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Arsenal Audit Final Edition – Goodbye Arsènal and au revoir Arsenal FC

By Neil A. Fry, Arsenal Audit

Part Two: Operational support teams and recruitment

“I learned more in four months under [in Italy, manager] Spalletti than in 10 years in England. He puts a lot of importance on playing the ball to feet. One day we trained for over 45 minutes just on goal kicks. ... I really get on with goalkeeping coach Nanni too, as he is a great professional and I never get bored.”
Wojciech Szczesny, during his successful loan period at Roma

Boro Primorac – “Widely respected within the sport”?

Since Ivan Gazidis’s ‘catalyst for change’ fans’ forum comment and de facto absentee owner Kroenke’s reprieve, Monsieur Wenger appears to have left no doubt who remains in control of the Club. The coaching team were given two year contracts to mirror their boss’s. Arsenal Audit has had serious concerns over the stagnant and little changing coaching team, and the nature of their input, ever since the first Arsenal Audit in 2011, and similarly recruitment. Yet, away from Monsieur Wenger’s side of the operation and with analytics, there have been some positive changes as the Club modernises the rest of its operation.

Monsieur Wenger’s coaching team

Club stalwart Steve Bould, now 54, moved from the youth academy, where he was coach since 2001, to replace the retired Pat Rice in 2012, who even preceded Monsieur Wenger. The only fruits of Bould’s youth labour to feature last season was squad player Kieron Gibbs (see also part one). Defensively, it is pre-Christmas 2012 since the former centre-back left a significant mark and there were many suggestions, over a long period of time, that his role was curtailed by Monsieur Wenger. With his serving of a 4-match touchline ban for verbally abusing and man-handling the fourth official, despite the correct penalty award, Bould showed no appetite for any hands on match role on the touchline in the poor League defeats to Watford, at home, and Chelsea and a difficult win against eventually relegated Hull City. Arsenal Audit is unsure of the nature of his current input and unaware of any other club’s interest in his services. Boro Primorac, now 62, is a former (1976 – 1982, 14 caps) Yugoslavian international centre-back who briefly managed Cannes, Valenciennes and Guinea Bissau, between 1990 – 1994, before becoming Monsieur Wenger’s assistant at Nagoya Grampus, prior to re-joining his boss at Arsenal in 1997. Said by Arsenal.com to have a “shrewd eye and comprehensive technical understanding of the game [which] are widely respected within the sport”, Arsenal Audit has been unable to find the sources of such respect and is unaware of any other club’s interest in his services. Neil Banfield, now 61, “a well-regarded player himself” according to Arsenal.com made 31 appearances for Leyton Orient, at his peak, in the old Third Division, between 1983 - 1985. He joined Arsenal in 1997 and coached the youth and reserve teams before being promoted to first team coach in 2012. Arsenal Audit is unsure of the nature of his current input and unaware of any other club’s interest in his services. Gerry Peyton, now 61, made nearly 550 appearances for Fulham and Bournemouth, at his peak, in the old Second and Third Divisions, between 1997 – 1991. He also won 33 caps for the Republic of Ireland. Previously goalkeeping coach at minnows Vissel Kobe and Jubilo Iwata in Japan, AIK Solna, in Sweden; he joined Arsenal in the role in 2003. Subsequently, he oversaw the ‘development’ of Manuel Alumia, Lukas Fabianski and Wojciech Szczesny; before Monsieur decided to sign the fully developed Petr Cech. Arsenal Audit is unaware of any other club’s interest in his services. Szczesny, contemplating his future, said of his time at Arsenal “The one thing I want to do is make sure I don’t stay still … I was quite still for five years – sometimes I played better, sometimes worse, sometimes phenomenal, sometimes rubbish.” He subsequently signed for six successive times Serie A winners and twice in 3 years Champions League Finalists Juventus and certainly hasn’t stood still anymore. It is not the link up with Max Allegri Arsenal Audit had hoped for.

In contrast, key main key rivals Manchester United (under Ferguson) and Chelsea regularly welcomed fresh talent and new ideas to their coaching and management ranks. A number of members of Ferguson’s coaching team subsequently moved to prominent positions elsewhere – such as Brian Kidd, Steve McClaren, Carlos Queiroz and Rene Meulensteen. Last season, former Chelsea assistant manager Paul Clement thrived at relegation threatened Swansea and made such an impact after arriving on 3 January that he was nominated for Premier League Manager of the Season.

