No Leadership, No Direction – The Biggest Problem at Arsenal

And just when you thought we could not get any lower, we go and lose at home to Brighton.

Arsenal sit 10th, 10 points off of top 4. Now below Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham. 4 wins from the opening 15 games. On course to barely get 50 points.

Our last win was at home to Vitoria in the Europa League back in October; and that was through a last minute winner. Our last win in the league was on October 4th; a 1-0 victory over Bournemouth.

Defeat to Brighton made it 7 games with out a win. Let’s not try and fool ourselves. Arsenal are in full blown crisis mode. We are bad. Very, very bad.

Arsenal are without a manager, without a win in 2 months and without a plan to move forward.

The biggest problem at the club is lack of leadership from the top down.

With have Stan Kroenke, the owner.

“Silent Stan” as he is known. He is very much a hands-off owner. Employing experts to run the club. It is no different to how owners operate across the business world. The importance is getting in the right CEO or MD. Experts in their field and not interfering in the way they run the business.

The problem is when that CEO or MD is underperforming, the owner needs to act to remove and replace. An argument can be made that during the early 2010s, Kroenke was motivated more by the profit that the club was making rather than on-pitch performances. This allowed Ian Gazidis to remain in a job. Whilst commercial revenue rose, the team was on a downward curve.

Leadership below Kroenke also needs to be questioned.

Between Kroenke and Gazidis’s replacement (Raul Sanllehi), we have a Board of Directors whose job it is to hold those in charge of the day-to-day running of the club to account. To ensure things are running smoothly.

Chairman Sir Chips Keswick, Ken Friar, Lord Harris of Peckham and Josh Kroenke. What do they actually do?

Below them we have Raul Sanllehi, Edu and Vinai Venkatesham, all playing different senior roles at the club.

Venkatesham gets away with any criticism as he is focused on the commercial side of the club. As for Sanllehi and Edu, they need to be given the benefit of the doubt.

Both men have only recently been appointed into their positions at the club.

Sanllehi was appointed Head of Football following Gazidis’s departure in September, whilst Edu only joined in July.

Whilst they can be immune from criticism for a lot of what has happened at the club over the last decade, both now need to step up as leaders and move the club forward.

Arsenal are currently without a full time manager or head coach. Freddie Ljungberg has been appointed in the interim, but a week after Unai Emery’s departure we have yet to appoint a replacement.

The club literally do not have a leader on the training ground, on the touchline.

A huge problem at the club is the lack of leaders on the pitch.

We have gone from Adams, Seaman, Keown, Wright, Bergkamp to Vieira, Henry, Campbell, Cole and Lehmann to Ozil, Aubameyang, Xhaka, Lacazette and Bellerin.

I have never known an Arsenal team to lack leadership as much on the field as this current squad of players.

They lack brains, they lack tactical knowledge and they spend more time blaming each other than taking responsibility for their own performances.

A team with a weak manager can still be a success if there is leadership on the pitch. We saw this when Chelsea won the Champions League with Roberto Di Matteo as manager.

Di Matteo might have been the manager to take Chelsea to the top of Europe, but it was the leadership of John Terry, Frank Lampard, Petr Cech, Didier Drogba and Ashley Cole that ran the team. Strong characters.

In 2007 the England rugby team was in a similar situation.

Head Coach Brian Ashton was clearly out of his depth taking the side to the World Cup as reigning champions. Instead of hiding behind the coach, senior players like Lawrence Dallaglio, Jonny Wilkinson, Mike Catt, Phil Vickery and Martin Corry stood up and took control. They drove England to the final where they eventually lost to South Africa.

When you look at this squad of Arsenal players, who is standing up, holding their colleagues to account? Ensuring that they put in a shift? Making on field tactical changes? There is no one.

Over the summer Arsenal lost Laurent Koscielny & Aaron Ramsey.

Ramsey joined the club in 2008, Koscielny in 2010. Regardless of your opinion of eithers ability, both were good leaders on and off the pitch.

We also lost senior players in Nacho Monreal and Petr Cech. Again, both senior players and in Cech’s case, someone who has won everything domestically in football. When someone like Cech talks, you listen.

The 4 of them had amassed 1,112 appearances for Arsenal and played 2,186 for various clubs through England, Wales, Spain, France and Czech Republic. 33 senior trophies between them and 257 caps for country.

We also got rid of Stephan Lichtsteiner after one season.

Say what you like about his performances on the pitch, he was a no-nonsense character off it. 601 appearances for club, 105 appearances for country. 16 trophies.

To lose 4 long term players in Ramsey, Koscielny, Cech and Monreal plus the leadership of Lichtsteiner has created a massive issue at the team.

