Well, my plans to cover a wide range of potential Technical Directors in my profile series appears to have come to an end. All of the hot journalists in the Arsenal sphere are running strong with the story that Raul has offered Monchi the Technical Director role at the club with a view to him joining at the end of June.
This is huge news. Monchi represents more than just an administrative hire, he is the poster child of the new era of Raul Sanllehi. This is the exBarca man’s big bet for the next 5 years. This is the make or break move as he tries to acquire more power and authority at Arsenal football club. This is his attempt at an LA Rams roll of the dice.
Folks, this is Hollywood glamour and it’s making me frisky.
No one really knows what the role entails at the minute, but one would expect all of the major footballing functions within the club will report into him. He’ll be in charge of the grand vision for how The Arsenal will play, and he’ll build an operating model around that. The Academy, scouting, medical services, data, tech, and analysis will likely all fall under his remit. The role is important. It’s essential. It’s the future of Arsenal football club. The success of Monchi, if he is signed, will dictate whether we fulfill the ‘sleeping giant’ potential we boast, or we become an utter irrelevance in European football, which is path we’ve been following aggressively for 10 years now.
Technical Director: Monchi
Let’s get one thing straight, if this man were heading anywhere else in Europe, we’d all be jealous. If Chelsea or Liverpool pulled him into their exec fold, we’d be crying into our Alex Hleb 2006 red currant collectible shirt. The man has more sauce than a freshly loaded truck of Cholula. The guy has gravitas, he looks like Netflix crime boss, and he has a record to purr over. Make no mistake, this is the sexiest signing we could have made in the world of technical directors.
As fits go, again, it’s hard to imagine a better candidate to take the club forward. He’s been rocking low net spends and ‘sustainable models’ for longer than Wenger has been talking about handbrakes. This is him on being announced at Roma.
“My goal is to build a sustainable economic model. On the sports side, my job is to bring Roma as close as possible to their top level. These are my main goals”
The good news is his ambitions go a little beyond simply balancing of the books and he’s acutely aware he should be held accountable to more prestigious objectives than flashy spreadsheets, namely: big moments, big trophies. This comment from his Sevilla days.
“No one takes a ‘what great economic results’ banner to the stadium,”
Damn right they don’t.
What I like about the man is he seems to have guiding principles when it comes to how he operates, there are very specific patterns in the way he does things.
Firstly, it’s worth noting that he’s a culture vulture. He has to believe in the city he’s in to operate there. He could sell Sevilla as a place, because it’s ace. He moved to Roma, because he knew he could sell the city to young players. He moved to London to learn the language and ‘work it out’, but there’s no doubt the real reason he learned the language was because he saw his big payday here.
This is him talking about the folly of English clubs when he was at Sevilla.
“England’s a good client,”
“There are loads of off-field things in which they beat us easily,”
“And on the football side, I saw very good work being done. But there’s a disconnect between that work and the advantage they glean from it. I know English clubs that are very professional, scouts everywhere, but the information they gather isn’t always applied. Why? Because they have money. That enables them to take fewer risks: ‘I’m not going to discover Keita at Lens; let Sevilla do that and then buy Keita from Sevilla.’”
There is no club in the world better at wasting money than Arsenal. But at the same time, there aren’t many clubs capable of recovering their finances and making a real go of it like us. Monchi at Arsenal would have access to a brand bigger than anything he’s ever worked for in his life, he’ll have better tech, a better City to sell with more resource than ever. Arsenal really should be his dream ticket. We have the finances to always win in the markets he wants to raid, and we have the financial security to hold onto players if they blow-up.
He’s not coming to Arsenal to perpetuate the self-sustaining model, he’s coming to build an empire. Sometimes taking the model of a small venture doesn’t translate into a bigger one. I’m hoping that’s not the same for football. We’re in the talent game. We need someone who can fast track us access to raw talent we can convert into worldclass.
He has an approach to how he tracks players. Here is how he described his operation in Spain.
