Jack Wilshere: Loss of 'proper Arsenal people' has hurt Gunners

Wilshere was with the Gunners for 17 years

Wilshere was with the Gunners for 17 years

JACK WILSHERE says the loss of “proper Arsenal people” from the staff at the North London club has hurt performances over the last few seasons.

The midfielder, who now plays for Bournemouth, joined the Gunners in 2001 at the age of nine and was with them for 17 years before joining West Ham.

When asked about the struggles at Arsenal since the departure of their legendary manager Arsene Wenger, Wilshere told Talksport: “One thing I will say is, from when I was there, there are a lot of people who are not there any more. In my eyes they were proper Arsenal people who had been there for us.

“I’m not just talking about the obvious, like Arsene Wenger, I’m talking physios, staff around the place, who know what it means, who know what the fans want and can relay that to the people in charge.”

In the aftermath of Wenger’s exit at the end of 2017/18, there was a cull of long-serving backroom staff as chief executive Ivan Gazidis sought a new direction. The departures included:

  • Colin Lewin (Head of Medical) who had been with the club for 23 years.
  • Paul Johnson (kit man) 36 years.
  • Tony Colbert (fitness coach) 20 years.
  • Neil Banfield (first-team coach) 21 years.
  • Gerry Payton (goalkeeper coach) 15 years.

The problem was that Gazidis then moved on, to AC Milan in September 2017, and so did some of the department heads he had appointed. Head of Recruitment Sven Mislintat exited after 14 months in February 2019, Head of Performance Darren Burgess left after two years in July 2019, and Head of Football Relations Raul Sanllehi went after two-and-a-half years in August 2020.

This meant that a lot of the staff who had been brought in after Wenger also went, as did the overall direction, structure and strategy instigated by Gazidis. For example, the medical department has undergone wholesale change once again, with physios Chris Morgan, Tim Parham and Paulo Barreira, who had been brought in to replace Lewin, Ben Ashworth, Andrew Rolls and James Haycock, all departing.

Now the Gunners are in another new phase, which you might call Arsenal 3.0, with Vinai Venkatesham as chief executive, Edu as Technical Director and Mikel Arteta as manager. Richard Garlick will join from the Premier League as Director of Football Operations at the end of the season.

As Wilshere acknowledged, one area in which the club have excelled is in the transition of players from Academy to first team, with Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe having become key members of Mikel Arteta's side this season.

“One thing they can’t criticise is the Academy and the young players,” Wilshere said. “When you come through you really really care and want to do well for the club. That’s your life. They are top top young players who are going to go on and have top careers.”

Arsenal are fourth in the Premier League this season for club-trained players, meaning those who have been with them for at least three seasons between the ages of 15 and 21, behind only Brighton, Manchester United and Chelsea.

Up to May 5th, 20.1% of Arsenal’s minutes had gone to club-trained players, according to the CIES Football Observatory.

Meanwhile, they have the fifth youngest team in the Premier League this season, behind only Aston Villa, Fulham, Manchester United and Brighton, with an average starting line-up age of 26.4 to May 5th.

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