“we didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow, we lost.”

Wait a minute, before you think that quote was in reference to the game and then you run along thinking this post is about making excuses for the loss we suffered to Watford and the many other losses we have recently suffered. The quote is from the former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop when he was announcing Nokia’s sale to Microsoft. He actually ended his speech with those words and then the entire management team of Nokia all wept publicly.

Read the phrase again  “we didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow, we lost.”

Did they? This is Nokia, a Finnish company that at one stage in their lifetime dominated the world market. Nokia at its peak in 2007 had 41% of global mobile phone market share and today, they almost no longer exist. First time I read those words by Mr. Stephen, “we didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow, we lost”, I, like his team nearly teared up, but deeper thinking and research would reveal that Nokia did a few things wrong. Firstly, they were slow to join the flip phone market when Motorola and Sony Ericsson were making inroads, then they stuck too long with the tacky Symbian OS when the IPhone had changed the look of mobile telephony.

This isn’t meant to be a business post on how not be like Nokia, but as an Arsenal fan, it is hard not to see any similarity between us Nokia and us. To start with, is there any similarity between the quote at the beginning of the post and Wenger’s post-match statements? In all fairness to Nokia, it is pretty biased to compare their success to Arsenal’s. At no point have we been as successful locally and globally as they were, but we do have something in common, our approach to change internally and even worse our approach to reacting to changes around us.

We did change, at least, we have moved grounds. Changing grounds at the time we did it and how we did remains one of the most courageous actions the club has taken, and it was the etc. are terms that come up a lot when having discussions about why Arsenal are the way they are.

With the move to the Emirates Stadium and Wenger remaining in charge, we didn’t do anything wrong so how did we lose it? With my myopic approach to football management, I think Arsenal failed to react to changes in world football with regards club ownership, club management and player acquisition and the resultant effect is what we are all seeing today.

Sometimes, in life, as much we like to keep our fancy traditions and stick to our principles of how we think everything should operate, everyone has moved on, and we must react to that change lest we fall aside. Arsenal is the only club in the world I believe that thought Financial Fair Play would work and continued to build its model around it.

I still think Stan Kroenke’s approach to ownership is ideal, leave it to football people who should know what to do, but at Arsenal can this approach work given the lack of football knowledge on our board?

Is there anyone at club responsible for on the pitch failures other than Arsene Wenger? Aside from Stan, who would rather remain silent, is there anyone who will call Wenger up tonight and ask what happened with the result against Watford and what has happened this season? To the best of my knowledge, there isn’t and I think the only time Wenger has to answer to anyone at Arsenal with regards to on-pitch performance is during the yearly Annual General Meeting, and we all know that session is a bit of a charade. If Usmanov can’t get in, what change do we expect from Fan Groups asking questions.

I believe the only reason we do not have a Director of Football at Arsenal is because Arsene Wenger is in charge. Therein lies some part of the problem. Processes cannot be built around people; processes should be built around systems that give you the best chance of success. It is not a fluke that manager after manager shows up at Bayern Munich and the club remains successful for this long.

I looked at the Bayern Munich board present and past and they have always had a healthy mix of sports and business people. A trait we are seriously lacking in our current set up and has always been since David Dein’s departure. See their current crop and make of it what you want.

S/N Name Role Experience/Background
1 KARL-HEINZ RUMMENIGGE Executive board chairman Ex-Footballer
2 JAN-CHRISTIAN DREESEN Finance, Bookkeeping, legal affairs and human resources studied business management
3 Andreas Jung


Executive Board member


 Qualified sports scientist and sports manager
4 Matthias Sammer


Executive board member


5 Jörg Wacker


Executive Board member


Prior to joining FCB, he spent seven years as director of bwin Deutschland and CEO of SportCASA GmbH. Wacker was previously managing director of Sport1 GmbH. He began his career as a sports journalist.

Source : https://www.fcbayern.de/en/club/company/members/joerg-wacker/index.php

Football as much as it is a business is primarily a sport. People come to watch a sporting activity not take lessons on how to grow a thriving business from 22 men running around and, in turn, sell a brand.

Speaking at a MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston recently, this was Silent Stan’s response to a question on what he has learnt from England.

What did I learn specifically [from England]? You learn very quickly what that brand means,” said Kroenke.

“We have a gentleman who comes to Arsenal games, he flies his helicopter from South Africa, Cape Town to London quite often [to watch Arsenal]. It’s just an example of what a brand can mean, and what we can do in sports.

“We’re all working on that and that’s the big opportunity. Michael Jordan showed it – you can get paid a whole lot more if you can extend your brand. Manchester United showed it. They established benchmarks that people had thought heretofore unattainable, but their brand extension made people want to pay for it.”

All these years in English football, one would think Stan’s response would be about the crazy football culture in England, the passion and near cult followership fans have with their football clubs. None of that. What he has learnt is what a brand means. In itself, there is nothing wrong with that but refer to his flow of thought on the fan that flies in from South Africa.

He did not refer to the fans love or passion for Arsenal, the amount of time and money he spends to follow his favourite football team, but he rather sees it from the perspective of Arsenal and the strength of the brand rather than the passion of the fan. He further explains it with Michael Jordan, no reference to his skill, but how one can get paid a lot more by extending a brand, same with Man United, not their trophies, but rather their brand as if it wasn’t primarily built on trophies.

there seems to be a lack of clear sense of collective purpose to what we want to achieve as a football team, and this permeates straight from Stan Kroenke.

My point is, is like Nokia we are either afraid of changing, deluded that we do not need to change to suit the environment around us or we just lack the internal capacity to change. Wenger might go, but if we remain the way we are, the failures will remain.


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