Graham Stack believes character and leadership are being overlooked for technical ability in modern Arsenal sides.
Speaking in his column for The Sun, Stack was full of praise for his youth coaches’ mentorship early into his football career and believes they instilled leadership onto the players. The ex-Arsenal shot-stopper says that element of the game is being lost in the modern day, however.
“I grew up in an era being coached by two of the greatest youth coaches in the country; Don Howe and Pat Rice both encouraged younger players to take on the role of the leader. It’s not a trait you can teach but you can certainly encourage.
“You don’t have to go around kicking everyone, screaming and shouting, but be controlled and disciplined with your performance. It was a sign of maturity in a young player and a test or character to see if the responsibility would be a burden or give the player more confidence.
“It is becoming clear to me that the art of leadership is underrated and overlooked for more fashionable technical players. But all great teams need a balance.”
In recent years, Arsenal have had a fair number of the more “fashionable technical players”, but are often accused of not having the leaders that other teams have. The team certainly didn’t seem controlled or disciplined trying to close out a win, or even a draw, against Watford last weekend.
Per Mertesacker should help to improve the situation with the youth teams when he takes over as academy coach, as he has already emphasised that hard work and communication – two important traits in a leader – are more important than natural talent.
However, if this isn’t reinforced when the players move into the first-team, then that work would be all for nothing. Taking responsibility is something I feel the current side should work on, as many of them are all too keen to look at their teammates when things go wrong.
Hopefully, players will start to understand the importance of reflecting on their own performances, as that tends to be the best way to improve, in my opinion.