Those who were expected to step up in their place – Xhaka, Aubameyang, Lacazette, Bellerin and Ozil are let the club down in terms of leadership.

We have Xhaka having a go at the fans, swearing at them, throwing his shirt on the floor and refusing to apologise. His behaviour ended up seeing him stripped off the armband.

Lacazette and Ozil got into a blazing row against Brighton; blaming each other. Not the behaviour of leaders. Neither have performed this season, neither has shown leadership.

As for Aubameyang, he is clearly a much loved player by his team mates and fans. He was the natural choice to replace Xhaka, but he is not exactly a natural leader – he is more a Thierry Henry than a Patrick Vieira.

I will defend Hector Bellerin as he has been injured and in the game he was captain, he showed leadership.

But even beyond these players, the rest of the squad has failed to step up, failed to take responsibility.

David Luiz, Sokratis, Saed Kolasinac, Shkodran Mustafi. These are also senior players who should be stepping up, but they seem to be cowering away, letting others take responsibility and blame.

It is the lack of leaders on the pitch which is Arsenal’s biggest problem.

Not enough players want to stand up and be counted. Too many are unwilling to take responsibility.

For too long players hid behind Arsene Wenger (or he protected them?). They then let Emery take the brunt of the fans anger whilst they continued to put in sub-par performances. In the couple of games under Freddie Ljungberg, non have stepped out to help out the interim manager.

In Rob Holding, Kieran Tierney, Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi and Nicholas Pepe we have some good players around a similar age. But they need leadership and guidance from their more senior team mates. That is simply not happening at the moment.

The club is broken. The lack of leadership from Kroenke at the top, through the board, coaching and players is destroying everything that George Graham and Arsene Wenger built over the last 3 decades.

My fear is that even if we get a new manager in, it does not change the lack of leadership above and below. The new man will face the same problems as Emery.

The lack of leadership within the club has to be addressed, starting at the top with Kroenke who needs to show leadership by getting rid of those on the board who do not contribute and replacing them with younger, hungrier Arsenal men.

The board in turn needs to show leadership by applying pressure to Sanllehi and Edu to get the new manager in.

Over the next two transfer windows, Sanllehi and Edu need to show leadership. They need to show the door to the senior players who are failing to step up – the likes of Ozil, Xhaka, Sokratis and Mustafi. They should also look closely as to whether Lacazette and Aubameyang deserve new contracts and back the manager if he decides to remove both from the leadership team.

They then need to look at a players leadership capabilities when recruiting.

It would make more sense to sign Samuel Umtiti or Daniele Rugani ahead of Dayot Upamecano (although a case could be made for Upamecano and Rugani to come in replacing Sokratis, Luiz and Mustafi).

Likewise Dominik Szoboszlai might be a talented youngster, but he would not solve the lack of leadership in the centre of the park. A move for Ruben Neves who captains his Porto in the Champions League would be a sensible option.

As with the defence, there would be space for to buy both Szoboszlai and Neves if and when Xhaka leaves.

The new manager then needs to show leadership by implementing consistent tactics and formation and making it clear and obvious to every player what he expects.

Then we come down to the players. They either need to take responsibility for their performances or be sold.

Arsenal will continue to struggle until the leadership problem is sorted.


Match Report: Arsenal 1 – 2 Brighton

Arsenal (0) 1 Brighton and Hove Albion (1) 2
Premier League
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Thursday, 5th December 2019. Kick-off time: 8.15pm

(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Hector Bellerin, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, David Luiz, Sead Kolašinac; Granit Xhaka, Lucas Torreira; Joe Willock, Mesut Özil, Alexandre Lacazette; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Kieran Tierney, Nicolas Pépé, Calum Chambers, Reiss Nelson, Emiliano Martínez, Mattéo Guendouzi, Gabriel Martinelli.
Scorers: Alexandre Lacazette (50 mins)
Yellow Cards: Hector Bellerin, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, David Luiz.
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 48%
Referee: Graham Scott
Attendance: circa 40,000

Football history is being made this week, in the guise of a new football carrier, namely Amazon Prime Video, which is why we have the crazy kick-off time of 8.15pm on a Thursday night; is this yet another glimpse of the future? We’ll see. However, we have far more important fish to fry here at The Emirates; it is important beyond mere words to win this match against Brighton and Hove Albion, as we desperately need to pull ourselves together and start winning, as the alternative is far too dark to consider.

