Arsenal have found a way to bring the mood down again with the announcement of redundancies: will that make other clubs think twice about such cuts?
“Four days ago everything seemed rosy, and supporters are getting a bit tired of the assumption that there’s nothing quite like Arsenal for tripping over their own feet when there’s good news on the horizon.”
It’s tough to quibble with Daniel Storey’s assessment, on The Totally Football Show, of the latest emerging from Arsenal, with the news that they are set to make 55 staff as well as a number of key figures in their scouting set-up redundant.
This apparently has not gone down well with the Arsenal players, who took a pay cut early on in lockdown, partly on the assumption that the money the club saved from that would ensure such cuts would not have to be made.
The Athletic’s Arsenal correspondent James McNicholas joined us on The Totally Football Show for a little clarification.
“They agreed to take that pay cut in April. It was a 12.5% cut at the time, that’s been cut down to 7.5% as a consequence of them qualifying for the Europa League. It wasn’t easy to get that agreement over the line: it was unprecedented at the time, they remain the first and only club to take a definitive cut to their wages rather than a deferral. Ultimately Mikel Arteta had to get involved, he made a call to the team and spoke about the importance of community, and the necessity of protecting other jobs.
“They feel misled. From Arsenal’s perspective, they say this is a fluid financial situation. What they thought in April is not necessarily true today. And it is certainly the case that if you look at all businesses across all industry, there will be restructuring and people losing jobs. I think where it rankles with sections of the Arsenal fanbase is that this is a club with a billionaire owner in Stan Kroenke and KSC with the capacity, if they were inclined, to make up the deficit.
“Many other clubs will be looking at the backlash to Arsenal’s decision and maybe thinking twice, if there’s another way they can save the few million these redundancies might save them.”
The cuts in the scouting department, when coupled with the increasing sense that their transfer policy is governed by the club’s relationship with one particularly powerful agent. Does this leave them sucking at the teat of Kia Joorabchian, as James Richardson put it?
“Most of the jobs Arsenal expect to lose are in administrative and commercial departments, but the most high-profile redundancies have been on the scouting side, principally Francis Cagigao who was the head of international scouting, been with the club for 24 years, is credited with spotting players like Hector Bellerin, Cesc Fabregas, he was involved in the pursuit of Gabriel Martinelli….more and more regional scouts who were on consultancy arrangements with Arsenal have been told their services are no longer required.
“That is not necessarily hugely unusual at the present time. We understand that a number of clubs around Europe, given the financial landscape, will be making cuts to their scouting team, but we haven’t encountered anything quite on this scale. And when you set that up alongside some of the business they have already done, with Willian who is represented by Kia Joorabchian, as is David Luiz, as is Cedric Soares…it does make you wonder how wide the pool of players available to Arsenal is.”
Of course it’s difficult to pass judgement too quickly when we don’t quite know how, if at all, the scouting/player recruitment department will be restructured. But if these cuts mean fewer traditional scouts ‘on the ground’, then it could prove problematic.
“It does seem like the scouting department was undergoing review by Edu, and he might want his people in place. Having a good scouting department with connections in many different areas is absolutely key, and Martinelli is a good example.
“He was effectively playing in the fourth tier of Brazilian football, and there isn’t really the data or analytics on [those sort of players]. He had to be discovered by scouts, on the ground, watching him play in the flesh. If Arsenal don’t have the resources to do that, it could be a big problem.”
But ultimately, the way the club have handled this has been dreadful, as Daniel Storey said:
“The thing that sticks in the throat of Arsenal supporters is that this was sold as ‘your club needs you, we’ve all got to stick together, times are hard, it’s hard for us too.’ That doesn’t really stack up when you’ve got an owner worth $8.3million and you’re also negotiating with Willian and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang over bumper contracts.”
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