“Sixteen people cover a series of leagues. For the first five months we watch a lot of football but with no particular aim: we’re just accumulating data. Every month we produce an ideal XI for each league. Then in December we start watching players who appeared regularly in different contexts – home, away, international – to build the broadest possible profile.”
Monchi pulls out his phone and, carefully reducing the image so the names can’t be seen, says: “That gives us this.” A colour-coded spreadsheet shows players by position. Around 250 potential targets, in all positions. “The manager says: ‘I want a left-back who averages 11km a game, runs 800m at full speed, uses both feet.’ And from these, 10 will fit.”
And here’s what he did in Roma.
“We are a team of 15 scouts. Each of us works on a defined set of data that are inserted on a platform at a later moment. On the basis of this data, we decide which players must be followed not spending time on all the others. Not all of us are working in Rome. Now, we are building a network of 20-25 scouts that will report to the one in Rome”
He has a proactive view of transfer targets. If someone pops up who he doesn’t need but he can sense value, he’ll take a punt. It’s worked as well…
Fabiano, Adriano, Negredo, Baptista, Gameiro, Krychowiak, Medel, Kondogbia, Ever Banega, Fazio, Bacca, Vidal, Alves, Rakitic, Keita… the list goes on.
There are questions that hang over his head. I think some Roma fans think the jury is out, he’s not won anything there and he his first actions were to flog Rudiger, Salah and Paredes in his first season. Not exactly crowd-pleasing decisions, and again, certainly makes you wonder why Arsenal keep telling all their journos that there’s only £45m this summer.
‘It’s normal, the last ones who can be blamed are Roma fans because they’re right. I can not say anything more —- I’ve always had the feeling that they are close to me, but it’s true that we also have to give them something: they have not won anything in so many years so it’s normal. I did not come here to sell Salah, Ruediger and Paredes, but to do my job, and my job is to fix the numbers. Last year, slowly, slowly, we got the numbers in order and we made normal sales. I do not have a magic wand: what I did is what I’ve always done in the same form, working with young players and mixing in older ones. I believe that in the end, slowly, the fans and, you too, will begin to understand what my idea is. I know there’s hardly ever any time in football. But I am convinced because I know how I work and work with those around me, that we are right.’
I think the key point here is although he took a hammering from the Roma Ultras, he has a very fixed vision on what needs to be done. There is a philosophy behind what he’s doing.
My main concern with his hiring is I very much doubt Arsenal did an extensive search for a Sporting Director and I’m pretty sure this hire has been made on reputation alone. He’s Unai Emery’s mate, he’s Spanish, it’s all very cozy and it reeks of the Arsene Wenger model of entrenched power structures. It’s also fair to say that his success has been in wheeler-dealing with small clubs, versus taking bigger clubs to greater heights like Andrea Berta.
Additionally, it’s hard to establish his credentials beyond scouting. How is he with tech? What’s his view on running a great academy? How will he work with the medical team? What is his belief about style? Where does he see the future of value in players? How will he inspire the fans? The players? The backroom team?
Small critiques that we can overcome… but being able to make tough decisions on hiring and firings when you’re mega pals with the manager is awkward for even the most ruthless of operators.
That said, Andrea Berta was never going to take a job with Arsenal. We have to take a chance on someone who wants to make the next step in their career. I very much doubt there are many people in the world with the experience he has, mapped against the success, lined up against his outsized profile. This is a smart move. Worst case, he settles the mess that’s going on behind the scenes at Arsenal. He’ll resolve the unbalanced squad, he’ll straighten out the wage structure and he’ll set a template for a more exciting Arsenal.
I just really hope he’s a moderniser. Someone who keeps pushing forward. A man with an open mind. We really need that, the nightmare would be hiring someone who has dined off a formula that’s not developed. An absolute no-no in the Premier League where you have to keep evolving your approach to keep up with clubs who can vastly outspend you.
Anyway, can you really ask for more at this stage? I don’t think so. If this happens, I will doff my cap to Raul and buckle up for a summer of transfer madness.
A very exciting move… see you in the comments.