Dick Law reveals Arsene Wenger’s actual job

Dick Law confirmed Arsenal’s management structure during a conference on Sports Management in Brazil.

The conference was hosted by the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) on 8 May.

Dick Law, Arsenal's DoF?
Dick Law’s presentation photo at a Sports Management conference hosted by Brazil Football Confederation (CBF), 8 May.

Law’s presentation was followed by related talks by David Dein and Edu Gaspar, who is currently Director of Football at Corinthians. Each of their segments were simulcast live, but may be seen on their YouTube channel [Dick Law’s presentation can be found between 1:02 and 1:30 in the video].

During the discussion, Law described his role as working with the CFO and contracting staff to help the CEO [Ivan Gazidis] and the manager [Arsene Wenger] to specifically perform squad planning, contract negotiations, negotiations with agents, executes player transfers, and coordination with the academy.

Most of this we already knew, although it was unclear what level of squad planning was actually provided, other than through long-term player acquisition.

Law also described the role of Director of Football as seen under several management structures used by Manchester City and Southampton, as well as in general at other clubs within the Barclay’s Premier League.

Here, the responsibility for Director of Football literally ranges from everything football-related; to leading player development, technical direction, and being in charge of the first team manager; to recruiting (but not scouting), player contracts, analytics, transfer negotiations, logistics (e.g., kits, travel, immigration), medical team, and strength and conditioning.

Interestingly enough, Law was described at the conference as Arsenal’s Director of Football, despite Arsene Wenger vehemently rejecting the entire premise of the position. Law certainly shares some of those duties, as described.

Arsenal functional organisation chart
Arsenal’s functional organisation, as presented by Dick Law, 8 May.

He went on to describe Arsene Wenger’s role as having total day-to-day control of the football department, as well as being a non-voting Board Member. In particular, the Arsenal manager is in charge of logistics, first team coaches, strength and conditioning, medical team, scouting, analytics, and team psychology – all in addition to his primary focus: the first team itself.

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Law related this this level of control was similar to that of Sir Alex Ferguson whilst manager at Manchester United. This is not only an exceptional amount of power, but carries an overwhelming amount of responsibility for a modern football club.

Traditional management philosophy constantly examines a modern organisation’s structure with respect to how many things a manager actually manages before he can no longer be successful. Typically, that number is between 5 and 7 sub-organisations. Naturally that depends upon the size of each sub-block.

In stark contrast, Wenger is dealing with 8 and only if you count the first team as a whole. We’ve already seen that he deals with everyone individually on the first team to the point where the role of Team Captain is merely a formality.

It is clear that some restructuring is necessary if Arsenal are to be successful. In doing that, perhaps it is time that Wenger relinquish responsibilities such as scouting, recruitment, long-term squad planning, and analytics to a true Director of Football.

This is not to mention the overall club budget and profitability that was never mentioned in the discussion. In fact, there was no mention of where the responsibility to manage club finances resided.

By organising in this way, Wenger can stay technically in charge of day-to-day squad planning and filling needs by requesting specific player talents and qualifications to a Director of Football’s equivalent of a Human Resources department. They can in turn provide him with candidates that he can interview and select as he chooses, as any manager in most companies do.

This would finally free the manager up to do the things the fans expect him to do… like focusing on winning the next match.