Tag Archives: Raul Sanllehi

Board back the Edu / Arteta partnership as they sack Sanllehi

When I wrote yesterday’s blog about the board taking the lead on an overhaul of Arsenal’s structure, we were not expecting things to happen so quickly.

We had heard rumours that Arsenal were playing a management restructure at the top, but we thought this might occur after the new season restarts so as not to disrupt this summers transfer business. Instead Raul Sanllehi left the club with immediate effect.

Why did Raul leave?

Well we really don’t know.

There are plenty of accusations on twitter, including that he profited from the Nicolas Pepe deal. There is no evidence that this is true.

But what is clear that since Arsene Wenger left, the club has been dysfunctional at the top.

Wenger ran everything at the club. Fingers in every pies. It was his overlord way of running the club that saw it successful.

But it was also the power he wielded that saw the club enter a downward spiral, as he became accountable to no one.

Arsenal needed refreshing. We needed a reboot. And the club decided to go down the root completely opposite to Wenger and bring in multiple people to run things.

Firstly we had Ivan Gazidis as CEO.

Under Wenger, Gazidis had very little to do with the footballing side of the club. He was mainly dealing with the commercial side.

With Wenger gone, Arsenal firstly bought in Raul Sanllehi as Head of Football Relations and Sven Mislintat as Head of Recruitment.

This left Gazidis in charge of the commercial side, Sanllehi in charge of the football side and Mislintat in charge of the recruitment. The Head Coach (ie Unai Emery) only had to focus on coaching and picking the team.

When Gazidis left, Sanllehi was promoted as was Vinai Venkatesham. The long time Arsenal employee taking over Gazidis’s role over seeing the commercial side of the club.

Then the battle of egos began as Arsenal transfer decisions went from a committee of 3 to a committee of two. What happens when they disagree?

Well when Sanllehi and Mislintat disagrees, Sanllehi establishes his seniority and Mislintat left.

Recently Mislintat labelled the clubs recruitment department “bloated”. He also said that the clubs structure was “dysfunctional”.

The actions taken by the board – making many scouts redundant and saying goodbye to Sanllehi would indicate that they agree.

When Mislintat left, Arsenal added Edu to the clubs upper structure as Technical Director.

I as it just a case of too many cooks?

We had Sanllehi, Edu and an outspoken manager in Mikel Arteta who wanted to “do things his way”.

Arteta is a strong minded character. He knows what he wants to do. How he wants to manage. The players he needs.

Was there a conflict between Arteta and Sanllehi in the same way Emery and Sanllehi disagrees over players?

Sanllehi reportedly over ruled Emery a few times on players, and the result was Emery didn’t have the squad he wanted and got sacked. The board backed Sanllehi.

But this time it felt different.

Arteta got his way with David Luiz’s new contract and the signing of Willian. The board backed Arteta above Sanllehi.

It fees like the board want to put Arteta front and centre of Arsenal Football Club. That Lord Harris of Peckham, Ken Friar and Tim Lewis see him as a long term manager.

Once the decision is made that Arteta is the most important man at the club, you then need other employees to work alongside him, not work against him.

Arteta and Edu have a very good relationship. Both former Arsenal players. Both central midfielders. Same mentality on how to ply a game. They seem to work well together.

That left Sanllehi as the odd man out.

He is the one that doesn’t have a history with Arsenal, that works in a different way to Arsenal. He wasn’t really an Arsenal man.

The promotion of Vinai is also something that should be shouted about.

The British born Indian is well respected throughout football, and at just 39 (yes, he had a hard paper round), Arsenal have a very youthful looking management team.

There could be more Senior back office Arsenal employees to leave in the coming weeks.

After years of criticism of the board, asking if they care, it is good to see them take action.

The decision on Sanllehi was made by Lord Harris of Peckham, Ken Friar and Tim Lewis.

They are going all in on the Edu / Arteta partnership.

Keenos

Do key pair get unfair criticism from Arsenal fans?

Raul Sanllehi has got into some criticism with the way he has run the club since he was promoted to Head of Football following the departure of Ivan Gazidis back in September 2018.

It is his movements within the transfer market that hassled to the most criticism, as well as the departure of recruitment guru Sven Mislintat in January 2019. Mislintat reportedly left over a disagreement over the recruitment of Denis Suarez – a player backed by then coach Unai Emery and Sanllehi. Suarez flopped.

