Something rumbling at Arsenal HQ (long read)

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Buckle-up people, I think something is going down at Arsenal HQ. Smoke is in the hallways and it looks like there’s a good chance it’s fire. I’ve heard from multiple sources that there is movement at the club.

The rumblings on the internet are centered around there being an abrupt leadership change at Arsenal. Factor that in with the searing story from ESPN yesterday about the internal investigations into the way Arsenal deal with transfers, particularly the outrageous fee we paid for Pepe, and it’s not hard to see where this could be heading.

That particular story is interesting, I understand that the source wasn’t an official leak as such. ESPN had the news from corroborating sources elsewhere and they ran it with no comment from Arsenal despite asking.

What is absolutely clear is this: Tim Lewis is putting our dealings under the microscope. Do not be surprised if he doesn’t like what he sees.

That shouldn’t be a surprise if you’ve been reading Le Grove for the last year. Under the leadership of Raul, we’ve gone from a club that wouldn’t know how to contact a super-agent if they wanted to… to a club that probably has an office with Kia’s name on the door.

The optics have been really poor. Raul isn’t even subtle about how he does business. He’s Donald Trump shooting someone on 5th Avenue. To be clear, I’m not accusing anyone of doing illegal things, my focus is on the dreadful waste at Arsenal football club when money is tight.

The long and short of it: We do a lot of business with close pals of Raul, that business isn’t good, subsequently we are not succeeding on the football pitch. Those three working in tandem would raise red flags at any organisation, and let me tell you, it has not gone unnoticed among Arsenal staffers.

Decisions at a football club should always be transparent in nature. Fans should be able to look at a deal and know that the best intentions were always at the heart of the rationale. Under Arsene, love or hate him, you always knew he was doing things because he thought them right by the fans. Under Sven, love or hate him, you knew he was bringing in players because he thought the data supported the move. Under Raul, it’s hard to discern any sort of coherence in his dealings, outside him really, really enjoying working with a small collection of people and clubs. That is a recipe for wastage, average decisions, and conflicts of interest.

Let’s talk through some of the deals I’d be asking about if I were Tim Lewis:

Unai Emery:

Arsenal had a list of candidates to replace Wenger, it looked like we were going to appoint Mikel Arteta, then out of nowhere Unai Emery dropped into contention. This is Unai talking to the Spanish press.

“As Ivan Gazidis explained on the day of the presentation, I was on a list of eight candidates they were going to interview,”

“Thanks in part to Arturo Canales (his now agent), they insisted I was the best candidate of all.”

I simply refuse to believe that the Arsenal analysts pulling info on managers looked at Emery’s record and said he was a top drawer manager that was perfect for the job. I’m not even an expert and 3 hours of Google told me all I needed to know about him.

  • He couldn’t speak English.
  • Every foreign job he’d taken he’d been maligned for his poor grasp of language.
  • Big players didn’t respect him.
  • He couldn’t organize a defence.
  • Players thought he was negative in his approach.
  • He had no sauce and wore gilets seriously.

… but then a super-agent pal of Raul makes a big recommendation and we sign him up. Canales lands a new client. Did he get a fee?

After year one, it was clear things were going south. Underlying stats were atrocious, he hadn’t fixed the defence, and there was no clear identity. So what did Raul suggest? Let Emery tell you.

“We were now looking to how we could develop together, even to the point where they were looking to offer a renewed contract.”

Why? On any level, how could that be a justified suggestion knowing what we knew?

The following season predictably went off the rails and Raul delayed and delayed the decision to pull the trigger on his man, saying he wouldn’t listen to the ‘noise’ from the fans. The delay for me was the difference between top 6 and 8th. Why delay?

Well, I think we can all see that it’d be advantageous to have a weak manager in control of your club…

Nicolas Pepe:

‘I met Zaha and he wanted to come. The club decided Pepe was one for the future. I said: ‘Yes, but we need to win now and this lad wins games.’ He beat us on his own.’ Big Un, wearing a gilet in a studio

Emery was a soft touch, he knew he was lucky to be in the job, he did what he was told. Raul shifted attention to Lille’s wide man. Clearly an exciting player, but no one in world football expected Arsenal to pull budget from the next season’s transfer pot to land a prospect for £72m! It was a mad bet and it’s now the focus of an investigation according to ESPN. Did Arsenal’s analysts recommend Pepe? Which agents were involved in the deal? How did we land on the valuation? The connect? Marc Ingla, exBarca.

