Monday 18 December 2017

Back seat bosses want control but no responsibility

Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo
Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo

I have yet to hear anyone argue with the fundamental football principle that buying and picking the right players is by far the most important element of management.

Last week, standing against the tide of back seat management washing over England, Arsene Wenger asked the obvious question: "what do directors of football do?".

It's all about control and there are different versions operating in the Premier League.

At Anfield, they have a committee. At Spurs, Daniel Levy. Chelsea have Michael Emenalo and at Old Trafford, they have Ed Woodward.

All do the same thing. They meddle and they scheme to make their own position more secure and quite often, the decisions they take will be actively against the wishes of the manager.

I read several stories recently claiming that Marc Overmars would take up a director of football role at Arsenal with Wenger's agreement.

It hinted at desperation but given the hole Wenger was in and my belief that he is so obsessed that he would do anything to hang on, it rang true.

But it was spin, put out there to test the water. Last week, he rubbished the idea so we know that this was floated by the Board and he wasn't consulted or dissented if he was.

That's the kind of things directors do. It is a deeply cynical and cowardly thing to propose the very appointment that is guaranteed to be met with the most stubborn refusal by Wenger.

His way was good enough for two decades and if they think he is past it, they should just sack him. But directors don't like to take that sort of heat upon themselves.

Another example of the insidious influence a Director of Football can have is at Chelsea when Antonio Conte is celebrating a great title win.

Chelsea have been praised by all as the model team this season and yet a few days before they wrapped up the title, I saw reports about Romelu Lukaku on his way back to Stamford Bridge at the same time speculation emerged in Italy about Conte and Inter Milan.

This was a three-way conversation acted out in the media. Emenalo wants Lukaku, Conte wants control so he let Abramovich know that he has other options in Italy.

Conte is no mug. He knows what he's up against and while it might seem ridiculous that the manager of the year is engaged in what amounts to politics, this is what happens when you insert a third party into the process of running a football team.

The argument thrown back at me because I am so trenchantly for the principle of total management control is that they have directors of football at Real Madrid and Barcelona and look how well they do.

Someone has to win every league each season but it doesn't mean they have the right model and Chelsea prove the point.

From the moment Jose Mourinho arrived at Stamford Bridge, the possibility was there to dominate football in a the same way Alex Ferguson had driven Manchester United to the top and kept them there.

Chelsea were a huge threat to United's dominance but Abramovich blew the advantage his willingness to spend large amounts of his own money on players gained by ignoring the management model used by the club he wanted to overtake.

Hire the manager, give him a budget, leave him alone. Simple.

But he interfered, sacked Mourinho and the chance for greatness was gone.

Sure, Conte claimed Chelsea's third title in three seasons at West Brom a week ago but if they had done it right, that could have been three in a row.

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