Many have pointed out that Sanllehi uses his “little black book of agents contacts” to find out who is available, rather than Mislintat’s search and selection method.

Mislintat and his scouting network would attempt to uncover players that no one has heard of, or was watching. Hidden gems. Whilst Sanllehi reportedly relies on agents contacting him to make him aware of their clients availability.

It is probably unfair on Sanllehi to say all he does is wait for agents to call him. He is Head of Football so deals with a lot more other than just recruitment, which is why he bought Edu in.

The Edu / Sanllehi axis has been massively criticised, and no more so than for their relationship with “super agent” Kia Joorabchian.

But is the criticism of the pair really fair?

The aforementioned Denis Suarez was bought in on loan in January. A deal that went bad. But was this down to him being not good enough? Or due to injury?

“Obviously it was a bad loan because I did not play,” Suarez told The Athletic in. “But there were circumstances which I would like the fans to understand. I played in my first game against Manchester City and then 10 days later I got injured against BATE in the Europa League.”

Asked if he felt 100 per cent at any point, Suárez replied: “The first week., that’s all. I felt it getting worse. After the match against BATE, I had incredible pain.  Every movement, every change of direction, every shot. Unai [Emery] could not play me as he knew I was not even near 50 per cent.”

In 2019, Arsenal shocked the world by spending big when no one thought they had any money.

1st through the door was Gabriel Martinelli.

The 18-year-old Brazilian was originally signed to join up with the U23 squad, but soon pushed his way into the first team.

Martinelli scored 10 senior goals in 26 games, becoming the first teenager to reach double figures in a single season for Arsenal since Nicolas Anelka.

His season came to an end prior to the suspension of football for COVID19, and he has since been ruled out for most of 2020.

Jurgen Klopp labelled him the ‘talent of the century’.

Following Martinelli into the club was teenage defender William Saliba.

Signed from Saint-Étienne, the club decided to leave the French central defender at his home club to continue his development. Big things are expected of him next year.

Then came the moment Arsenal shocked the footballing world. Nicolas Pepe joined for a club record £72million.

Pepe joined following a fruitful previous season for Lille, where he scored 23 goals in 42 games.

He has not lived up to a big price tag yet, although no Arsenal player created more goals and only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has more goals and assists combined.

His best game for Arsenal came in the FA Cup final.

Throughout the season he has showed glimpses of his talent. Next year he will be stronger, fitter and more prepared for the English game.

Kieran Tierney arrived injured having undergone a double hernia operation in May 2019.

The Scotsman’s slow return to full fitness was hampered by a dislocated shoulder against West Ham in early December. He was not seen again until the suspension of football was lifted in June.

Tierney has since played in every game since football returned, showing his versatility by playing left back, and the left side of a back 3.

Still just 23, the left back has done enough in his disrupted first season to show why Arsenal took the risk on him. He has the type of personality to become a terrace legend, and the ability to become one of Arsenal’s greatest left backs of all time.

Alongside the deadline day announcement of Tierney, Arsenal pulled a surprise by signing David Luiz from Chelsea for £8million.

Initially it was though Luiz had signed on a 2-year deal, but it alter transpired that it was a one-year deal with an option for a second.

We all know what David Luiz does.

He can put in a match winning performance one week, then make errors that led to penalties, sending offs and goals the next. His Arsenal career has been mixed, with him giving away 5 penalties and receiving 2 red cards.

But it is his influence off the pitch that led Arteta to push for Sanllehi and Edu to trigger the 2nd year of his contract.

His leadership is shown during the drinks breaks since the return of football.

Arteta is holding court with players in one circle, whilst Luiz is doing the same in another.

Luiz could be the leader that Saliba needs alongside him.

And then we have the loan deals.

Dani Ceballos joined on a season long loan.

A tough start to his career saw him in and out the team, and he would have been rocked by Unai Emery leaving.

On top of this he also picked up a hamstring injury that ruled him out for 2 months.

He has returned from suspension like a new player under Arteta – topping pretty much every statistic going for Arsenal.

Back 3 months ago, no one would have wanted Ceballos’s loan move to be made permanent. Now everyone will be frustrated if he is not with us next year.

An excellent signing.

Pablo Mari joined in January as injuries in defence mounted up, and then proceeded to get injured himself.

