Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Another executive departure as Arsenal go back to the future

Folarin Balogun makes his debut in the Europa League. The next day it’s announced that Arsenal’s contracts guru fella, Huss Fahmy, is to leave the club. Coincidence? Probably. But perhaps not entirely unrelated.

Mikel Arteta referred to it as a ‘situation’ after the game against Dundalk, and there has been something of a stalemate as we seek to sort out his future. His agent is quite familiar to us, as he represents Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson and Bukayo Saka, and these things are often quite complicated, so there’s more to it than ham-fisted negotiations (not that I’m saying that’s the problem or anything).

Showing a young player you have a plan for them, and that there’s a path for them at the club, is key. I think with Balogun, as we look at our situation up front, that should be achievable. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is 31; Alexandre Lacazette is heading towards the last 12 months of his contract and is not doing anything to merit a new one; while Eddie and Gabriel Martinelli are still young and developing. It might require a loan somewhere for a season, maybe two, but if we rate him as highly as Mikel Arteta seems to, then doing that, plus adding some new, friendly faces around the negotiating table might do the trick.

As for Huss Fahmy, well he now becomes the final departure from the team that Ivan Gazidis put together to bring Arsenal into a brave, new post-Wenger world.

Sven Mislintat: Hired as Head of Recruitment in December 2017, was promised the role of Technical Director by Gazidis, but when the former Chief Executive left a power struggle saw him depart and Raul Sanllehi take control of football matters.

Unai Emery: Having wowed the Spaniard by showing him our expansive tunnel area, Gazidis tried to convince us that a man who couldn’t speak English convinced two non-Spanish speakers of his bona fides when it came to replacing Wenger. In hindsight, when you recall what an unconvincing communicator Emery was, it makes you wonder what on earth happened in that interview. Was there even an interview? Anyway, water under the bridge now, but he lasted about 18 months before it all fell apart.

Raul Sanllehi: We’ve been there, done that, and worn the t-shirt over this story, but six weeks after KSE appointed a corporate lawyer as a non-executive board member, the Director of Football was suddenly gone. Whether you believe it was all amicable – a decision made by mutual consent is entirely up to you, but he left behind a squad that was unbalanced – and a number of transfers and deals which have some serious question marks over them.

Huss Fahmy: Gone.

Ivan Gazidis: Gone.

I guess in some ways this reflects as much on KSE and their hands-off approach as much as it does on Gazidis, but it’s fair to say the appointments he made were not as successful as we’d have liked, and certainly nowhere near as good as we needed them to be. It’s why I believe we really need to step back and take some distance from what’s happening now. There is still a massive amount of work to do, and the journey to where we want to get to might well be bumpier than we might like.

The new set-up will see Arteta work with Academy Manager Per Mertesacker, and Technical Director Edu – who to my mind still has plenty to do to convince people due to his close association with Sanllehi and what went down previously. He very cleverly nailed his colours to the Arteta mast early on, but there’s still plenty for him to do. We’ll reportedly be appointing a football operations executive, but that role will be less senior than the one from which Huss Fahmy has gone.

With the departures of many scouts, including a stalwart like Francis Cagigao whose work over many years has brought good players to the club, and Edu’s stated desire to work with a more stats-led model when it comes to recruitment, there has been a significant shake-up at executive level and beyond. I’m interested to see how it might work. I’ll admit I was encouraged at the time by the idea of the structure we were putting place to deal with Wenger’s departure. It felt more modern than the old way of a manager controlling almost every aspect of the club.

Now, here we are … it didn’t really work out. From the outside, it looks as if what’s going on with Arteta is more of a return to the old style. He’s the manager. Edu, despite nominally being his superior, really isn’t at all, but perhaps they can forge something that works well for the club first and foremost – because I think part of the problem in the last couple of years is that not everyone was focused on that above all else. Let’s see how it goes.

Right, there’s a big game tomorrow obviously, so I’ll preview that then. For now, I’ll leave you with a brand new Arsecast, chatting about the win over Dundalk, looking ahead to Old Trafford and lots more. Listen/subscribe below.

Enjoy your Saturday.


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