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.



1 thought on “No Leadership, No Direction – The Biggest Problem at Arsenal

  1. John

    Thanks for a good article! This is spot on. Emery was not the main problem at Arsenal as many angry and destructive Arsenalfans think. The lack of leadership in the team is the main problem. And a board that has more competence of banking then football. The teamplayers hiding behind Emery was rather a proof of the lack of responsability and leadership. The fans also should take more responsability and start acting as fans. Not like freaks in meltdown. Support is as important as ever. Again, spot on! Keep it coming!



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