Barcelona man set for Arsenal move

“When Ivan explained the ideas he has got for the club and the people he wants to bring in, it was impossible to turn it down.” – Raul Sanllehi.

Arsenal’s new Head of Football Relations uttered the above words at the recent Fans Forum, that was also attended by Ivan Gazidis and Mark Gonnella.

By the time Sanllehi joined the club at the beginning of February, the overhaul of the personnel within the club promised by Ivan Gazidis early in 2017 had already begun.

The appointment of Sanllehi would not have happened overnight. Working in recruitment, the process of bringing in someone of his level takes 6 months to a year. He agreed to joined Arsenal in November 2017, but due to notice periods, could not start work until February 2018.

Arsenal probably would have started initials talks with him in early 2017, around the time Gazidis mentioned that big changes were coming at Arsenal.

Whilst Sanllehi joined after new Head of Recruitment Sven Mislintat and Contracts, Legal & Commercial Expert Huss Fahmy and Director of High Performance Darren Burgess, these names would have been mooted to the former Barcelona director during the recruitment process.

What is interesting about what Sanllehi said at the Fans Forum is the tense he used .

The people he wants to bring in indicates the future, rather than the people he wanted to bring in which would indicate the past.

Now I might be looking into it too much. A man speaking live, not in his native tongue, but this would indicate changes at Arsenal are not yet finished. And putting two and two together and getting 5, I would say he is talking about a new manager in the summer.

Yesterday I discussed the two types of manager that Arsenal could look at appointing. A People Manager or a Head Coach.

Today I look at the second of those two types of manager, the Head Coach. And one name sticks out more than any other, Barcelona born Leonardo Jardim.

Monaco manager Leonardo Jardim was born in Barcelona, Venezuela. He is a man whose reputation has grown year by year, and this summer could be the time for him to take another step up to the big time.

His CV reads of a man who has been a journey of management.

Starting A.D. Camacha in Portugal as Assistant Manager at just 27, he has moved through the divisions in Portugal until he became manager of Braga – the season after Arsenal played them in the Champions League.

A move to Greece followed, where he took Olympiacos to 10 points clear at the top of the Greek League, before the side terminated his contract with immediate affect with no reason made public.

A move back to Portugal followed where he took over at Sporting Lisbon. He coached a team full of youngsters developed at the club’s youth system to second in the league – 25 points more than the previous season.

Then came the move to Monaco.

In 2014, Jardim was appointed at AS Monaco FC manager. He led the team to the third place in Ligue 1 in his first year, repeating the feat in 2015–16. In 2015 he also led Monaco to a shock victory over Arsenal in the Champions League – beating Arsenal 3-1 in Islington.

Then, in 2016/17, he led Monaco to its first Ligue 1 title in 17 years.

A team mainly made up of previously unknown youngsters, coached to play attacking football, Monaco finished 8 points ahead of big spending PSG.

The side also reached the semi-finals in both the UEFA Champions, beating the likes of Tottenham, Borussia Dortmund and famously Manchester City. They eventually lost to Juventus in the semi-finals.

Jardim is clearly a brilliant coach. Everywhere he has been he has had to be.

He has never managed an ultra rich club who can buy up the league. Every club he has managed he has had to improve the players that are at the club. At Monaco, he did this to devastating success.

You only have to look at the likes of Benjamin Mendy, Thomas Lemar, Kylian Mbappe and Fabinho to realise how good a coach Jardim is. To realise how much he improves players.

This season, Monaco have performed admirably once more. They are best of the rest in France. Second in the league, behind PSG. But they are 17 points behind. And with vultures constantly circling, picking off the players he has developed, Jardim may well feel the time has come to make a move.

When Monaco won the league, their highest attendance was 17,135. Their lowest was 2,000.

Joining Arsenal, with our financial power and standing in the game, will clearly interest the Venezuelan. The chance to ply his trade in-front of 60,000 rather than 15,000.

And this is where Arsenal fans perhaps need to be honest with ourselves.

We are not Manchester City with their bottomless pots of cash generated from Middle-Eastern oil. Nor are we Manchester United, the super club who bring in nearly £200m more in revenue a season.

Yes, we were promised when we moved to the Emirates that we would compete with the biggest and best in Europe, but the reality is that we are still that level below – we would be even further behind had we stayed at Highbury.

That means we need to be smarter than our opponents.

Like when Wenger came in during the late 90s and revolutionised the club, the only way we can compete is through better scouting, and better coaching.

