It has been well over two weeks since our FA Cup final win and Arsenal have done everything in their power to ensure we’ve been able to get over the joy of winning silverware as quickly as possible through two major bits of news:
1. The proposed 55 redundancies
2. The departure of Raul Sanllehi
In addition to this, we’ve seen the scouting network dismantled with Arsenal looking to create a more refined organisational structure to cope with the post COVID world.
Vinai Venkatesham remains Arsenal’s managing director and looks set to be the face of the club for the years to come. Before we go any further, let’s have a look at who Venkatesham is.
Venkatesham joined Arsenal in 2010 to manage various commercial partnerships worldwide, gradually working his way up to Arsenal’s management team and eventually joining the executive team after being appointed as the club’s chief commercial officer, thereby working in closer conjunction with the ownership.
An economics graduate at Oxford University, just like Arsenal’s new non-executive director, Tim Lewis, Venkatesham has experience working in consulting at Deloitte and his growing reputation translated into roles in the boards of The British Olympics association and Dugout (a sports digital media Company co-owned by Arsenal and other top European clubs) among others.
With Ivan Gazidis returning to AC Milan in 2018, Venkatesham assumed his role as managing director. Unlike Ivan however, Vinai never really had much of a say when it came to the decision making on the footballing side of things – instead, it was Sven Mislintat and eventually Raul Sanllehi who had a say on what actually goes on in the pitch.
The way I see it is Sanllehi’s departure doesn’t exactly affect Vinai’s current role significantly. He will continue to look after the commercial side of the club, whilst also playing a more predominant role when it comes to communication with fans and bettering that relationship. Technical director Edu Gaspar and head coach Mikel Arteta will be the ones that look after the footballing side of things.
Sanllehi in his farewell letter via Chris Wheatley blamed COVID for his departure and not anything else. Whilst he isn’t openly going to criticize anyone, it seems to me like Tim Lewis had a look at how Arsenal are utilizing their funds and felt there were certain areas the club could make savings on.
At this moment, the priority is to invest into the first team and the club is doing everything they can to make it a reality. I was in the minority, but I liked Sanllehi – he gave us have a big window last summer at a time when it seemed like we would even struggle to cough up £20m for Ryan Fraser.
Whilst he did not directly scout these players, he sanctioned moves for the likes of Nicolas Pepe, Kieran Tierney, Gabriel Martinelli, William Saliba and Dani Ceballos in his first and only summer window where he had complete control over transfers.
But having said this, I trust Arteta over anyone else at this football club. It is a well-known fact that Emery wanted the likes of Wilfried Zaha and Harry Maguire – but for various reasons, price obviously being one of them, we opted to choose others. I’m happy with the business we did but above anything else, it is imperative to back the what the coach wants.
Arsenal have now gone 4 seasons in a row without Champions league football. Drastic times call for drastic measures. Let’s hope we can stick to this current structure for a few years because no one is achieving anything if you give them only one year to fix what will need a couple years at the very minimum.
This is evidenced by how the club has been run in the 4 seasons without Champions league football:
2016/17 – Ivan Gazidis (More influence in transfers through StatDNA), Arsene Wenger as manager. ‘Manager does it all model’.
2017/18 – Ivan Gazdis, Sven Mislintat hired mid season to head recruitment and Arsene Wenger. Transitioning away from manager does it all model.
2018/19 – Raul Sanllehi head of football, Ivan Gazidis leaves in the summer of 2018, Vinai Venkatesham becomes managing director. Sven Mislintat leaves in January. Arsenal are looking for a technical director. ‘Continental model’.
2019/20 – Raul Sanllehi is now the main man, Edu is hired but due to Copa America, he comes in late and doesn’t have much of a say bar possibly David Luiz in the summer window. Transition to the technical director model.
We’re in 2020 now and as of yesterday, Raul Sanllehi is sacked, Vinai retains his role, Edu remains as our technical director, with more influence from the head coach expected in terms of player recruitment.
We need to be stable at the top now – back Arteta, Edu and continue this structure for the next few years. The issue with changes in personnel involved with football operations is that not everyone has the same mindset. Scouts will not always agree with the analytics provided – each person as their own way of going about things.
In an ideal world, you want a combination of analytics, pure scouting and agent contacts with every one of those 3 working in close connection with one another and in harmony. But it is also quixotical. As a result, that ‘continental model’ Gazidis spoke about which looks so good on paper is now destroyed. The club is moving towards fewer personnel, but at least it seems like everyone is on the same page and shares the same vision.
Too many changes like we’ve seen in recent years means that the work of one is undone by another and that vicious cycle keeps continuing. As a result, there is no stability in terms of how we are on the pitch – at the end of the day, a coach can only take you so far.
Arteta has worked a miracle, helping us win the FA Cup and securing European football, but it just isn’t sustainable with this current squad. We need to bring the players Mikel wants. Look at how successful Jurgen Klopp has been at Liverpool – one of his conditions to become Liverpool manager was to have a final say in transfers. He had a style of play in mind and he brought in players to fit that style. This is exactly what we need to do to allow Arteta to implement his vision.
To build a proper squad will take time, but will also depend hugely on those at the top to be stable and work together towards a shared vision. Edu spoke about how him and Mikel are on the same page. That is extremely important. Hopefully, it is a new start for Arsenal and we can be more stable from here on in. Fasten your seat belts, I sense we’re in for an exciting transfer window ahead.