When Raul Sanllehi left Barcelona for Arsenal in December of 2017, his initial role with the north London team was Head of Football Relations. This was at a time when Arsene Wenger was at the helm and Ivan Gazidis was still CEO of the club.
The appointment of Sanllehi was the first big step into the future at Arsenal without the legendary Wenger. The Frenchman was a massive success with the Gunners, collecting 10 major trophies in 22 seasons at the club.
Despite these triumphs, many would claim that the time was right for the illustrious Wenger to finally depart the club following the 2017/18 campaign. Though it may have been time for Arsenal to part ways with Wenger, there was also a sense of nervousness about the club’s future without the stable Frenchman.
Following the departure of Wenger, Gazidis was originally supposed to be the main link between the old regime and the new blood. Gazidis, however, also departed the club in 2018, just four months after Wenger left. This move turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Gunners.
With Gazidis making the switch to AC Milan, the puzzle pieces at Arsenal began to fall into place. Sanllehi was swiftly promoted to Head of Football, while Vinai Venkatesham, previously Chief Commercial Officer, was appointed to the Managing Director role at Arsenal. This two-pronged approach has worked extremely well so far. Instead of having one person in charge making a majority of the decisions, the Gunners have multiple people focusing on one specific task at a time.
Along with Sanllehi and Venkatesham, Arsenal completed their corporate hierarchy this summer with the appointment of Edu Gaspar as Technical Director. Although this may not necessarily be the 1992 USA Men’s Basketball ‘Dream Team,’ this group making all of the decisions at Arsenal appears to be working wonders.
The Gunners entered this summer on an extremely low note. Following a hugely disappointing 4-1 thumping by Chelsea in the Europa League Final in May, many were suggesting that the club only had limited funds to improve the squad. All while facing fan protests and public humiliation throughout most of the summer months, Sanllehi and company had an ace up their sleeves.
Despite reports of a £45 million summer budget, Arsenal managed to smash their record transfer fee with the £72 million Nicolas Pepe deal. Not only did the Gunners manage to pull off this unthinkable move, but they also bought one of the most talented teenage defenders in William Saliba (£27 million), the highly-rated left back Kieran Tierney (£25 million), and the veteran center back David Luiz (£8 million). In the end, it was the best summer transfer period in years at the club.
Big moves by the relatively new crew were also not just for player purchases. Arsenal also made the massive decision to sell Alex Iwobi to Everton for around £35 million. Iwobi, who has been with the club since he was six, has been looked at as a decent player with potential for the last few seasons in north London. A solid and well-liked player at the club, Iwobi may not have been sold under the old regime. However, this ruthlessness, both in player purchases and sales, could be exactly what is needed to take Arsenal to the next level.
Arsenal have gone through some difficult times over the last few years. On the pitch, they have failed to reach a top four place in the last three seasons. Away from the pitch, multiple ins and outs behind the scenes have shaken up the managing end of the club. Nevertheless, it seems as if this new Arsenal regime is taking some big steps into the right direction.