Find the next Patrick Vieira’s and Thierry Henry’s – and coach them so that they become the next Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry.

Unlike Monaco, we do have the finances to keep the players once they become established on the world stage – like we have done with Mesut Ozil. But what we lack is the coach to take players from young with potential, to world superstar.

The best man for that job, in my opinion, is the man from Barcelona, Venezuela – Leonardo Jardim.



What type of manager do Arsenal need?

I have long held the opinion that in football, there are two types of football manager, and depending on how your club is positioned depends on what type you get in:

  • People Manager
  • Head Coach

People Manager

Gone are the days where the manager basically ran the club – except for at Arsenal.

These days, top clubs invest millions into coaching staff, nutritionists, scouting systems and more. A manager no longer needs to be involved in every aspect of the club.

At clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, PSG, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United, the infrastructure is in place.

There are already top coaches doing their job, but ultimately these clubs have the finances that they do not need to really improve players.

If one player is not good enough, rather than work on him and improve him, just go and spend £50m on another player.

We see this at Manchester City. Over the years they have spent £200m+ to find a partner for Vincent Kompany. Eliaquim Mangala, Nicolás Otamendi and John Stones. None of them quiet worked out, and rather than work hard to improve one, they simply bought another.

In January they spent big again on Aymeric Laporte. If he does not work out, they will just spend big again elsewhere.

You look at Jose Mourinho’s career since leaving Chelsea the first time. He has never really improved a player.

If someone was underperforming, he simply went out and bought a replacement.

At Manchester United, he has the likes of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford at his disposal. Instead of improving them, he approved a deal for Alexis Sanchez.

At clubs like these, you do not need a coach who’s job it is to improve the players, as the players in the squad are already amongst the best in the world.

You do not even need to be a great tactician, as the players are all senior pro’s who, having played hundred’s of games, will already know their job.

What you need to be is a good people manager.

With so many big money signings, so many egos, so many players who were multi-millionaires before their 20th birthday, you need someone who can just get the best out of them.

A glorified babysitter as such. Ensure everyone is happy, content, getting on with each other.

You are not going to get long at the club. One year of failure and you might be out. Two years and you almost certainly will be. The sides will win or lose regardless of you. Look at Barcelona. Luis Enrique was not a good coach, he has shown that before and after, yet he won countless trophies as manager. You just need someone who can control the ego’s.

Being a club manager at these super clubs is almost like being an international manager.

You get a group of talented players, all with experience, amongst the best in the world, and your job is just to get the best out of them, not improve them.

It is unlikely you will be with them long, so, like an international manager, you need to work out how to get the best out of them in a short space of time.

Whilst a director of football runs the direction of the club, your role is just to get the best out of the world class players you have.

Head Coach

The second sort of manager that there is out there is the Head Coach. The training ground manager. The man whose job it is to improve the players.

These sort of managers often end up at the second tier clubs. The clubs that make stars rather than buy stars.

Think Sevilla, Dortmund, Monaco and Napoli.

At one time, in his prime, Arsene Wenger was certainly more of a Head Coach. He improved countless players.

These managers can go into a club and make average players great, and great players world class.

Look at the work of Jurgen Klopp did at Dortmund, or Leonardo Jardim at Monaco.

Both these managers had plenty of gifted youngster, and improved them. Sadly, as these clubs do not have the finances to keep those players, they were then sold.

Sold to the top tier clubs, who have managers who will not improve them as players, but can manage their ego’s.

Think at Arsenal, the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie. And before them Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry. All of whom Wenger moulded into world superstars before they left.

None of them improved after leaving Arsenal because they no longer needed too. And once they were no longer performing, their were shipped on and replaced.

Head coaches tend to work at the lower levels than the people manager, as their skill is in improving younger players. The likes of Everton and Southampton need managers who improve their talented kids to then sell on. The clubs do not have the finances to simply “buy a better replacement” so need to make their current players better.

Whilst I hate to admit it, there is no doubting that Mauricio Pochettino has improved the likes of Harry Kane, Christian Erickson, Son Heung-min and Dele Alli. But if as expected he go’s to Madrid or PSG in the summer, does he have the people managing skills to handle Cristiano Ronaldo or Neymar?

If he does, he will join the bracket of special managers who are both a great people manager, and great head coach.

There are managers who fall into both categories. And at the highest level, these are the real special managers. Jose Mourinho certainly performed both roles at Porto and Chelsea. Pep Guardiola is doing so at Manchester City now.

But managers at the top end who can both improve players and people manage are few and fair between, there are not many around.

