Trevor Steven: Arsene Wenger doesn't want one at Arsenal, but what does a director of football do and are they a good thing?

Trevor Steven
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AFC Bournemouth v Chelsea - Premier League
Michael Emenalo has helped Chelsea make a success of the director of football model (Source: Getty)

Arsene Wenger revived an age-old debate on Tuesday when he dismissed out of hand suggestions that the club might hire a director of football to work alongside him.

The Arsenal manager is not the first leading Premier League boss to reject the idea. It doesn’t work for Wenger and it didn’t Sir Alex Ferguson because they need freedom to make decisions and don’t want boundaries being pressed, never mind crossed.

In England, the more successful and therefore powerful the manager, the less chance it has of working. After all, if you have that track record behind you, why would you bring someone else in?

Read more: Trevor Steven: What it means to lose the dressing room

Directors of football are seen as the eyes and ears of the owner, a spy in the dressing room, and an undermining presence.

Coaches overseas are used to being in a weaker position, but here managers are accustomed to operating without interference.

Less successful English clubs might try it, but the bigger ones prefer not to blur the lines.

Chelsea buck the trend

The one glaring exception is Chelsea, who have enjoyed great success since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003 and are on course to win the Premier League again in the coming days.

The difference at Stamford Bridge is that the manager’s position is weaker. Michael Emenalo has provided continuity in his six years as technical director, but in that time he has worked with seven different head coaches.

Arsenal v Manchester United - Premier League
Wenger has made clear his distaste for the prospect of working with a director of football (Source: Getty)

It also helps that all of the managers hired by Abramovich have come from the continent, and so are familiar with that role.

As Premier League club owners increasingly look to foreign managers, the system is only likely to become more popular.

What should a director of football do?

But what purpose should a director of football serve? The may be politician, information gatherer and a commercial influence but the reality is that the role differs from club to club.

To function in England, I think they should primarily dig for, assess and then deliver information to the manager to ensure the club aren’t lagging behind their rivals.

They might also ensure a flow of young players to the senior squad, and have a role in recruitment, although clubs already have armies of scouts for that.

Most importantly of all, there must be clear lines drawn regarding who is responsible for what. If those conditions are met then, with managers today facing a greater workload than ever, I think it is the way forward.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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