Remarkably, despite Peyton being awarded a new contract, the highly combustible Invincibles goalkeeper Jens Lehmann has joined the general coaching staff. A rare and very welcome influx of fresh blood, it is difficult to imagine how he will fit in to the prevailing culture of quiet obsequiousness.

The Arsenal medical team

Arsenal’s medical team became similarly stagnant over a number of years. In the Arsenal Audit of the seasons from 2004 - 2012, it was noted that significant injury absence had been evident since 2008 and that Arsenal had some of the worst injury rates in the Premier League and lagged far behind then Champions Manchester City in its commitment to sports science. Colin Lewin joined Arsenal in 1995, and has been head of the medical department, since his cousin Gary left to join England in 2008. Fitness coach Tony Colbert joined in 1998 and Club doctor Gary O’Driscoll joined in 2009. Arsenal’s medical team has recently been significantly modernised. Between 2011 and 2014, three physiotherapists and three masseurs have been recruited. Shad Forsythe joined Arsenal in July 2014 as the new head of athletic performance enhancement, a soft tissue therapist joined in summer 2015, and fitness expert Darren Burgess joined in June as head of high performance. This week one of the largest cryotherapy installations in the U.K. was announced at Arsenal.

Last season there was a clear improvement. Arsenal were 15th in the Premier League last season in all injuries with 71, well over the League average 57.5; but Sunderland, West Ham and Liverpool were in the 80s (85, 82 & 81). Much more encouraging was that, despite the relatively high incidence of injuries, Arsenal were equal 7th with Manchester City (and Stoke) in terms of injuries lasting just 14 days or more and under the League average (25.7 days).

The Arsenal analytics team

Against all prevailing trends in the game post-Mourhino’s early career, Monsieur Wenger had been philosophically indisposed to considering the opposition’s individual and team game after the pragmatic FA Cup win on penalties against Manchester United in 2005. Nevertheless, Arsenal bought StatDNA in December 2012 for £2.65m – an acquisition which Ivan Gazidis believed would provide critical analytic insights in match preparation, post-match analysis, tactical insights and scouting. Initially, Monsieur Wenger seemed sceptical and stressed the importance of human (his) judgement and evidence of its implementation appeared scarce. With Arsenal in another crisis period, the players appear to have asked for the pre-match analysis of the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses and a bespoke match plan ahead of the tactically astute and disciplined win at Manchester City in January 2015. StatDNA was not credited. Nevertheless, Arsenal have expanded their analytical team. Ben Knapper, recruited before StatDNA, now provides video and statistical analysis relating to team performance, opposition analysis and player recruitment. Mark Curtis became a First Team Analyst in summer 2015 and undertakes pre-match opposition scouting and post-match analysis. A year later Sam Hayball, Football Analyst Assistant also moved over to the first team where he now undertakes training analysis, alongside supporting the pre- and post-match processes.

Nevertheless, Arsenal still had their worst season since Project Youth started and StatDNA’s role in scouting was decidedly mixed regarding last season’s additions (see part one). Mesut Özil’s suggestion that there was a clear and credible game plan focussing on opposition weaknesses ahead of the second 5 – 1 capitulation against Bayern Munich suggests that the human element remains as important as Monsieur Wenger has suggested. However, perhaps he is the problem rather than the solution he thinks.

Monsieur Wenger’s recruitment

For the season before last Monsieur Wenger was the only manager in Europe’s top 5 leagues not to bring in a single outfield player. Last season only Xhaka was bought early and as he gradually established himself, it became increasingly apparent that he was not a genuine defensive midfield player (albeit having significant virtues if they were properly harnessed in a balanced midfield ‘2’). Since Invicible Gilberto left over nine years ago, that position - apart from internal convert Francis Coquelin - still remains vacant. Perez was signed late after another embarrassingly fruitless big money centre-forward pursuit, the unlikely Wenger target Jamie Vardy, failed. Mustafi was eventually purchased late, at an apparently increased fee, following Per Mertesacker’s long term injury pre-season. To put last season’s long awaited dip into Arsenal’s massive cash reserves into perspective, Manchester United matched it with just one of their signings (Pogba).