So what type of manager do Arsenal need?


Arsenal set for “double your money” kit deal

In 2014, Arsenal announced a new, long term partnership, with Puma. A deal worth £150m, or £30m over 5 years. It was, at the time, one of the largest deals of its kind in football.

Arsenal had been with Nike for 20 years, but in the early 2010’s, had decided to seek a new kit manufacturing partner. Adidas were in prime spot and were expected to sign a deal, until Puma swooped in late, gazumping the money Adidas had put on the table.

At the time, Cardiff City and Newcastle United were the only Premier League clubs to have their kit made by Puma, so the Arsenal deal was a massive coup for the German company.

“Arsenal represents a major commercial and marketing opportunity to reinforce Puma’s credibility as a global sports brand,” chief executive Bjoern Gulden said in a statement.

The deal Arsenal signed with Puma back in 2014 was one of the largest in world football lat the time. But as with our shirt sponsors, we are always at the beginning of the new cycle of mega-deals, and it was soon gazumped by Manchester United and Adidas:

It is clear that Arsenal are getting well below from Puma than what they could command in the current market. Half the value of Chelsea, 40% of the monster Manchester United deal. Not much more than the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham; whom we sell significantly more shirts than.

One interesting thing to note is the Chelsea deal. It is massive. Worth £900m at the time. But it is also a deal signed until 2032.

Whilst they might be getting more than they would “naturally” command now, you have to think in 5 years time, that deal could be considered poor.

Clubs usually sign 5 or 6 year deals, to enable themselves to not be caught out if there is jump. Arsenal suffered when they signed a long term deal with Emirates to help finance the stadium, and found themselves receiving a lot less than other sides in commercial revenue.

The Chelsea deal will be judged in the course of time.

Despite being fairly average, Arsenal are still amongst the runners for most shirts sold. It is this that makes Arsenal such a good proposition for manufacturers, rather trophies won.

Reports are that Puma and Manchester City have entered negotiations. With Manchester City looking to cut their £18m a year Nike deal short, and sign a £45m one with Puma.

This rumour is interesting, as it shows that Puma are concerned about not sponsoring a top Premier League team. Were the Arsenal deal to end, they would not have a major club in England wearing their shirt.

It also highlights how poor Manchester City are still seen abroad.

Despite running away with the league this year, the deal with Puma will still be a lot less than the Chelsea and Manchester United ones.

Puma base what they are willing to pay on the shirts they can sell – and not on the trophies won. Manchester United outsell every team in the Premier League (and the world) hence where there deal is the biggest.

It should also be remember that clubs do not get a “cut of global sales”. The only extra money a club makes on top of the licensing and manufacturing agreement is when they sell the shirts in the club shop or online. “Buy Direct” as Arsenal say.

When it comes to selling shirts, Arsenal or Manchester United are no different to Sports Direct or JD Sports. They make their money on the difference between what Puma (or Nike) sell the shirts to them for, and what they sell them on to us, the consumer, for.

Sorry for digressing.

Despite not winning a league title since 2004, Arsenal will still be considered by the likes of Nike and Adidas as a premium band. Someone that they want to supply, and pay big bucks to supply. Only 5 clubs in world football sell more shirts.

Barcelona have recently signed a £150m deal with Nike. Manchester United’s is at £75m a season. Chelsea £60m a season.

Adidas pay Bayern Munich £65m a season.

It is the Bayern Munich deal that is most comparable.

Arsenal sell a similar amount of shirts as the German giants, and Adidas want a London Premier League club after losing Chelsea to Nike. The deal will be done between Arsenal and Adidas.

Munich is the jewel in the crown for Adidas. A German based company, German’s biggest team. It is a match made in heaven. Despite this, they get less from their deal than Manchester United. Ultimately it comes down to business. Manchester United sell more shirts, so get more money.

Personally, I can see Arsenal signing a deal with Adidas in the region of £60m a season, doubling our current Puma deal.

I also do not think we will join Chelsea in a 15 year long deal. We should look at the Manchester United deal, expiring in 2024, and look at an expiry date of around that time.

In 2024, Manchester United might double their deal again, taking themselves to £150m. That would dwarf every other side in the Premier League.

Arsenal would not want to be sitting there in 2024 on £60m a year with 8 years to run, whilst Manchester United have a £150m a year deal. That could create a long term deficit of £720m. A lot of money.

Arsenal need to close that commercial gap between themselves and Manchester United. House deals with Emirates and a new kit manufacturer need to be just the beginning.