Published originally in the Gooner Fanzine.
In any form of democratic hierarchy, the process of replacing the person who sits atop the pyramid is a ritual of sorts. If it was a political framework, then the Prime Minister / President is sworn in by voting from the citizens of the country. If it is a monarchy, then the crown is destined to sit on the head of the person who is on the nearest branch of the family tree.
Whilst the rules may vary somewhat dependant on the setting, it is a serene and traditional means of seamlessly transferring power.
Football could really do with taking a leaf from this book.
Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal since 1996, is nearing the end of his mammoth tenure at the club. Transforming the Gunners from faded London club to a prosperous outfit with genuine promise, Wenger has overseen the chrysalis and hazardous early years since Arsenal first moved into the new stadium.
There was an Arsenal before Arsene and there will be after he is long gone, but it is undeniable he is responsible for dragging our club to where we now are, and that is expectant of success each season. His own achievements have ultimately been his downfall, as he now seems unable to muster what is fundamentally required.
Wenger is now on borrowed time, and a future when he is not at the helm is a tangible prospect. How does a club decide who comes in and attempts to take the reins which have been in the hands of one person for so long?
The routines of the club behind the scenes and the setup is now like a well used car. The floormats and driver’s seat have indentations from the same driver. The steering wheel has lost several layers in two positions. The car still runs, but will it respond kindly to another person in the hotseat?
It must, or the scrapheap beckons.
So, how does Arsenal choose who takes the wheel next?
A lot has been made of Arsene choosing his own successor. Let’s face it, whether you support him or not, there are few who know the club as well as Wenger does, so surely he is best positioned to decide who is best for the role? He also knows football inside out, so he would have the best idea for who manages Arsenal?
What of the Board? In nearly all instances, the distinguished members of each club’s Boardroom are the ones who hold sway over the comings and goings. They may or may not be footballing men, but they more often than not are well schooled in one thing – and that is business.
Football has changed inexorably in the last decade, and clubs have distanced themselves from the community-based outfits of yore. They now deal in multi-billion pound growth charts, and each arm of the club needs to be a well-oiled machine in order to maximise opportunity and stay one step ahead of the pack.
If democracy was truly utilised, then the fans would have a voice that would be heard. We are after all the blood of the club, and without us, then the sport would die. So we should be able to put forward our suggestions, no?
Well, anyone who is privy to social media can well attest to a large percentage of fans not actually knowing a whole lot about football. For every supporter who grasps common sense and just wants what is best for our club, there are always others who would bring in Jose Mourinho if given half a chance.
No, all the parts of the equation are incorrect so far. Arsene Wenger should not be able to have the decision on who replaces him. The Board are not truly schooled enough to decide who is the best man for the job, and us supporters are a fractious bunch at the best of times.
So who decides?
How about an Arsenal Thinktank of sorts? Luminaries from all generations of the club who have served our club with distinction and want what is best for Arsenal? Men and women who are steeped in our ways and who know the current layout of the sport in general?
People like Tony Adams, Alan Smith, Frank McLintock, Lady Nina Bracewell Smith, Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp, David Seaman and the other members of The Back5, Liam Brady, Charlie George, George Graham, Bob Wilson, Kelly Smith.
People of this ilk care deeply for the club like us fans. They also know football very well, like Arsene Wenger. They also are well versed in the art of business as they all have different plates spinning in their lives. Soreally, they represent all parts of the equation.
They could really help the Board make an informed decision. Arsene Wenger deserves to be able to make a suggestion, and it should be listened to. But the decision is too big to be made by one man.
The future of our club rests on the next few years. Let us make sure we look to our proud history and the men and women who made us when we have to make the choice.