Lack of changes on the training ground come as no surprise, but board must show they’re serious

A report in The Times this morning says that there are to be no alterations to Arsene Wenger’s coaching staff as the current back-room crew have all been offered new deals. It has been presented as a victory for the manager who has, they say, forced the club to back down over demands that he make changes to the coaching set-up.

I know this is something that might get people’s backs up, but it’s worth asking if we’d appointed a new manager, would we have made demands on him in terms of who he decided to work on the training ground? I don’t think so. I don’t think the board are really in any position to do that, so if they have decided Wenger is the best man to manage the team – which they have – then he is entitled to appoint his own men.

There is, of course, a bit of a difference as these have been his men for so many years. The last significant changes we made to the coaching staff were in 2012 when Steve Bould was appointed as assistant manager to replace the retiring Pat Rice, and Neil Banfield was promoted the senior set-up at the same time.

It’s this group of coaches who have worked with Wenger to provide three very enjoyable FA Cups, but also season after season without a genuine challenge for the Premier League title. The idea of adding some fresh faces is not one without merit, but we know the manager is a) fiercely loyal to his staff – and I suspect after some of what’s gone on this season he’ll have been even more so, and b) disinclined towards confrontation and making difficult decisions.

In recent times there have been question marks over our goalkeeping coaching, that was certainly one area that many thought could be improved, while some of the issues on the fitness side of things were addressed with the appointment of Shad Forsythe back in 2014.

The contracts of the coaches and assistants have always been tied to that of the manager. So, if Wenger signs a two year deal, they too sign a deal of that length. It makes sense on many levels, and that’s what’s happened here. It’s not anything out of the ordinary, and I really wasn’t expecting anything to change on the coaching front anyway. There had been talk of Gerry Peyton retiring due to a hip problem, but that seems not to be the case.

As an aside, that might well be something which impacts on the future of Wojciech Szczesny. There are rumours he’s been offered a new deal by the club, but there have been issues down the years which might see him more inclined to play elsewhere if Peyton remains.

Where I do think we can properly judge the ‘catalyst for change’ is if this ‘NOT A DIRECTOR OF FOOTBALL’ position is created. We know Wenger will not work in a structure where the final decision does not rest with him. However, there is good evidence to suggest that he requires help and support from a football executive of some kind.

Someone who can help manage player contracts, renewals, coordinate with loan players (currently communication between the club and players who are sent out is basically zero, and that’s something that has to be rectified), and various other administrative responsibilities.

It’s a position that won’t impinge on the manager’s authority but will allow him to concentrate more on producing results on the pitch than worrying about things off it. It’s up to Wenger to delegate, and to trust in that person, but it’s also up to the board to show some leadership and decisiveness in making the actual appointment, because this is a person whose duties will be necessary long after Wenger goes.

Gazidis said last month after Wenger’s contract had been agreed:

We talk continually about how we can evolve and what’s happening in football. It’s constantly evolving and we need to be not only evolving with it, but we need to be ahead of it. We’re very conscious of that and we’re going to be very proactive again to improve both on and off the field in all areas.

Today’s not the day to get into the specifics of that. I think you’ll see that commitment in the months ahead and I think you’ll see that commitment coming into next year.

That’s pudding talk again. We need to see the pudding, because the proof lives inside the pudding, not the talking of the pudding. The Chief Executive is to meet fans for a traditional Q&A on June 29th, so I have no doubt he will be questioned thoroughly about the plans to follow through on all the talk that we’ve heard thus far.

Anyway, these might not be the most exciting contract renewals of the summer, but at least it’s one more small step towards finalising all the work that has to be done this off-season. There are whispers that two players have agreed new long-term deals – not Ozil and Alexis yet, sadly – which at least suggests things are moving on the playing front too. Let’s see what emerges over the next couple of weeks.

Elsewhere, an interesting story by James from Gunnerblog who was told from a fairly impeccable source that the club are planning on making Emi Martinez the number 2 goalkeeper next season. With doubts over David Ospina’s future and that of Wojciech Szczesny, there would definitely be an opening, but it’s a decision that would worry me I have to say.

I like Martinez, he’s generally done well for us, but he’s almost 25 years of age and has barely played a handful of games in his entire career. To put it in perspective, at the same age Szczesny had played a season on loan at Brentford, made 181 appearances for Arsenal and become a full international for Poland. You wonder why he hasn’t played, or had a couple of seasons on loan at a decent level. I wonder if it might be a bit of a smokescreen because this would be a massive gamble otherwise.

Right, for more on all the stuff that’s going on, including why I would keep Alexis Sanchez even if it meant losing him on a free next summer, check out this week’s Arsecast Extra. We also discuss Gnabry, Szczesny, Bellerin and Barcelona, loan players, and loads more – including James’ explanation for his horrendous fashion faux pas last weekend.

Listen below, and all the day’s news will be over on Arseblog News.

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