If you were Mikel Arteta in what is effectively the ‘Honeymoon period’, I suppose with one thing or another, the reality of his situation has yet to sink in. He came in after Arsenal parted company with their most recent patsy, Unai Emery, in December last year and he subsequently inherited a broken group of players who had virtually no team spirit and lacked direction.
Mikel Arteta worked wonders by lifting the mood and even managed to get Mesut Ozil back onboard, re-energised Granit Xhaka, and resurrected Shkodran Mustafi. That was surely enough for his first season in charge chasing a place in the Premier League top four.
The Spaniard has also been busy looking for Arsenal’s soul but unfortunately, that’s a project that may take as long as a vaccine for the Coronavirus and it will require fresh faces and hard cash.
Let’s say the football season reboots and Arteta gets back to trying to build a competitive Premier League top four side, how long will it be before he collides with Raul Sanllehi over transfer targets and wants more control than he is allowed because make no mistake, Raul Sanllehi calls the shots at Arsenal.
It’s probably no coincidence that he is referred to by some as ‘The Don’ and it will come as no surprise that there was a conflict between Emery, Mislintat and Sanllehi over the various choices and ultimately, who had the final say.
Initially, Mislintat came out on top but once he departed after being blatantly lied to, ‘The Don’ was free to pull rank and dabble in the transfer market with the assistance of ‘yes man’ Edu and the influential football agent Kia Joorabchian.
Mislintat was promised Edu’s job, but that offer disappeared when Arsenal changed their minds and moved the proverbial goalposts. The former head of recruitment had become disillusioned with his role at the club and is known as someone who generally works under his own guidance and instruction, hence the nickname ‘Lone Wolf’. He said recently:
“It had actually been agreed that I would become technical director, so then I would be around the team on a daily basis, but the new leadership had their own agenda and other candidates. On top of that, we had different approaches.”
When he says we, he means Sanllehi, Emery wasn’t exactly an obstacle. Besides, Mislintat had a massive reputation and was responsible for some decent signings including Leno and Guendouzi, but it’s now very much the Raul show.
Emery has gone and Arteta is in, but the names linked with Arsenal continue to be the same suggesting that it’s Raul that picks who and when and not the coach. That would perhaps explain why a host of top managers declined any degree of interest of coming to the Premier League and taking the Arsenal job including the likes of Ancelloti, Simeone, Allegri, and Tuchel.
Mikel Arteta was cleverly seduced by the offer from his old club and betrayed by his feelings for them, so much so that it was impossible to say no. Yet, there are challenges ahead, with the team seemingly the least of his concerns.
The Spaniard needs to be able to shape and build the team he wants and play the type of football that he associates with Arsenal. That may be hard to do if someone else is buying the players. Give it a season or two and one can expect to see the usually respectful coach become disenchanted with how the board operates.
Sanllehi presents a significant obstacle to Arsenal’s progress in the eyes of many and Arteta may have to show that he’s no pushover or he’ll keep being given players not of his choosing and that don’t fit into his plans or playing style.
The situations coming, if there’s a time when Arteta has done his best to push the side forward in the Premier League, yet he needs the specific type of player/players, the confrontation may easily occur. Sadly, Mikel Arteta hasn’t got the stature or success on his CV that allows him to demand or get the unlimited support of those at his club, so he will have to fight his corner.
I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a lot of stories coming out of Arsenal of a confused pyramid of hierarchy, which doesn’t assist the team or coach and claims that transfers are no longer in the hands of the man heading up the team. Raul Sanllehi strikes me as a more knowledgeable version of Gazidis, but someone with a dubious record in parts, especially his involvement in club transfers.
I’m of a mind that it’s the manager/coach who normally gets fired and if you want him to do well for himself and the club, you have to support his ideas and vision. That normally comes when a coach needs to rebuild and takes the form of pursuing transfer targets that HE HAS IDENTIFIED.
Arteta has gained the trust of the majority of fans unlike Kroenke or Sanllehi, but he has an almost impossible job in trying to build a side that someone else has bought. The summer transfer window will make an interesting viewing just to see if Arteta is allowed any input at all.