Sanllehi’s challenge: Fundamental change needed at Arsenal to keep pace with PL elite – opinion

Last Tuesday the final part of the jigsaw in Arsenal’s development of a new football infrastructure was completed.

Well, so Raul Sanllehi claimed anyway.

The Gunners marked their first full week back in pre-season training with the announcement that Edu would take on a role as technical director of the club, overseeing a whole host of matters from the first team through to the academy and in terms of scouting and recruitment.

It seems a large role to take on but should, at last, finally see a greater focus on the things that Arsenal perhaps haven’t been so good at in recent years.

And one of those matters has indeed been recruitment, something that could specifically be a struggle this summer.

Armed with an apparent budget of just £45m, they’ve been snapping at the heels of Crystal Palace in a bid to snatch Wilfried Zaha away from their tight grasp.

Whether that goes through, however, could depend on player sales.

But that again is an area where Arsenal have been caught out and it’ll be up to their new football infrastructure to improve that significantly.

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However, it has to be this summer. Not next summer when the club could be left even further behind by their rivals.

Why? Because Arsenal need the funds.

If the Islington outfit are to ever compete at the level they did for so many years at the turn of the millennium, they will need to invest.

Stan Kroenke at board level hasn’t helped a huge amount and seems to be more intent on buying land in America than he does in helping Arsenal.

Sanllehi can help turn the tide, though. He may not be able to invest his money, but by negotiating the right deals for those that could perhaps leave the club, it could be game-changing.

Those outgoings will have to be sold for a higher price than previous members of the squad have been, however.

Arsenals last ten sales 2 - Sanllehi's challenge: Fundamental change needed at Arsenal to keep pace with PL elite - opinion

In the last couple of years, the Gunners have not only been a bit of a shambles in terms of their recruitment, but their ability to sell players is also extremely questionable.

For all the individuals that have come and gone, only one of them has fetched a price of over £20m.

Out the door went Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for £35m whilst Alexis Sanchez, whose contract was running down, moved on for no fee in a swap deal with Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Arsenal have been at the mercy of other clubs for too long and some of the other fees on the list of their last ten sales are remarkable for all the wrong reasons.

Wojciech Szczesny only fetched £10m despite being Gianluigi Buffon’s successor at Juventus whilst Francis Coquelin was sold for a pretty measly £12m.

What’s also striking are the deals for Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud. The latter was named as the best target man in the world by Eden Hazard whilst the former, being homegrown, could have commanded a higher transfer fee too.

And this is where Arsenal have been going wrong. In recent transfer windows clubs around the Premier League have signed arguably inferior players for larger fees.

To put things into context, Liverpool sold Danny Ings for £20m this summer, a player with one cap to his name compared to Walcott’s 47. The Reds were also able to move on Dominic Solanke in January for £19m.

Ospina vs Mings comparison - Sanllehi's challenge: Fundamental change needed at Arsenal to keep pace with PL elite - opinion

Bournemouth were meanwhile able to sell Tyrone Mings for £20m, something that provides another example of the types of deals you can conclude if you push hard enough.

That is the sign of a club who knows what they’re doing in the market. Arsenal, on the other hand, do not.

More recently, they only sold Lucas Perez for £4m, taking a considerable hit on the £17m they initially paid. Meanwhile, they only sold the 98-cap David Ospina for £3.1m. Rather more irrelevant outgoings included Chuba Akpom and Joel Campbell.

Those sales had less of an impact but it’s a demonstration that the Gunners do need to change.

Calum Chambers has been linked with a €14m (£12.5m) move to Lazio this summer. Considering they paid £16m for him that would be quite frankly awful business, especially if Mings is worth £20m in today’s market.

After all, he is a player who won Fulham’s Player of the Season. Albeit that was in a relegated side but he’s actually proven himself in the top-flight. Mings, who has only played 17 Premier League games, ten of which were starts, hasn’t.

Therefore, if Arsenal are going to have any chance of securing Zaha and then going onto compete at a higher level, Sanllehi will have to ensure they wise up in the transfer market.

Before signings can even be considered, the Gunners need to ensure they’re not caving into the demands of opposing clubs too easily.

In short, Arsenal’s director of football has to make a significant change this summer and enhance the club’s ability to negotiate lucrative player sales.

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