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What next for Edu and Arteta at Arsenal after shock Sanllehi exit?
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18-Aug-2020, 07:03 pm

What next for Edu and Arteta at Arsenal after shock Sanllehi exit?

Mikel Arteta Raul Sanllehi Edu Stan Kroenke

It isalmost a year to the day since Raul Sanllehi arrived at Anfield and was mobbed by excited Arsenal fans outside Liverpool’s famous old ground.

“That’s the guy who finally spent the money,"one travelling supporter whispered to a confused local who wanted to know what all the fuss was about.

Sanllehi had about 200 yards to walk from the car park to the directors' entrance, and along the way he was met by requests for selfies and handshakes.

The fact that David O’Leary, Arsenal’s all-time record appearance holder, was met with no such demands as he walked alongside the Spaniard was a clear indication of Sanllehi’s popularity amongthe fanbase.

Everyone wanted a piece of ‘Don Raul’, the man who just overseen a transfer window which saw the arrival of Nicolas Pepe in a club record £72 million ($95m) deal, as well as the captures of William Saliba, Dani Ceballos, David Luiz and Gabriel Martinelli.

“Thank you for Pepe,” one joyous fan told Sanllehi as he vigorously shook his hand. “You’re the man, Raul,” another shouted.

It seemed like Sanllehi was leading a revolution at Arsenal. He was seen as the man to move the club away from the Arsene Wenger era, the man whose much-vaunted contactsbook would open up countless opportunities in the transfer market.

Yet now, just a year later, Sanllehi is gone.

His departure was announced with a short statement released on Arsenal’s website which did noteven feature his name in the simple 'club update' headline.

“Raul has made a big contribution during his time with us and will always be part of the Arsenal family,” said Stan and Josh Kroenke. “We thank him for all his hard work and expertise and wish him every future success.”

Sanllehi’s shock departure is the latest in a long line of incidents that have made the past 12 months at Arsenal one of the most dramatic years in the club’s long history.

The word from the Gunners is that it was an amicable parting of ways, but sources have admitted to Goal that the 53-year-old was shocked at a decision that he felt came completely out of the blue.

WhenWenger left Arsenal in 2018it was viewed as the dawning of a new era. It was a chance to modernise, to move away from a structure that had one man at the top.

The then-chief executive Ivan Gazidis assembled a three-man team to lead the club forward, which included himself, head of recruitment Sven Mislintat and Sanllehi, who was then head of football relations. All three have now departed.

Sanllehi’s exit is the most surprising of them, and perhaps the most significant.

His star had certainly fallen over the past 12 months, with supporters growing increasingly concerned with his close proximity to 'super-agents', but few would have expected the Spaniard to be moved on - especially during the early stages ofwhat will be one of the most challenging transfer windows football has ever seen.

His departure comes just six week after Tim Lewis was appointed to the Arsenal board.Lewis, a partner at law firm Clifford Chance, had been an advisor to Stan Kroenke during his takeover of the north London club.

“He will bring additional experience and skills, starting with our work to come out of the current situation in as strong a position as possible,” said Stan and Josh Kroenke upon Lewis' arrival.

His impact has been immediate. He led a review at board level aimed at making the club more effective and efficient going forward. The first step was the controversial proposals for 55 redundancies beforethe news about Sanllehi followed.

Lewis’review focused on all aspects of how the club was run and had been operating. Sources at Arsenal are adamant that the decision over Sanllehi's departure was taken withefficiency in mind and was notanything relatedto his relationship with agents or any particular dealings in the transfer market.

So where do Arsenal go now? Sanllehi’s exit undoubtedly moves the spotlight to Edu. Since taking over as technical director in July 2019, the Brazilian has operated somewhat in the background.

That isnot to say he hasn’t been busy. He has in fact carried out strongreviews of the recruitment department at both academy and senior level which have led to major changes in recent months,including the departure of head of recruitment Francis Cagigao earlier this month.

But now his work will very much be onthe frontline. With Sanllehi gone, Edu, Mikel Arteta and Huss Fahmy, the director of football operations, will combine on all technical matters while the impressive Vinai Venkatesham will lead the club as managing director.

It isa combination the Kroenkes are putting their faith in.After two years of upheaval, they want some stability at a time when finances continue to be stretched to the limit due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and uncertainty of when fans will be allowed back into stadiums.

Arteta’s focus will be on the squad he has and on the season ahead, while Edu will be looking to the following campaign and beyond from a recruitment point of view.

He is planningnot just for the first team but also alongsidePer Mertesacker at the academy to help ensure talent continues to progress through to senior level and new signings do notblock pathways.

Sanllehi’s role at Arsenal was always to make deals happen; that job will now fall to Fahmy. An expert contract negotiator who made his name working for cylcing's Team Sky before moving to the Emirates in 2017, he will also be key in helping with longer-term squad planning and Arsenal’s representation at UEFA and European Club Association meetings.

Arsenal believe the latest reorganisation within the corridors of power still provides an air of shared responsibility and it is not a move back towards the days of Wenger when one man undoubtedly ruled the roost.

They are also adamant that Sanllehi’s departure will not have an impact on this transfer window and that Edu and Arteta will continue the pursuit of top targets such as Thomas Partey and Gabriel Magalhaes.

“In Edu and Mikel, we have two individuals who are responsible for our technical plan,” said Venkatesham, during an interview with earlier this week. “They have a very, very clear plan about how they want to rebalance our squad in the short term, in the medium term and in the long term. We're starting to work on that immediately in this transfer window.

“We've brought in Willian and we'll continue to work hard to deliver on our objectives to strengthen the squad.”

Arsenal are once again at the start of something new. The Sanllehi era started out with lots of hope but the early excitement that generated such a buzz around the streets of Anfield of year ago was soon replaced by a growing sense of mistrust and speculation.

That cloud has now been lifted and the Kroenkes will hope that Arsenalcan move forward successfully and smoothly - both on and off the pitch - under the stewardship of Venkatesham, Edu and Arteta.

But as we have seen so often at Arsenal in recent years, it isnever too long before the next bump in the road appears.

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