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Raul Sanllehi is the Man to Drive Arsenal Forward

Yesterday, the news that we had expected was coming finally was announced, Ivan Gazdis, the Arsenal CEO was leaving for AC Milan. While there seems to be very little remorse for the Chief Executive’s departure, it does significantly alter the power structure within the club and puts Raul Sanllehi, firmly in the driver’s seat as it’s Head of Football.

From his role at Nike in 2007 to his tenure as Director of Football at Barcelona, Sanllehi has established himself as a big name in European football. During his time at Barcelona he managed to survive the carousel of Presidents and other executives. His time as DOF at Barcelona saw the arrival of Neymar and Alexis Sanchez among others to the Bernabéu.

In November of 2017, Arsenal announced his appointment as head of football relations in Ivan Gazdis’ restructuring of the club executive structure to make it more in line with other European clubs. He effectively started his duties in February of this year and now after only a few months here finds himself as the most important man at the club behind the Kronekes.

We wrote about Ivan Gazidis two weeks ago, and our opinion of his tenure is one of abject mediocrity and decline. Whatever his influence at the club during his time as CEO he has presided over an era of mediocrity not becoming of a club of Arsenal’s stature.

With Sanllehi driving all football operations forward, you wonder (and hope) that Arsenal may finally be able to have some who isn’t a business guy running the most important part of the club (at least to the fans) and who can provide a vision for the on the field product going forward.

I’ve long speculated that in the modern era the most important role at the club is no longer the Manager or the Coach – it will be roles like the Director of Football. These will be the people who set the long-term vision at clubs so having a football man like Sanllehi benefits Arsenal.

Long-time fans have been complaining that Arsenal have been lacking a man of stature in this role since the day David Dein left the club. The feeling is that the identification and securing of playing talent has fallen so far behind everyone else and it has been a big driver in the decline of Arsenal and its inability to challenge for titles.

Now with Sanllehi firmly in control of football operations and with Sven Mislintat identifying talent, and Huss Fahmy doing the contracting work, Arsenal may be poised to move along into a more positive era with football left to the people who know and the business side left to those who can handle that best.

Sanllehi has worldwide influence within the game of football and his contact list of football power player is second to none. With Arsene Wenger we had a manager who was widely known and respected through out football. His departure left a vacuum in that area that Sanllehi more than aptly fills, probably more so than the departing Gazidis.

So good is his footballing intellect and contact list that when Barcelona lurched from one Presidential blood bath to the next, it was the man from Nike who managed to stick it out and survive, only leaving when Arsenal came calling.

In terms of the man himself, Txiki Beguiristain, formerly of Barcleona and now Sporting Director and Manchester City, had this to say of him

”He is a great negotiator, constant, methodical. Fantastic guy, I get on great with him.”

And Arsenal will need that. Right now, one of the most important things Sanllehi will be tasked with is bringing an end to the Aaron Ramsey contract negotiations. A positive conclusion will be a big feather In his cap. But it will only be the start of the overhaul that sill needs to take place.

While there has been some movement on the player front, Arsenal still look to be lacking in key areas and it will be up to Sanllehi to get his head coach the players he needs to successfully turn Arsenal back into contenders.

He’ll also now preside over the performance assessment of the coach himself, also someone appointed by his predecessor. Will he bring the mentality of Barcelona, that you have to deliver results and performances that reflect the values of the club?

We enter a new era with much of the mediocrity that closed out the Wenger years gone. There are likely to be further changes but in terms of the footballing day-to-day structure the key players are in place now and Arsenal can go forward driven by a man, that Andre Curry, a lawyer and Bara’s representative in Brazil called, “unique”

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