Mikel Arteta says Arsenal have yet to decide how the club will operate following the shock exit of Raul Sanllehi earlier in the month, and that discussions with the hierarchy over a new structure are ongoing.
Arsenal announced the departure of Sanllehi, who had been head of football, on 15 August with managing director Vinai Venkatesham given the task of leading the club going forward.
Sanllehi, who left following a review carried out by newly-appointed board member and chartered lawyer Tim Lewis, had been in charge of the technical side of the club and was the key figure in transfer negotiations.
Technical director Edu and Arteta are now working in tandem overseeing squad planning and the pair were key to getting the deal done for Brazilian centre back Gabriel, who is set to join from Lille for £25 million (€28m/$30m).
However, there is still much to be sorted out behind the scenes and Arteta admits there is still some uncertainty over exactly how the restructure will work going forward.
‘It’s something we’re discussing at the moment,’ said the Spaniard. ‘First of all, I want to wish Raul all the best, all my respect and admiration. I worked alongside him and I enjoyed that.
‘The club made a very difficult decision, but the way he left, he honoured the club. Everyone had nice words towards him and now we have to figure out the best way to run our club on the sporting side. That’s what we are trying to do while trying to achieve all the targets that we have for this transfer market.’
There have been suggestions that the changes currently taking place at Arsenal will have Arteta’s role move more towards a classic manager’s position, rather than just a head coach, which is how he has been operating since he replaced Unai Emery in December.
‘I don’t know what’s going to happen,’ he said, when quizzed on whether he would take on more duties. ‘There are things we’re discussing internally. We want to find the best way to be as efficient as possible, maximise the people we have to make things the right way. We’ll finalise those talks then communicate to you guys how we will do that.
Meanwhile, Arteta says he understands the criticism that has come Arsenal’s way following the news that 55 staff would be made redundant as a result of the financial implications brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Many have hit out at the proposed plan, especially as the north-London club are still making big-money signings and handing out big new contracts to Willian and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
‘I understand,’ said Arteta. ‘If you are only looking at the financial point of view you can get some contradictory messages, but what is very clear is that the club had a very thorough plan of how they needed to restructure to function better and be more stable for the future.
‘They were very convincing with every argument they gave to all of us that it was the right thing to do.
‘Obviously it’s really sad and it was during the Covid period that we had to make the decision to get our players to contribute to the pay cuts. One of the reasons was to maintain some of them. We have been trying to do the right thing and the club is trying to protect the future as much as possible.’
The majority of Arsenal’s squad agreed to take a 12.5% pay cut in April to help the club during the pandemic, however that number has now been reduced to 7.5% for the coming season due to the club’s FA Cup win.
A big part of the reasoning behind the players’ decision was to protect the jobs of regular staff members at the club, so there has understandably been some surprise that such a high number or redundancies are still planned.
Arteta, however, says his players cannot expect to have a say on major decisions just because they agreed to take a reduction in their salaries.
‘The players were happy to contribute and help the club in this difficult financial position,’ he said. ‘That doesn’t mean that afterwards you are going to have a say in every decision made by the club. It can’t work like that.
‘At the end of the day it wasn’t an obligation, it was a choice whether you wanted to do it or not. We tried to do the right things as human beings to help a club that has been supporting us, in my case for many years, and in others cases here as well, whether you were injured, sick, performing or not performing.
‘We believe it was the right thing to do and then the club has to be free to try to fight for the future in the most positive and stable way. That’s how we do it.’
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