Sunday, November 27, 2022

Sanllehi provides reassurance through words, now let’s see the actions

Let’s start this morning with more from our Managing Director Vinai Venkatesham and Head of Football Raul Sanllehi. Part two of their interview with the official site dropped yesterday, and thankfully there was nothing about the passion of Stan and Josh, and instead much more interesting talk about our behind the scenes set-up, squad building, transfer policy and plans for the summer.

As it was mostly football related, the husky Austin Powers took the lead, so most of it will be from him. He started by outlining in some detail how the footballing structure has been put together – albeit with a missing piece right now, the ‘Technical Director’. On that I thought he was quite interesting, saying that the Head Coach is responsible for the short-term implementation of the club’s overall strategy in the medium-long term which is dictated by the Technical Director.

He sounded fairly sure that we’d have that position sorted soon, and we assume at this point it’s going to be Edu who is tipped to arrive after the Copa America which ends in early July. It makes the role quite distinct from that of a Head of Recruitment who would obviously be far more involved in the identification of talent, and doing the work involved in bringing those players to Arsenal. From what I understand, that job will be going to Francis Cagigao who was our chief scout in Spain/Portugal for many years, so the gaps are being filled.

Then we got to transfers, and on this I have to say he sounded very confident that we can do what we need to this summer, with or without Champions League, while obviously making the point it would be better to be there than not. On the summer plans, he spoke broadly rather than specifically as you’d expect, saying:

What I can tell you is that we have identified very clearly and unanimously with our head coach and technical people, we know what we want to prioritise and we’re very clear on what our priorities are. We’re already in the market and we’re already talking with the people that can help us to cover those positions.

I feel quite strong on the inputs that I’m getting so far. I do believe that we have a very good plan to cover those positions to be much stronger next year to deliver the success that we’re all hoping for.

I know I’ve said this before: that if there was a tournament for talking a good game, we’d be the unbeaten, unstoppable, invincible, relentless champions that nobody even came close to. So, I’m not without some cynicism when I hear Arsenal’s executives play another blinder in that regard, but at the same time I’m a bit more reassured by what I’ve heard from Sanllehi in these two interviews than I have been previously. What happens in the summer will clearly be the measure of how we judge the work rather than what we said we were going to do, but after a period when communication has been scant, leaving us to fill in the blanks to speak, to hear our Head of Football sound positive, strong and confident about our plans to rebuild the squad is heartening.

Maybe when the window closes in August I will feel quite different, and I understand everyone who looks at these guys saying all the right things and dismisses them as more corporate-speak bluster, but given this is his first summer in charge of all football matters and there’s a huge weight of responsibility on him, I’m going to wait and see what happens – or what doesn’t happen – before giving the thumbs up or thumbs down. This might be the equivalent of a drowning man clinging to any passing flotsam to keep him afloat, but hey.

He was also fairly honest about what happened with Aaron Ramsey, saying the club made a mistake by letting him get into the final year of his contract. On that he sort of pointed the finger at the previous regime, but it’s rare to hear an executive at any club admit any kind of error. Ramsey wanted to stay, but by then Bosman offers were coming in that the club were unwilling to match as it would cause a problem with wages:

He was really keen on staying with us, he was ready to make the effort but at the end of the whole process we had to be responsible for ourselves and protect the interests of Arsenal. We realised we were going to cause an imbalance that would have been very harmful for the team’s sake in the medium and longer term.

You get the feeling it’s a case of one bitten, twice shy, because the wage bill had already been imbalanced because of the massive contract we gave Mesut Ozil back in 2018. It’s hard not to look at that now and feel like the ripple effect just over a year later is the departure of Aaron Ramsey because we over-stretched financially. Anyway, it’s done and dusted now, the key is to ensure that we don’t allow players to go into the final year of their contracts any more – like Danny Welbeck also did – and make sure there’s greater ruthlessness and efficiency in how we deal with contract situations.

I think it will probably mean we’ll have to get used to some players potentially having shorter tenures with us than we might like, but on the flip side there will be a greater readiness to move players on more quickly rather than have them become part of the furniture as has been the case for too long now. Ideally it creates an environment where performance drives a player’s future. Do well and you have new terms, a pay rise, and so on presented to you. Accept them and we’re good to continue, turn them down and you can move on – and we’ll help you on your way to ensure we pick up a healthy fee. Similarly, if you under-perform, you’re leaving while there’s still some value left in you, and we go in a different direction. I’m hope we have the people and the character to make sure this happens.

Also, a shout to Vinai who was stronger on the Mkhitaryan situation than the club’s official statement, calling it ‘unacceptable’. The Arsenal players yesterday were much more vigorous in their criticism of UEFA, Koscielny and Monreal in particular, but it was good hear the MD get his spoke in too.

There’s plenty more in the video, it’s lengthy enough, but well worth your time. Not least because of Sanllehi’s mesmerisingly gruff voice. Watch it below:

Finally for today, everyone’s excited about the fact that Adidas are manufacturing our kits again from next season, and there have been countless leaks of dubious veracity over the last few months. However, yesterday we got what appears to be a very real picture of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette modelling the home and away kits, and I have to say these look fantastic. That’s the kind of kit you win things in, so between our summer transfer plans, and these new shirts, I’m now convinced IT IS ON for next season. Watch out Man City.

Right, that’s it. Back tomorrow with an Arsecast, and more Arsewaffle.

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