Whether it’s Marc Overmars or someone else, Arsenal need a Director of Football to catch up with the competition.
The Director of Football model is one that’s popular on the continent but has been slowly and reluctantly embraced by English football. Resistance to the idea of anyone other than the manager having control of transfers still exists, but you’ll struggle to find a top club anywhere that doesn’t have a specialist in place to help the manager in the transfer market.
That Arsenal are still without one is not surprising given Arsene Wenger’s fierce opposition, but the time has come to seriously consider their options. The Frenchman is reluctant to divide his powers at all, but for the sake of greater efficiency he needs to. The days a manager can coach, take charge of the team, negotiate and scout all at once are long over.
Wenger’s main misunderstanding about the role is that it will take all transfer power away from him. That’s one version of the model, but a more popular set-up is a partnership between the manager and the director. The manager can still communicate what type of player he wants and needs for his team, but rather than him spending hours a day trying to find those players, the Director of Football does so instead.
A competent person in the role can have players identified and signed within a short space of time. Efficiency is the main benefit. Wenger has signed some excellent players during his time at the club, but his methodology in the transfer market has become a hindrance. We’ve all heard the lines about struggling to find the right player and the complaints about transfer prices whenever our business enters it’s annual sluggish phase.
Transfers at Arsenal feel like a summer-time exclusive, as Wenger is often occupied by other responsibilities. At other clubs, they’re a year-round thing, as they have specialist staff in place to identify targets, make contacts and lay the groundwork for quick deals. This is how the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea manage to be so efficient in the market.
This would apply to player sales and contracts too. Arsenal had a horrific time during the summer offloading unwanted players, while the issues with extending contracts have been well-documented. Whereas other clubs can always find buyers and rarely find themselves held to ransom by players in the last year of their deal, Arsenal encounter these problems every summer. That’s not a coincidence.
The Director of Football wouldn’t be the panacea to all of Arsenal’s problems, but long-term it’d do the club a lot of good. Wenger will not be around forever, and expecting a new manager to define the transfer policy has proven to be a risky way of doing things for many clubs. In theory, a Director of Football ensures that’s Arsenal’s transfer policy is consistent no matter who’s in charge.
It is, though, dependent on who gets the role. Marc Overmars has been touted for the role at Arsenal. While an ex-playing returning to take up such an important position is a romantic story, Arsenal need the best person for the job. Overmars’ time at Ajax suggests he’s not that man, given their own struggles in the transfer market and the criticism he’s come under for being too frugal. In today’s bloated market, frugality is the last thing Arsenal need.
If the rumours are true, though, it at least shows Arsenal are looking. That’s the first forward step. The next is bringing one in and giving him the power to make necessary changes at the club.