For the first time in 22 years, the Premier League doesn’t have Arsene Wenger nor Alex Ferguson at the helms of their respective clubs, Arsenal and Manchester United, and it’s quite fair to say that both giant clubs have fallen in recent years.
For Manchester United, losing Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill seemed to be the starting point of their gradual decline off the top of English football. Since his retirement in 2013, Manchester United have appointed 3 managers, David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal and currently Jose Mourinho. One man whose presence is being felt now more than ever, is former chief executive David Gill, who left Manchester United for the FA when Alex Ferguson was planning his retirement.
During David Gills tenure (2003-2013), he over saw a smooth transition of club ownership to the Glazer family, which should not be underestimated, with Newcastle and Mike Ashley being a case in point. David Gill, most importantly, pursued and sealed transfers for Alex Ferguson. In his ten year tenure, the club secured the services of many United Legends, including Wayne Rooney, Nemanja Vidić, Michael Carrick, and Cristiano Ronaldo. In this time, Manchester United won 6 Premier League titles, 1 FA Cup, 3 League Cups, and 1 Champions League.
Similarly, when David Dein was vice chairman at Arsenal between 1983 and 2007, the club thrived. David Dein was a man willing to take risks, but most importantly he understood the game, knew a special talent and cared for the Arsenal. He brought in Dennis Bergkamp, even though he wasn’t doing well in Inter Milan. He famously boldly appointed Arsene Wenger in 1996, and the rest is history. He became Arsene Wenger’s main man, with Wenger revealing that Dein’s departure was his biggest regret at his 22year time at the club. The club were quick to buy their talents, ruthless in fact. Helped Wenger, master mind the move to the Emirates, which has proved to be harder than people thought after seeing Tottenham and Chelsea’s struggles for building a new stadium. During his time, we won 5 League Titles, 5 FA Cups and 2 League Cups.
Since then, Arsenal have only won 3 FA Cups, and have let some big name players leave including Clichy, Sagna, Fabregas, Nasri, Van Persie while also screwing up many transfers including the infamous Luis Suarez bid. Contracts negotiations are also being poorly managed and run, with talks beginning to close to the end of the contract. Ivan Gazidis hasn’t been able to connect as well as Dein had with Wenger, but could anyone ever had. Sure, they had a stadium debt to pay off, but even after the stadium had been paid off, the pattern resumed. While at United, they replaced Gill with Ed Woodward, formerly in charge of commercial and media operations, and it hasn’t been pretty either. They’ve brought players who have flopped (Di Maria, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Schneiderlin, Falcao and Depay), and created a wage structure imbalance when bringing in Sanchez.
Now credit is deserved to Woodward when it comes to Manchester United’s commercial revenue as it has been increasing rapidly over the last few years.As of January 2018, they are the richest club in the world for a second year running.
May be this is the problem. Manchester United replaced a man who knew football, with a man who knows commerce. Football has evolved so much more than being a sport, it is a booming industry with sky high television rights, sponsor ship deals and transfer of players. Paris Saint Germains new collaboration with Air Jordan recently is a good example of the evolution of football. There is so much more now than just transfers of players, and with this evolution of football, Manchester United and Arsenal fell behind with the modernisation of a club’s structure because of Alex Fergusons and Arsene Wengers longevity. This two men, revolutionised their clubs, for so long they were in charge and called all the shots, they made it look easy. Now we see, maybe it isn’t as easy as we thought.
When Arsenal fans wanted change, we were told ‘watch out what you wish for’ with Manchester United being exhibit A that life will get harder without Wenger, as it did for United without Ferguson. But Ivan Gazidis did one thing right during his time at Arsenal. He prepared, and realized the huge role that Wenger played at Arsenal.
Before Wenger left, he appointed key men to work behind the scenes. Sven Mislintat, as head of recruitment from Borussia Dortmund, Raul Sanllehi, as Head of football relations from Barcelona and Huss Fahmy as contract negotiator from Team Sky, and more recently, a man who will have a bigger voice at Arsenal, Vinai Venkatesham former chief commercial officer, will work with Raul as managing director. What is key here, is that all these men have experience at top clubs around Europe and are successful, as well as knowing their football. We have experts in recruitment, contract negotiations and people who know how to run a modern club in place to bring the back towards glory days, and so far, the club has been improving.
This summer, we did our business early, and addressed problems such as the defence by getting a new goal keeper, new defenders, and a defensive midfielder. We secured contracts for key players such as Xhaka and Iwobi, as well as young talents, Nketiah, Smith Rowe and Nelson. We are getting smart with our transfers, by getting short term fixes, to fix the problems in the short term, by getting more senior players who are leaders, as well as young players like Guendouzi and Torreira. We have seen new commercial deals including our first sleeve sponsor, as well as securing a new contract for the stadiums naming rights as well as getting Adidas to supply our new kits. More importantly, we got a coach good for us in Unai Emery, who has improved our squad massively. It is still early days, and he still hasn’t got his team yet, but with what he has, he has done well. We didn’t rush into getting a replacement, we did a thorough search, and stuck with our principles in terms of the way football should be played.
Compare this to Manchester United, and they still haven’t addressed the roles Ferguson left at the club. They have had three managers since Ferguson left. They don’t seem to have a football minded person in their board to help them with transfers etc. with cries of a director of football from the Mancs increasing every week. Arsenal did learn something from United failures, and finally Gazidis did something that will affect the club positively in the long run.