) John Terry, while Nemanja Vidic seemed like the most valuable ManU player of the late oughts… Not as sexy as the Barca teams with Messi, Eto’o and Henry (plus Xavi and Iniesta)…IMO…especially when it’s not your team doing the winning

    My point, I guess, is that “good” football can be seen in all sorts of ways but there’s a lot of luck in transforming it into results. Players must retain fitness and form and be leaders–getting their mates to play to their highest level by example or by scaring them into it (i.e., more vocally). The support can help too…Or hurt, again, in my opinion…with good results begetting a positive reinforcement cycle (i.e. more good results) and bad results doing the opposite. As I’ve said many times over, our natural position is 4th in the league. Last year we finished ahead of the two Manc teams (both richer than us) AND Chelsea but almost didn’t nose out Totts and finished a distant 2nd to LC. If they (Leicester) can sack Ranieri (instead of building a statue, renaming the stadium, etc.) woe be unto AW…

    In the end the game suffers in a completely reductive manner when all that matters are results. I’ll keep watching (and probably hope to blog with others who do likewise…) but it saddens me terrifically…

  • Thanks for the explanation 17HT. regarding your comment about all that matters is the result. that’s a difficult one. Have to be honest and say I would rather see Arsenal play badly and win than play well and lose. But I will put a proviso on that. You woud’nt want it to happen every week.

    To my mind the biggest problem with football today is money. If you had access to all 92 league clubs financial positions, I’m fairly convinced their finances would pretty much relate to their league position. Ie the 56th richest club in the country would be somewhere around 56th in the league. that is why Leicester we’re such a breath of fresh air last season and also explains why it didn’t last,

    what saddens me is the amount of cheating that goes on. Forwards are now becoming adept at kicking defenders legs and being awarded penalties. Vardey did it at the Emirates last season.

    I have always been against the use of cameras. My argument was always that if we had cameras making all the decisions, what would we talk about down the pub on a Sunday. and having listened to a bunch of idiots incl my all time Hero Monsieur Thierry Henry claim that Bellerin wasn’t could in the Chelsea game, makes my blood boil. However there are so many perceived injustices in he game these days I think we have to go down the camera route.

    Looks like Leicester are back on form… sack Wenger and put Steve Bould in Charge!!!

    Has anyone actually heard Bouldy speak?

  • the reference to Bellerin should read about him being fouled. Although some might claim assaulted.

  • Hey JK… I’m in line here at the airport but I should be able to do a preview on Friday… I hope that’s soon enough for you… Cheers for the kick up the arse, however…

  • Shame about Stephy Mavididi, serious hamstring injury needing surgery with recovery taking 14/16 weeks…
    So he’s not likely to be back until July.
    Hopefully he won’t suffer any long term reaction to the injury.

  • Haha 17ht, apparently that messsage was directed to TA, as I know that you are on vacation.
    Sure, that will be fine, and I do not wish to kick anyone up the a***. 🙂

    Mavididi is a promising player, and it will be a loss to the u23 team.
    Hopefully he will be coming back sooner as he is younger.


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