“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.