Well, it all started off fairly competitive enough, as it always seems to do with this version of Arsenal, irrespective of opponents; but soon enough, the usual frailties came to the fore. Despite both Alexandre Lacazette and David Luiz coming reasonably close to opening the scoring with their efforts, it was the visitors that impressed with their accurate passing, thus pressing our midfielders into submission. Brighton were so efficient in their work here at The Emirates, that it would be fairly accurate to say that we had trouble actually getting out of our own half for large periods of the first forty-five minutes. Bernd Leno, as we have seen in recent matches, is undoubtedly becoming the saviour of us all; but even he, with all his magnificent acrobatic saves, found himself picking the ball out of his own net after Adam Webster put the visitors ahead after some kind of ridiculous muddle in the Arsenal penalty area with nine minutes left on the clock before the end of the first half. After conceding such a ridiculous goal, we were simply playing catch up in various areas of the pitch, with almost no pockets of resistance becoming visible at all.

However, at last, at the beginning of the second half, Nicolas Pépé was brought on to replace the ineffective Joe Willock, and the stadium became excited as to see exactly what our record signing could do. For the next ten minutes, we did actually look quite impressive, which led to Alexandre Lacazette equalising the scores with a header from a Mesut Özil corner; but within a short while, we reverted to type, sadly. Despite both Kieran Tierney and Gabriel Martinelli being introduced to the play by Freddie Ljungberg (at the expense of both Sead Kolašinac and Alexandre Lacazette) we still managed to look ordinary. David Luiz did score after sixty-three minutes, but it was cancelled out by a VAR decision; it made no impact after all anyway, as Neil Maupay scored the winner with ten minutes left of the match with a glancing header from an Aaron Mooy cross. Although the play in the last few minutes was seen out in the Brighton half, it was basically, too little, too late again.

And so, Black December continues. This is now relegation form, pure and simple as that. No responsibility on the pitch, no responsibility from the Board of Directors, and in the middle of it all, a stranded Arsenal legend who is desperately trying to stitch together a winning side from this desperate group of players, who quite frankly, are just not good enough to wear the Arsenal shirt. This squad of players has literally just fallen to pieces in front of our very eyes, and are an embarrassment to everyone associated with the club. We hear rumours of who the new manager may well be, but realistically, just who would want to try and sort this mess out? We are in complete freefall, and unless a manager with backbone and purpose is appointed soon, then I fear for the immediate future of Arsenal Football Club.

Remember everyone, keep the faith. Our next match: West Ham United at London Stadium on Monday, 9th December at 8.00pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.


Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.

Arsenal Book Review: ‘We’ve Only Got One Song’

‘We’ve Only Got One Song’ by Mark Andrews and Matthew Bazell (A book review from John Williamson)

Singing songs and chanting on the terraces of any given football ground is as old as the game itself; it’s surprising that, as far as I’m aware, no book has been written previously on this subject. In this day and age, there is a lot of speculation and controversy as to why atmospheres at most football grounds has been diluted which includes all seater stadiums, political correctness and in my opinion, the lack of the imagination of the chants themselves.

Arsenal fans, Mark Andrews and Matthew Bazell, along with the help of some of their Gooners friends have written a book dedicated to the terrace songs and chants of Arsenal Football Club that have been sung at home and away stadiums including ditties from the early days of the Clubs formation to the present, meaning that even though many of those covered are no longer heard, over 425 songs will remain with us forever.

The book contains not only the words to the songs themselves, but also the tune as well as the story behind each song where possible, which results in a well written and researched book that contains not only the popular songs but also those that in this day and age are deemed as controversial.

When I started going to football in the late 1960s, nearly every player had their own song, even those who were less popular, each one was sung during the warm up, with the players acknowledging the Arsenal faithful. Today, this rarely happens, fans have some for their favourite players but most are generic songs where the tunes are taken from other clubs chants.

As well as covering these songs, the book looks at chants mocking other teams and portraying football violence which was rife during the 1970s and 80s. In modern day football, a lot more chants are becoming anti Arsenal, as any fan knows, there have been chants against managers which have caused fractions amongst fans and of course those against the owner of the Club.

There is also a chapter dedicated to our ‘friends’ from N17, Middlesex which are in the main, related to their lack of trophies. Whilst there are no anti-Semitic chants in the book, it does cover this subject on as to why certain words or phases were used in the past and are no longer.

While most of these songs will never hear ‘the light of day’ again, its has to be noted that big cup ties and European matches away from home where the Arsenal following appears to be older, a few of the past songs can still be heard including two of my favourites; ‘She Wore a Yellow Ribbon’ and B’Jesus said Paddy’

My hope for this book is that well as us older fans reminiscing the past, it will provide inspiration for those younger fans who are making their mark on the Club, hopefully a few old songs will be heard once again on the ‘terraces’………

‘We’ve Only Got One Song’ by Mark Andrews and Matthew Bazell can be bought here.