For this season, the strong and versatile left-sided defensive player Sead Kolasinac was signed early, on a free transfer. Arsenal’s new record signing Alexandre Lacazette was signed just in time for the start of pre-season matches. If he lives up to his prolific record for hometown club Lyon in Ligue 1, Arsenal may finally have a top-quality replacement for Robin van Persie who left Arsenal five years ago. That Olivier Giroud is usually preferred for France may be more to do with their system and available players. A top-quality goalkeeper was absent for nearly seven years until Petr Čech’s arrival, no longer the No. 1 at Chelsea. Arsenal supporters have been bemoaning the crucial absence of a top quality defensive midfield player and centre forward for over a combined 14 years – and still counting over the former.

Very much in the North London way, Tottenham have railed against the inflated market, sold Walker and bought no one and, so far, Arsenal have exceeded Liverpool in total spending on their two players bought in similar positions (Salah, forward £36m. and Solanke, left-back £7.65 m.). Elsewhere, Monsieur Wenger has, once again, failed to keep pace with key rivals – including even Everton and Monsieur Wenger’s frequent nemesis Ronald Koeman. Director of football Steve Walsh (formerly Champions Leicester City’s chief scout / assistant manager) has helped his new club undergo a major overhaul of last season’s 7th placed team. Almost £100m has been spent on six immediate additions (Pickford, Klaassen, Keane, Rooney, Ramirez, Martina) and the protracted pursuit of the £50m-rated of Gylfi Sigurdsson appears to be finally coming to fruition too. Chelsea have spent nearly £120m on a centre forward (Morata, £55m.), defensive midfielder (Bakayoko, £34m.) and centre-back (Rüdiger, £30m.). So far, Manchester United have mirrored Chelsea’s positional spending and around £140m going on Lukaku (£72m), Matic (£38m) and Lindelöf (£30m). The previous season, close to £150m was spent on Pogba, Mkhitaryan and Bailly. Manchester City have upstaged them all with Pep Guardiola spending nearly £200m on five players so far, including three full backs (Walker, Mendy and Danilo) and a goalkeeper (Ederson). Just in case they didn’t have enough forwards already, around £43m. also went on Bernardo Silva. Last season they acquired Sané, Stones, Gabriel Jesus, Nolito, Gündogan and Bravo for around £160 m when the market was less inflated.

As Monsieur Wenger persists with his enduring counter-intuitive faith in his failing players, Arsenal’s traditionally huge cash reserves continue to gather interest and keep Arsenal top of the one table ever-suffering loyal supporters did not want.

New sources:

Not embouldened:
http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/premier-league/arsenal-assistant-steve-bould-furious-over-reports-of-rift-with-arsene-wenger-8412825.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/premier-league/arsenal-coaches-have-reservations-about-arsene-wengers-defensive-tactics-whilst-steve-bould-has-been-9853382.html

High performance and injuries:
https://www.standard.co.uk/sport/football/new-fitness-guru-darren-burgess-puts-arsenal-through-their-paces-as-ozil-and-kolasinac-return-for-a3579776.html

http://www.physioroom.com/info/english-premier-league-injury-analysis-201617-season/

http://www.pressat.co.uk/releases/arsenal-fc-become-latest-premier-league-club-to-install-cryoaction-whole-body-cryotherapy-chamber-193c3f7ab87db706f36ddd477c199489/

Stat 10 - 2:
https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/apr/16/mesut-ozil-arsenal-bayern-munich-champions-league

Recruitment:
https://www.transfermarkt.co.uk

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/40722879

https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2017/aug/04/premier-league-2017-18-preview-liverpool

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/aug/03/premier-league-2017-18-preview-everton

https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2017/aug/05/premier-league-2017-18-preview-city-united-chelsea-tottenham

https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2017/aug/07/premier-league-2017-18-preview-manchester-united

https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2017/aug/07/premier-league-2017-18-preview-manchester-city

11th August 2017 14:59:58

(5.3/10)

Comments and Reaction

User comments on this article are now closed. If you want to continue the debate, why not do so on the Gooner Forum.

Leesmith  17:09pm 11th Aug 2017

Things need to improve within the back stage team - they are no where near the standard we need them to be. Peyton and the medical / reconditioning team need to be let go. - Post No. 108899


