They say that ‘ignorance is bliss’ and today let us play tribute to the Mayor of Ignorant Town, a certain former Arsenal employee, Mr Raul Sanllehi. He’s been chirping in The Athletic about his time at Arsenal, now that his slunk his way back in to football with a job at Real Zaragoza, deciding that enough time has elapsed to tell ‘his story’.
Well, having read his version of the truth, I have to give kudos to a man’s complete lack of self awareness, blinded by his own ignorance, that it almost becomes laughable in some of his comments that have emerged in the last 24 hours.
He talks about how the ‘model’ that he was the chief kingmaker of at Arsenal, was the right one and that the club has ‘betrayed’ its own plans in going back to Mikel Arteta. Indeed, he is right, because it was clear in the post Wenger era we saw, the club did move to that model. But there isn’t much acknowledgement as to why the club felt it needed to move back to that way of life. There isn’t much contrition at all in ‘Don Raul’ words when he talks about the reasons behind the switch back to having a manager instead of a head coach. He just says that he wouldn’t have allowed it under his watch.
What he did allow on his watch, was a hugely over-inflated fee for Nicolas Pepe, when nobody else in Europe was offering anywhere near that. In fact, as time has elapsed and people have gotten to the bottom of some of Raul’s deals like that, we find out that even Lille themselves were stunned to be receiving that level of a package. He was also the man in charge when suddenly we found ourselves talking to super agents about their cast offs. Super agents have loads of clients, it is why they are super agents; because so many players work for the them and have them represent them. The biggest players in the world work for super agents and as a result of that they get the headlines for the Haaland’s, the Ronaldo’s, the Mbappe’s, etc. But these super agents also have players who are journeymen, who are pretty average, or who are at the tail-end of their career and are looking for paydays from rich clubs who can afford it. Step forward ‘Don Raul’ to help out his mates. In came the likes of Cedric with whom we paid a fee when he was out of contract six months later, had him injured the whole time during that six months, then signed him up to a four year deal with which doesn’t expire until the end of next season. And did I mention that he isn’t even any good? Let’s not let that get in the way of a nice deal though, eh?
Willian’s deal may have been given the green light by Arteta with Edu in support, but his signing was officially announced the day before Raul left and I think it would be churlish not to think that Sanllehi had nothing to do with the logistics of that deal.
Then look at what has happened at The Arsenal since he left. It has by no means been perfect, we can all admit to that, but just over two years since his departure from The Arsenal, we have a clear and obvious plan in place for the types of players we want, we aren’t – or don’t seem to be – being held to ransom by super agents, plus we aren’t seeing the likes of Kia Joorabchian heading over to radio stations to talk about Arsenal’s strategy. When we don’t think we are getting value from a deal we have stepped back from them. Look at last January with a striker – which I’ll admit I didn’t like at the time but has worked out alright so far – as well as Douglas Luiz and not overpaying for him in the summer just gone. Do we think that Sanllehi would have been able to hold his nerve and walk away from a deal rather than overpaying for a player and worrying about the financial consequences later? The story of Pepe shows us the answer there. The story of Barcelona paying what was a ludicrous amount of money for Coutinho in 2018 was during his watch; he was Director of Football at Barca at that time. A Barcelona who a few short years later have racked up so many debts that they are having to come up with weird TV rights agreements to fund their latest round of crazy transfers.
Since Sanllehi left we now also have a squad of very likeable players, a team that looks competitive, a cohesive buying policy, a better connection with the fanbase and the results (so far) in domestic competition that shows us going in the right way. And the only thing that ‘Don Raul’ says about that is “it seems to be working”.
Well yes, it does, you complete fraud.
Much like when Gazidis left Arsenal and I couldn’t have been happier, with plenty of time elapsing and items like this one that came out yesterday, I couldn’t be happier that Arsenal took the decision to relieve Sanllehi of his duties. He presided over a bit of a car crash at the club and admittedly COVID had an impact as he mentions in his interview, but I do not believe we would be anywhere near where we are now if he was still the man in charge of football operations. We’d probably have a team of super-agent cast offs and be languishing in mid table. We’d have probably have picked up the likes of Perisic, who I’m convinced will start to tail off at The Scum. We’d have blown the bank to get Isaak in January and have had little money to get a Gabriel Jesus this summer just gone. We’d have certainly have made it our mission to get what looks right now to get a floundering Philippe Coutinho from Barca. And we’d be repeating the same mistakes that made us look so foolish in recent years.
So thanks ‘Don Raul‘. Thanks for absolutely nothing. And good luck to Real Zaragoza. They’re certainly going to need it.
Catch you all tomorrow