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Arsène Wenger on stage at last SiS Paris talking about football and its future.
Arsène Wenger | Key insights on success of players & managers 
Arsène Wenger
Arsène Wenger SiS

Talking about Arsène Wenger is talking about football. For 22 years he was manager at Arsenal; 1228 games, a 57.3% win, 17 trophies, including 3 Premier Leagues, 7 FA Cups and 7 Community Shields are some of his credentials apart from the formation and development of world stars like Thierry Henry, Sol Campbell, Frederik Ljunberg, Robert Pirès, Dennis Bergkamp, Cesc Fabregas, Ashley Cole, Jack Wilshere, Bellerin among others.

Mounir Zok, interviewed Arsène Wenger on stage at last SiS Paris about football and its future.

Arsène Wenger on stage at SiS Paris
Arsène Wenger on stage at SiS ParisSiS

AW – As a player whenever I get the ball I have to analyze, then decide and finally execute and perception plays a huge role in this. I worked with a university in Norway to identify how can I improve the perception. Basically, I came to the conclusion that it is about getting as many information as possible before I get the ball. I call that scanning, I try to see what happens to a player in the 10 seconds before he gets the ball, how many times does he take information and the quality of information he takes, depends on the position. What is interesting is that good players, the very good, scan 6 to 8 times in the last ten seconds before we get the ball, the normal ones 3 to 4 and we notice that is a major step for improvement…however, more important, you have to analyze the quality of its perception, decision making. My challenge is to get my players to know which the best choice is and make the optimal decision every time they get the ball. The player has to scan and decide, when he decided he has to make the best possible solution, this means, a compromise between risk and the progress of the ball.

MZ- In your experience, you bring interesting points around the quality of perception and the quality of decision-making, how do you evaluate that with your players?

AW – After the quality of execution, when we analyze some players, there are sometimes with good scanning, good perception, good decision making and bad execution, it happens more than you think… The problem in football is that you learn how to play football all the way around, first execution, then decision making and perception at last. I’ve worked with players from all over the world, from all kind of coaches, even with a team of 11 different countries. Our problem is that once a circuit it is printed in their brain and us managers, who speak to top player we find it extremely difficult to change that circuit in the brain. It’s vital not to harm the perception with young boys because they learn first the execution from 5 to 12. The ball is your friend, welcome him…and we have to make sure not to kill the perception. I have lost many top players because their head was on the ball and they were not seeing what was around them. Great players isolate from the ball, their head is like a radar.

MZ – Talking about player coach ability, whenever you get a new player and you have to evaluate how coachable they are, do you have a specific routine?

AW – I’ve tested for years young boys from 16 to 20 years old, personality profile and we tested measuring different aspects such as intensity of the motivation, quality to integrate team, sociability, desire to help, how you want to be the first but as well stamina in the motivation This last one is the most underrated . I’ve seen so many average players become very good players, who were very normal but they were ready on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and on Saturday and other many failed because they were ready on Monday, but not on Tuesday, a little bit on Wednesday and bye bye my friend. Stamina, It’s an absolutely underrated quality… in French we called it “perseverance”, tenacity, the ones who don’t gave up. Resistance to stress also takes…somewhere you have to walk in the dressing room, and make yourself notice, not many are capable of that. Personality as well takes a great part on someone successful life.

Mounir Zok and Arsène Wenger
Mounir Zok and Arsène Wenger SiS

MZ – Let’s look at you again as a manager, your work and approach has evolve…what was the role that technology played in your role?

AW - I bought a company based in LA, I’ve watch so many games and I notice that every player completely, contrary to what people think, performs nearly the same in every single game…so what I did is to create a system where we observed all the games in Europe, from Italy, England, France, Germany and Spain. 200 people working in the project quantifying the performance of every single player and the target was to know the best football players in each position and every week was reported. If the best player in Europe makes 100 passes per game and has a 90% success rate, we gave him 100% and we see how is second and third best, so in every department we have a classification of every player and his performance. It takes a huge organization and a huge dedication, as well as money but I think we had a fair assessment of every weakness and strength of every player. This research was only for my team.

MZ - If you have to project what does the manager of the future looks like, how do you vision them in 20 years at the industry?

AW - I think that the evolution in club managers will work side to side with technology…today AI replaces human being, in some aspects of the game and one important which is calculation. Every AI can calculate much stronger than a human being…there are some weaknesses also, there’s no emotions and any liberty, that means no initiative. We live in a world of quantification, and we as managers live in the middle of that. The modern manager has to be the one, which has to make the right decision by taking the right data but let’s not forget to make it very simple. Football has changed. Responsibilities among the club and the players has changed from 20 years ago related to performance. The player used to play for the football club and wanted to do well for the football club, when he didn’t perform he felt guilty and the club wanted to change him; today the club plays for the player and when the player doesn’t perform the club is guilty and everybody inside is questioned about why the player is not performing well. The responsibility has completely changed. The club has to do absolutely every single thing to help the player to perform, we manage millionaires…you have to convince them and when you accomplish that you get something back from them.

Vincent Gaillard, CEO at EPCR - European Professional Club Rugby.Google
Jeese Lovejoy at Beyond Innovation SummitBeyond Innovation Summit
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