Badarse  17:41pm 11th Aug 2017

jj tucked one leg of his trackie bottoms into his ninth tear sock, all the tears had been made by the bike's chain. He was determined, 'I shall go to the ball.' he said out loud, but in a filosophical manner, filo, the new ingredient he was using for his winkle pizzas. He had suffered since his rebuff by Ron whom he counted as his staunchest ally, still on and up as he said when he put his mac on and his brolly up. 'I shall attend but not partake.' he said to himself in his firmest voice. 'I think therefore I yam!' he announced to the sleeping cat on the sideboard. He had no idea how an exotic root vegetable could think but with his logic he reasoned that a Yam must be food for thought and that was good enough for him. Tucking a slice of winkle pizza into his waistband he mounted his trusty steed; unfortunately he'd got a flat tyre. 'Mending this puncture will serve as a punishment for my servility to the WOR.', he announced. Then he began pedalling to the phone box. An old lady espied him and shrugged, 'There goes another dope pedlar.' - Post No. 108901


Badarse  18:10pm 11th Aug 2017

SKG tucked his '71 shirt into his trousers, and carefully rolled up his Daily Express before putting it in his back pocket. 'Thank goodness the values of the Express are still valid, albeit only in the newspaper-ah, those were the days. He had a plan for the evening, he would go and stand beside number seven on the King's Road and take a selfie. He would have to do it discreetly as he didn't want to bring down the wrath of the WOR who despised selfies. He gave a very real sigh as he passed the aerial photo of Highbury hanging on his hallway wall. He stopped and transferred a kiss from his fingertips to the framed photo as he left for the phone box. Anyone could feel his pain, and that includes his sadness over Highbury's end. - Post No. 108902


Badarse  18:43pm 11th Aug 2017

Bard opened the coffin lid to the sound of 'Carousel', he had augmented the music box idea, and knew that a minion just pirouetting nearby was all that was missing. He took his fangs from the glass by a vault and placed them into his mouth. He was eager for an appearance tonight, he knew they expected the Dark Lord to attend otherwise the WOR could fall apart. He slicked back his 'widow's peak' sucking a hanging spider into his mouth as he did so. He stood at the crypt doorway, and said, 'Time for the Dark Lord to go to bat!' Then he flew over the rooftops on his way to the phone box. - Post No. 108903


Badarse  19:19pm 11th Aug 2017

jeff wright tightened the knots on his new union jack hankie and positioned it squarely on his head. He disguised the square shape of his pate in case he was mistaken for a certain nationality that he opposed in the extreme. His little moustache more salt and pepper now bristled at the indignation he felt. Run off by an Eggman and the AKB, still Bard had defended him. He straightened the tram lines on his woolly socks and admired his polished sandals. As the only remaining member of the sock and sandal society he had an image to preserve. His khaki shorts flapped in the breeze as he opened his street door. They would regret their behaviour he opined. 'I shall not enter the phone box this evening. I shall stand apart with arms crossed in my humble sublimation, looking the other way. MayDUP is a reality, and so am I. I shall prove to all assembled that I can definitely think outside the box.' - Post No. 108904


Badarse  19:38pm 11th Aug 2017

TOOAW set his Witchfinder's General's hat on his head. There was as twinkle in his eye. He would lay some ghosts tonight. westlower's two horses pulled his coach towards the phone box. He anticipated with glee the likely slaughter. - Post No. 108905


Badarse  19:50pm 11th Aug 2017

Just to set the record straight so that the Mark of Nark doesn't attempt to rewrite history with claims of flouncing and spitting of dummies, I offer this. Make of it what you will. I actually love the Gooner and saw it ailing. I would hate for it to go under and had little to offer apart from a general support. I noted that it basically survives with the herd-or mob-setting about any positive spin. GoonerRon apart, and he usually floated in and out of radar range, there was no one to use as a whipping boy. I saw each turn on another; AKB attacked jeff wright, Eggman ever keen to kick someone when down joined in a two-pronged attack. Bard chewed up Akb who melted away in shame. Then jj took umbrage at Ron's rebuke. jj went, jeff wright went, the WOR were attacking each other. I came back with a simple ploy to agitate and annoy, I think I succeeded, the season is here, Online Gooner can run comfortably through the year without me as a target. Enjoy the season gentlemen. This has been a Scrambled Egg Production, by Al Bumen & Y.Oaks. OK missed my deadline but in time to welcome Lacazette scoring. 1-0 to the Arsenal as I leave you. Good old Arsenal. - Post No. 108906


mbg  21:48pm 11th Aug 2017

Obviously Primrose not allowed to do his job or he's just as useless as wenger, nothings changed (not that we expected it to) same old crap can't defend scraped a win. wenger out. - Post No. 108908


