Wellety, wellety, wellety. Yesterday I woke up a little hungover round a friends house, grabbed myself some bacon and eggs, then started planning the rest of the day for a bit of a bar crawl and some Po’ Boys in Kingston at the end.
What I didn’t expect was to be glued to my phone for an hour as Arsenal announced that they would be parting ways with Raul Sanllehi, the Head of Football at the club.
Isn’t a year in football a long time, eh? This time last year (roughly) we’d just announced the signing of one of the most exciting players in Europe of the previous season in Nicolas Pepe and Raul was being heralded as a master of the transfer window. We had the ol’ Harry Redknapp style ‘hanging out of a car window to talk to somebody with a camera’ from the Spaniard and fans were tripping over themselves to get pictures and thank ‘Don Raul’ for his work. Having been told we should ‘Be Excited’ by Josh Kroenke, apparently this former Nike and Barcelona man had delivered the goods.
I don’t know about you, but since then there have been plenty of instances in which I’ve questioned some of the footballing decisions that had been made under his stewardship. The decision to oust Sven because he wanted to focus more on the statistical and data-driven approach to searching for playing talent was one that I wrote about at the time as something that made me uneasy, especially as it was followed up by a “Raul favours his ‘contacts-led’ approach” from David Ornstein and a few others in the media. Arsenal were going back to a relationship focused approach and it worried me that we might be looking at an over reliance on super agents to get deals done.
When you look at the signings we made from last summer it became even more obvious just what that meant. After David Luiz, Cedric Soares, Willian and also talks of Coutinho joining the club, we are now at the stage where Arsenal fans have talked about “Kia FC”, or “Chairman Kia” after the fact that the super agent Kia Joorabchian had all of the above players on his books as clients. The plans to bring in players had an alarming familiarity to the super agent and then when he started in recent weeks to happily go on TalkSh*te radio and talk about Arsenal and what was going on in the inner circles at Highbury House and London Colney, most of us on intensified our mistrust at the level of power and influence he held with Raul.
Not just Raul though, because Edu also has a close relationship with the agent and whilst this morning many of us might feel more at ease with the exit of the Spaniard, we may not be fully out of the woods yet.
Only time will tell and the good thing is that Edu has a bit more currency with Arsenal fans having been a good player and an invincible. But we have to hope that he doesn’t appear to be influenced by the likes of Kia and other super agents now that there is a clearer delineation of responsibility on the football side at the club.
And it certainly feels like that this morning. It’s the Edu and Arteta show now and whilst Mikel runs the team and decides the structure and type of players he wants, Edu now needs to go out and do the deals, rather than it being Edu and Raul and on the outside us fans wondering why we have two of them doing it. People may wonder if there is too much power shifting back again towards the manager but I think that 1) it’s too early to tell that, but also 2) the model we’ve already had for the last couple of years hasn’t really worked anyway.
So I’m very ok with the decision the club made and announced yesterday. This chap from Clifford Chance – Tim Lewis – has clearly already started to make his mark in the scrutiny that he is putting in to the way the club is run and the fact that the club have acted swiftly – clearly in light of some of the damming evidence that the internal investigations that took place in the last couple of weeks brought up – I see as an example of how we’re planning on evolving as a football club. And it feels a little more modern.
When we did the “WeCareDoYou” movement last summer one of the things I’ve said all along is that I wanted accountability for actions and if you are held to account then you need to be prepared to be sanctioned or reprimanded if you fail. It appears as though that accountability has been demonstrated this weekend and that has cost Raul Sanllehi his job. It was time for reflection and that time has wielded the axe for a man who I think most of us were questioning.
Now we move forward with our Footballing Admin team in place, Vinai having overall accountability as the man at the top, with a manager and coach who look like they’re moving us in the right direction. Let’s hope we can continue to get some good news on Aquis incomings and exits before the season starts and we can look in better shape before 20/21 hits us.
That’ll do me for one day I think. I think I’ll enjoy the rest of my Sunday and hope for some exciting news from the club; like an Aubameyang signature or a player incoming.
Catch you all tomorrow.