The ex-Manchester City man did enough on the training ground for Arsenal to secure his services permanently.

When he returns from injury, he will be in contention for first team football.

The signing of Cedric Soares was strange.

A loan player who turned up injured, unlikely to play for 2 months. It just seemed a waste.

But with his contract expiring in the summer, what Arsenal were basically doing was bringing his signing forward by 6 months. Allowing the club to rehabilitate his injury, and him to settle into new surroundings in North London.

He might not have played much, but Arsenal now have a Premier League experienced internationally capped right back to push Hector Bellerin.

When you break it down player by player, it becomes clear that Edu & Sanllehi have come in for a lot of unfair criticism.

Pepe has struggled, but the talent is there, whilst Ceballos, Martinelli and Tierney have all had disrupted debut seasons.

It is unfair to judge Mari and Cedric, but in what we have seen they look good additions.

David Luiz is the only one people could label “poor signing” on. But he was so poor that Arteta pushed the board to renew his contract. Sanllehi and Edu were reluctant to do so.

Maybe we as fans just need to step back a little, give those managing the club some time and space to breath. To recruit well. And to stamp their footprint on this great club.

Keenos

What is delaying Arsenal replacing Unai Emery?

It is now nearly a week since Unai Emery was sacked and a replacement has not been bought in.

Within 24 hours of sacking Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham announced that Jose Mourinho was to be their new manager. It was quick, it was clinical.

So what is holding up Arsenal?

Remaining Classy

The old school fan in me that still calls us The Arsenal and remembers the days when we were a classy club makes me look at Spurs and think “stabbed in the back” with just how quickly they moved Pochettino out and Mourinho in.

The seat on the private toilet in the managers office had not even cooled down.

It does lack class agreeing a deal with a replacement manager before the current manager has been sacked. The “open secret” that the manager has been sacked and replacement already recruited. But it is hard to “stay classy” in business.

Regardless of the industry, if you are planning to sack a manager, CEO or director, you need to be talking to potential replacements before you give the incumbent the chop.

The firm I work for planned to replace the CEO a few years back. They employed his replacement as a Regional Director for 8 months before chopping the CEO. He was then installed as interim CEO before getting the job permanently 4 months later.

It might have “lacked class” but in business it is what needs to be done. Especially if that business is struggling.

You need to do what is in the best interests long term of the business, or football club, and not have to worry about “looking classy” in the short term.

I imagine the lack of replacement has nothing to do with the club deciding not to talk to a replacement for Emery before they gave him his P45.

Board Incompetence

The situation could further highlight a long term problem at Arsenal. That those running the club are simply incompetent.

We know the board is not fit for purpose and there have been talks to introduce fresh faces. We know Stan Kroenke is a hands off owner, leaving the experts he employs to do the job they are supposed experts in. That then leaves it to Raul Sanllehi.

Sanllehi was supposed to be a superstar. Recruited from Barcelona, he replaced Ivan Gazidis overseeing the football side of the club. Replacing the manager is his job.

Has he been infected by the incompetence that runs through others within the club? Is he not the big dog that we hoped we were recruiting? Or does he have a plan and it simply is not one that can be completed within 24 hours?

I hope it is the later.

New Manager is Currently Employed

Prior to Emery being sacked, we could have been having discussions with his replacement and/or his representatives. A contract could even have been agreed and he is ready to take over. But he can not take over if he is currently in a job.

What allowed Tottenham to replace Pochettino so quickly is that Mourinho was out of work. All they had to do is get a signed contract back from him and he was ready to go.

The situation takes longer if you are targeting a manager currently in a job.

If Arsenal want Wolves’ Nuno Espirito Santo, Brendan Rodger of Leicester or even poach Carlo Ancelotti from Napoli, they will have to enter negotiations with their respective club to buy them out of their current contract. This could only be done once Emery was confirmed as leaving.

A deal could have been agreed in principle with a currently employed manager, but it then takes time to do the deal with his current club.

And what if when going to do that deal, his current club refuses to enter discussion? Or asks for a huge fee? It can delay things further.

It is more complicated recruiting someone in a job than it is recruiting someone out of work.


My hope is that these delays are because we are talking to someone in work; and it is just taking a little longer. My fear is it is competence and we failed to speak to anyone before letting Emery leave.

Hopefully the situation is resolved over the weekend.

Keenos