TOOAW  22:38pm 11th Aug 2017

Lots of bitching and buggering on here this week resulting in a fantastic win for the Arsenal. Exeter ? Your comments will be glanced over. Nothing more. Badarse..... I may just have a little more Jameson's in my coffee this evening. You ok for the library effect on here for the next few days. Got to love em all eh. AND LEICESTER. - Post No. 108909


TOOAW  23:36pm 11th Aug 2017

The bearded man with the coat and hat sat next to me had very little to say. MBG...... you ok?!?!? - Post No. 108911


mbg  23:47pm 11th Aug 2017

I see Primrose is carrying out his duties well and to the letter (and didn't it show) modelling the new balls. We want wenger out. - Post No. 108912


Exiled gooner in Pt  8:19am 12th Aug 2017

Same old lack of defending at corners, same old ball giving away in the wrong places, only difference is we might have a better goal poacher! As usual still need another central defender still need a defensive midfielder! Lucky it was Leicester and not a top 6 team !! Deja vu Wenger out !!!! - Post No. 108913


John F  8:26am 12th Aug 2017

One thing is for sure Arsenal our going to be entertaining to watch this season,very good going forward especially with the addition of Lacazette and Giroud on form but with a past if goalkeeper and what seems to be poor defensive coaching.Excuses will be made that it was a makeshift defence but there is no excuses for bunching in the area like a under 11 football team.Cech failed to do his job and organise his defence,he has a better view of what's going on.It was obvious in the first half that the defending was a shambles.Bellerin was poor and the Ox is being played on the wrong side but at half time no changes made.When the penny did finally drop with Wenger the team looked in better shape.I do like the look of kolasinac and when played in his right position could become a bit of a cult hero.The Ox when he played on the right was excellent and I do hope Chelsea do not get him.Yesterdays match just highlighted what Neil posted and why we will not challenge this year,poor defensive coaching,blind loyalty to some players and coaches and not buying a proper defensive midfielder again.Its going to be a roller coaster season with us giving out some thrashings but receiving them as well. - Post No. 108914


Alsace  9:27am 12th Aug 2017

Facts Facts Facts Mr Fry, and with sources as well. Where is you faith? Some of our supporters live on pure faith, and those who worship at the cult of wenger temple outside the great one's block of flats in Totteridge were rewarded last night. Whilst I enjoyed the 3-2 loss into 4-3 win as much as the next man, the game exposed what you have given factual support to. We are doomed to make the same errors ad infinitum under this regime. Progress is made only very slowly and in the teeth of opposition. The problem is that we are stuck with this manager forever. Our only real hope is that one day Kroenke wakes up (from a dream in which the blood dripping from his hunting smock is fresh and big cat flavoured) and realises that Wenger has lost $100 million of his money by letting Sanchez go on a Bosman next year). I'm looking forward to (verbal) hunting season being opened against Wenger this year. It will prove much more entertaining than the football. - Post No. 108915


KC38  12:54pm 12th Aug 2017

3 goals conceded, while we enjoy the win it's the same old same old defensive sh1t that destroys any hope what so ever. We won great, but wengers lack of defensive nous and his reluctance to buy defensive midfielders with mobility is beyond understanding, a man that cannot buy a top drawer centre back that is commanding in the air is shocking. Yes we are great offensively but shocking defensively so that balance will ensure mediocrity. - Post No. 108916


Seven Kings Gooner1  13:04pm 12th Aug 2017

The first two minutes were very enjoyable, I have not seen a more crafty header like that, since the days of Denis Law. I am not say Lacazette reminds me of Denis Law, it was though, the kind of goal that great forwards score and I loved it. The rest of the game was as to be expected and it had a clear honesty about it that was to be admired. The honesty in question is that Arsenal now, in Wenger's autumn years, are not even considering wasting their time defending, it's boring, complicated and means players working hard without the ball - now where's the fun in that? - Post No. 108917


Moscowgooner  13:20pm 12th Aug 2017

SKG1 That was indeed a Law-like flick - standing like a statue and then a quick turn of the head: 1-0. Is that the quickest ever league debut goal for Arsenal? Can't think of any quicker in my time watching. Otherwise: very little altered since last season's opener. And I suspect a similar league finish: 5th. - Post No. 108920


mbg  14:26pm 12th Aug 2017

Exiled gooner, yes, until TOF thinks he knows best and starts playing him out of position or some other role and ruins him, it's only a matter of time. wenger out. - Post No. 108922


Issue #266 - Out Now!

Gooner Editorial

20th August 2017

Jese’s Giants

Online Ed – Arsenal lose at Stoke again