Friday 18 October 2019

John Giles: Were Arsenal's two new men picked by Arsene Wenger? If not, he'll be gone by next summer

Read John Giles every week in The Herald

Raul Sanllehi (left) and Sven Mislintat (right) have joined Arsenal. Arsene Wenger (inset).
Raul Sanllehi (left) and Sven Mislintat (right) have joined Arsenal. Arsene Wenger (inset).

John Giles

THE end of an era is coming at Arsenal and nothing makes that more certain than the fact that they have been hiring staff. New faces like Raul Sanllehi and Sven Mislintat have arrived to “help with recruitment”.

If this is what I think it is, it is a huge departure for Arsenal and one which I believe will hasten the end for Arsene Wenger.

The Gunners haven’t made much of a fuss about this. I spotted those two names a few weeks back and over the weekend read that their appointments had been confirmed.

It was very obvious that whoever briefed several media outlets tried to ensure that nobody name-checked Sanllehi as the new Gunners’ Director of Football.

Mislintat has a reputation as a talent spotter and, according to Arsenal, he will be involved with everything from the Academy through to the first-team squad.

Back in May, when there was a big doubt about whether Arsene Wenger would continue, there was talk of modernising Arsenal’s system of player recruitment but when it was put to him, he dismissed the notion.

“I don’t even know what a Director of Football is,” he said and made it very clear that if Arsenal chose that route he would be off.

Only one question now stands between Wenger and the exit door. Did he hand-pick and then appoint them?

If they are not his men, he will be gone next summer or concede the one principle he has based his career on. The manager must control transfers and he wouldn’t last for long with someone meddling in the background.

Even if he did choose the candidates and agreed to these appointments, I’m certain that he did so under protest.

The simple fact that the announcements were confirmed almost halfway through the season and without any major fanfare suggests to me that this was the club owner’s idea, not Wenger’s. Perhaps they think they are sparing his blushes.

There is another way to view this. Even with money to spend, Wenger failed to fill in the gaps in his squad

Initially, this was because he refused to meet modern wage demands and would not spend what was needed to bring in top quality, experienced players.

But with the Emirates completed and money once again available, Wenger’s big flaw was exposed by his poor recruitment of goalkeepers and defenders.

For that reason, many Arsenal fans who wanted a change during the summer might even view the appointment of what are being sold as support staff as a good thing. But they would be wrong to think that.

Wenger has a gap in his knowledge when it comes to defending, there is no doubt about that but appointing ten Directors of Football won’t fix the problem.

And when Wenger is gone, as he will be soon, one way or other, the Director of Football will remain and the new manager will have to cope with a third party in his transfer loop.

That can never be right in any circumstances and I believe Arsenal have stepped off the righteous path or, at the very least, taken a very big step in the wrong direction.

I need hardly point to the ever-widening gap between Manchester City and everyone else as yet another example of what happens when owners trust their manager and resource him properly.

The Arsenal grandees who have enjoyed a long period of stability need look no further than London and Chelsea for an illustration of the consequences of the other approach.

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