Wednesday, December 8, 2021

The team above the teams

Morning all.

There’s a very interesting interview on the official site with Richard Garlick, the club’s recently appointed Director of Football operations. He joined earlier this year, adding another layer to the executive team, and his initial work was direct involvement with the summer transfer window:

During that time, I was acting as the pivot between the legal and financial teams, and the football side of the club. It was about taking the agreed plan and putting it into practice.

And his part in that became more important as the deals headed towards completion, his background as a practising law-talking-guy playing a significant role:

Typically, as the transfer deals progress further, that’s when my involvement grows. We get to the point where we have contracts ready to sign, that have been agreed by the board, the finance department and the legal department. Then they are presented to the player and his agent to complete the signing.

His remit goes beyond that though, helping Mikel Arteta, Edu, and the first team staff with any football related issues – from medical to logistical and more. He also has ‘executive oversight’ on Arsenal Women, working with Claire Wheatley in that regard, and he’s involved in Academy operations too. It’s quite a wide-ranging job, the interview is well worth a read, and it’s quite interesting to consider how things have changed so much since Arsene Wenger departed.

It’s not that he didn’t have people around him to do various things, and it sounds a bit like Richard Garlick has taken up some of the work done by former Head of Football Raul Sanllehi, but also recently departed club secretary David Miles who had been at Arsenal for many years. However, the days of the MANAGER being the man in charge of everything are long gone. There’s just too much going on with clubs being as big as they are, with everything seemingly more complex and complicated than ever when it comes to player contracts, agents, transfers, and all the rest – not to mention the intensity of the work that goes into training and preparing the football team itself.

A club has its team on the pitch, and its many other teams at youth level, the Women’s team and all the rest, but you have to have an executive team too. And like any team, it can take some time to find the right blend. This is more or less our third attempt since Arsene left. The initial triumvirate of Ivan Gazidis, Sanllehi and Sven Mislintat didn’t last long. Then Sanllehi’s departure left gaps, filled by Edu, Tim Lewis and Richard Garlick, and we can see that there has been greater involvement from Josh Kroenke too.

Whether this one will be the successful one remains to be seen. Right now, it seems like there’s an interesting blend of people and experience – including Per Mertesacker as the Academy manager, and Vinai Venkatesham as Chief Executive – and the age profiles are pretty similar. Ranging from late 30s to early/mid 40s. It’s a young group in many ways, and we’ll obviously have to see how it all works out.

I remember during the summer talking to Tim Stillman on the Arsecast, and asking him if the way the club dealt with the departure of the hugely popular Joe Montemurro has manager of Arsenal Women might give us some idea of how this executive team operates. So far, you have to say the signs are promising. New manager Jonas Eidevall has had an incredible start to his Arsenal career, and the recruitment has been very impressive.

When it comes to the first team, obviously there are still things we need to be convinced of, but for the first time in a very long time we saw a definite strategy when it came to our incoming business. It was almost as if people sat down, learned from some of the mistakes of the past, and decided to do things differently. Again, it’s early days, but there have been encouraging signs there too.

It is a very difficult thing to quantify, but there is clearly a link between how good you are at executive level and how good your team is. Liverpool are a great example of that in recent years, and while its easy to dismiss the success of Chelsea and Man City as a simple consequence of their money and resources, they have very smart people in charge and have done for years. That plays a big part. On the flip side, you have Man Utd who are massively wealthy but they have been run by a man who looks like a tiny thumb, and it’s now heading towards five years since they won a major trophy and it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen this season either. Let’s be honest, people laugh at them in a way they never did before.

So, for the current Arsenal team to achieve what we want it to achieve on the pitch, this other team – which makes big decisions about every aspect of what this club does and will do – has to be good too. I like the introduction of Richard Garlick, who has plenty of football experience from his time at West Brom and with the Premier League, and he sounds like a smart guy from the interview. But we can only wait and see how it all pans out. Like the playing team, there will be tests along the way, challenges and adversity, and it’ll be fascinating to see how they cope and how long they stay together.

Mikel Arteta’s pre-Newcastle press conference takes place this morning, so we’ll have all the stories over on Arseblog News. For now, let’s leave it there, back tomorrow with more on the blog and a brand new Arsecast too.

Take it easy.

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