LONDON: Mikel Arteta has won an important power battle at Arsenal after only eight months in his first job as a manager. The 38-year-old Spaniard has won the right to a greater role in transfer decisions after the departure of head of football Raul Sanllehi.
A mini revolution is under way behind the scenes in north London. Sanllehi’s exit followed those of several of the club’s major European scouts and was no surprise. Arsenal have only slipped backwards since his arrival three years ago.
Sanllehi was influential in the unsuccessful appointment of Unai Emery to succeed Arsene Wenger and his transfer business has ended in the club finishing eighth, their lowest league position for 25 years. His most questionable decisions include the £72m club record purchase signing of right winger Nicolas Pepe.
Arsenal have said that Sanllehi’s departure was mutually agreed. He earned more than £1m-a-year and his exit was among cash-saving measures imposed after a review by Tim Lewis, a lawyer who was arrived as a non-executive director in July.
This does mean that transfer business falls within the remit now of Arteta and technical director Edu. The changes also mean even more influence within the club of the powerful agent Kia Joorabchian who represents not only the erratic David Luiz but another new Brazilian veteran in Willian.
The 32-year-old has joined fee-free after the expiry of his contract at Chelsea who would not match Arsenal’s offer of a three-year contract. Arteta said: “I believe he is a player that can really make a difference for us.”
Willian made 339 appearances for Chelsea after signing from Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala for £30m in 2013. He won five major honours with the Blues, including two Premier League titles and the Europa League, and was voted the club’s players’ player of the year twice.
Injury meant he missed Chelsea’s defeat by Arsenal in the FA Cup final.
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