Date: 4th November 2012 at 9:12am
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Plato’s quote ‘The wise man speaks when he has something to say. The fool speaks because he has to say something’ is often repeated but I sense there’s a piece missing which might be ‘The football pundit speaks when he can say something worth paying for.’

Media turns on controversy and if it doesn’t exist it needs to be created. The art of picking a piece from a lengthy interview and offering it out of context to enhance the controversy is well established and still pretty effective until that context is understood if only by those bothered or interested enough to seek the original source. The more straightforward method is simply to make a controversial statement or proposition. That’s standard fare for presenters on ‘phone-in programs on stations such as talkSport. A controversial proposition is mandatory to get indignant protesters ringing in. The more controversial the greater the response. That`s how they gain their audience and earn their money.

Similarly football pundits willing to proffer less balanced and more controversial opinions or ‘inside’ information no matter how dubious the provenance are eagerly sought. I wonder whether, noting the rewards pundits like Stan Collymore have enjoyed, that was the motivation behind Stewart Robson’s recent revelation of a conflict between Wenger, Bould and Brady. Attributing the tale to anonymous sources at the club Bould was apparently appointed by Brady not Wenger, and Bould is now not talking to Wenger because his role is the same as the one Pat Rice filled. The silence must be deafening as Robson also claims that Wenger isn’t talking to Brady because he appointed the troublesome Bould.

I suppose the story could be true but if Wenger is really as dictatorial as Robson suggests then he would hardly have allowed Brady to make an appointment that mattered to any great degree. At the same time if Bould knew the job specification, as he must surely have done, and wasn’t happy with it then why would he have taken the job? He must have known beforehand what the extent of his influence over the team would be and presumably accepted it.

The story was intended to support Robson`s assertion Wenger ‘doesn’t have a defensive brain’, ( a curious claim about a manager who during his time at Arsenal has recorded some notable defensive stats) and Bould was being deprived of exerting more influence over our defensive play. Given that recent performances have been notable for uncharacteristically anaemic attacking play with fewer chances created than we’re accustomed to seeing (against ManU we only managed any shots on target when down to 10 men and a couple of goals down) then perhaps Steve’s influence is still too great. A case of more boldness needed than more Bould if that is the case.

Whatever the merits of the story, in football management, as in many other forms of management, democracy can only go so far. Listening to opinions and taking on board those of others is necessary and eminently sensible in any managerial role but ultimately, unless you can pass any failing further up or down the chain of command, dictatorship can’t be avoided if firm decisions are to be made and responsibility for them taken.

How many people can you have running a football team? RvP apparently wanted Wenger to sign the players he liked but should he also, for example, sign the players Arshavin, Sagna, Arteta or any other senior player wants? If so it would add enormously to the costs of retaining a player, and one who also wants to manage the team at that. Seemingly RvP also wanted Wenger to recruit Rice’s replacement externally fearing that internal placements were ‘yes’ men which would seem to contradict or at least limit Robson’s potential for much truth of a major fall out in the backroom.

Opinions should be heard but it is impossible to satisfy all opinion. A football manager can and should allow his beliefs to be informed by others but ultimately he must act on his own and accept full responsibility for any of his decisions that affect success or failure. Those others without that ultimate responsibility but believing their views should take precedence should either seek a position that allows that, if they’re brave enough to do so, or accept that though their influence is limited so is their responsibility for failure. Bould was credited for a solid defensive performance at the beginning of the season but apparently not for any failings since then despite being in sole charge of the team in the game against Schalke.
The concept of dictatorship in football isn’t new. It’s an accusation sometimes levelled at Ferguson and other successful managers while some less successful managers will often cite the failure to allow them full responsibility as a reason for lack of success.

Maybe Brian Clough’s take on the issue, insisting that he would always sit down with those who disagreed with him and discuss their views for twenty minutes before deciding that he was right is still the best one.