There has been a report lately concerning Man United’s Jesse Lingard to Arsenal.
Now, Lingard has been a player who, despite winning trophies with United and getting England caps, hasn’t shone for the Old Trafford outfit.
He did score the winner in the FA Cup Final, granted. However, he perhaps isn’t at the quality for a top-four or six club.
Lingard is a number eight and has scored at the Emirates Stadium before. But Arsenal wants to get back to the top again, and Lingard isn’t the player to get Arsenal there.
If the links of ourselves and Lingard are true, then it shows that the club’s head of football – Raul Sanhelli – may not be signifying the change Arsenal fans were promised.
When Arsene Wenger was the manager of the club, he controlled virtually all footballing matters.
This primarily included the first team, but scouting, youth players, medical staff, etc. This model was a factor in the club’s decline in league positions towards the end of his tenure.
So in late 2017, Sanhelli was brought in as head of football operations. He had extensive work at Barcelona, and helped spearhead the current Messi-driven glory era.
Many Gooners were excited that the club had expert footballing administrative knowledge at the club. And with Wenger’s departure in May 2018, the club seemingly was looking to change and move on. Sanhelli thus became head of football, and now oversees the football operation of the club – reporting only to our goodly owners KSE.
What is changing?
The 2019 summer transfer window showed a major boost in spending by the club. Nicolas Pepe, David Luiz, Dani Ceballos, William Saliba, Kieran Tierney, Gabrielle Martinelli, were all key signings in the close season period.
But looking deeper, despite the hype of the time, were they what Arsenal needed?
Pepe is a wide forward, and whilst he remains the club’s record signing, he hasn’t progressed that well. Luiz is a central defender, and what the club required. However, he hasn’t been very capable and is very error-prone.
Ceballos as a creative number 8 is perhaps required but then hasn’t functioned well enough. Saliba is still young and when he returns from France will be raw. Martinelli has been exceptional given his age and inexperience, and Tierney has been injured often, though effective when utilised.
Recruitment isn’t an exact science and it’s unfair to assume that it should be perfect. Mistakes can and do happen.
But then despite the “change” at the executive level, what really is changing?
The advantage that Sanhelli has over Wenger’s time is that he brings in top agent contacts, which naturally brings in top players in kind (theoretically). His Barca links show he can help contribute to major football clubs and projects.
If we are streamlining, and being more adaptable to the modern footballing world, then it’s not really changing much, is it?
Pandemic and transfers
The current pandemic is a challenge for the club and its transfer plans. It will be for all clubs, everywhere, no matter how big or small.
This could be an opportunity though.
It could mean we could attract players for smaller fees, since all clubs will have less match-day, TV and commercial incomes. Some clubs may need to sell to exist, let alone cut costs.
This could also mean selling players for whom fees would be too high. Ozil is a prime example here. It’s said that other clubs wouldn’t take on his salary. But then wage budgets may fall as much as transfer budgets, and this could be an opportunity. Ozil is not stupid, and knows if he left then the current climate would affect things. I doubt his agents are stupid either, and certainly know the score.
Sanhelli could get some cut-price deals here – but then it should reflect where our recruitment is headed with or without the pandemic.
An additional point is the recent report from a former Arsenal scout – where he stated that Mustafi was bought solely on stats and not via his input. The same is true with Lucas Perez. If we are to change, or are changing, then faults like this cannot occur again in this new regime. Stats are important, granted. However, judging a player is as much about the “eye test” as it is numeric metrics.
This piece really is from a place of reflection. We’re all eager to see us change and develop, but then we’re seeing the same faults on and off the pitch before the “catalyst” was boosted.
The sooner we can get it in gear, then the sooner we can be back at the top.