Edu:

Raul scoured the world for a Technical Director. He landed on Edu. Handsome, an invincible, with some work under his belt in Brazil. His agent? Kia. So far, we’ve signed Luiz, Soares, Mari (Canales), and Willian. Does signing your own agent’s players seem like a normal thing you would do if you were trying to come across as a data and analytics type of person? I’m not so sure. It seems super dim to me and a bad way to show your new boss you are creative in your approach.

Denis Suarez:

The squad needed bolstering last January. We lacked wide players with power and pace. Who did we bring in? Denis Suarez. A meek player accused of lacking character, power, and the ability to impose himself on games. £5m loan deal for barely a full 90 minutes.

David Luiz:

The club knew Laurent Koscielny was leaving Arsenal 3 months before the end of the season. We eventually cave after he goes on strike, Arsenal immediately go out and sign the Brazilian. A 32-year-old in decline, a rep for being disruptive in the dressing room, and, very error-prone. His agent? Kia. The Athletic ran a piece that suggested that deal, all-in, was worth £24m. I was told that he was on about £200k a week in December. Why would a club with money issues do that to themselves?

Cedric Soares:

Southampton thought he was going to leave on a free transfer at the end of his contract in June and go to a lower league club. Arsenal picked him up for a loan fee + wages deal worth £5m. The jury is still out, but again, who was the agent? Kia.

Kia:

Let’s talk about this guy because he’s basically on the staff. A few weeks ago, he went on Talksport to lament the deal issues with David Luiz, he assured everyone that structural changes were coming to Arsenal. 3 weeks later, all the scouts were laid off, and we made 55 redundancies. On any level, it is pretty horrendous that an outside supplier has the inside track on our HR reworks. The fact he goes on national radio to tell everyone he knows is so painfully amateur. It’s also unprofessional. This sort of thing would never have happened under any regime prior, it’s shambolic.

Two days ago, he goes on Talksport AGAIN, this time to take aim at Sven Mislintat’s record and to set the record straight that he doesn’t influence Arsenal. It is absolutely outrageous that he has the swagger to take aim at Arsenal like that. Raul should have banished him after the last appearance, and at the very least told him not to do that… but, he has no control over his friend.

A day later, we do a deal for…

Willian:

Now, there’s been a lot of debate on how you frame costs for players, so let me be clear, when you bring in a free transfer, it’s quite fine to lay out what the total deal is. Sami Mokbel, the closest person to Ornstein levels of insight at Arsenal, thinks the whole deal could be worth £220k a week. It is not unfair to describe a deal like this, because if that’s what ends up in Willian’s pocket, that is what he’s paid. Bonuses are easily attainable, otherwise, players wouldn’t agree to them… according to the article, there’s a loyalty bonus. Imagine needing to put that into the deal of 32-year-old player?!

Forget about the player for a moment, we’ve taken another older player from a rival and basically paid them double to join. The player didn’t want to go to Miami. He didn’t want to go to Spain. He wanted to stay in London, he stated that publicly. We had all the leverage and it looks like we’ve been rolled hard here.

Last week Arsenal were pleading poverty saying we needed to pull the trigger on 55 people, this week we’re topping up Kia’s fee pot, and giving a player £35m. It looks awful

BUT BUT BUT… what about Martinelli? Tierney? Saliba?

Yes, good players… but the litmus test for non-wasteful leadership isn’t whether there’s at least one player in there that cuts the mustard. Look at the body of work and the outlay, it’s not good.

I have no idea what is going to happen at Arsenal over the next few weeks, but I struggle to see how anyone delves into the above deals and walks away saying, ‘damn, these guys are fucking sharp.’ Tim Lewis is a Clifford Chance partner, I assume he loves Arsenal, let’s hope he sees what we all see.

The bigger question for me is why this sort of ‘maybe’ movement taken so long? KSE waste so much time with average hacks. It is really painful.

Let’s see how the next few days pan out… see you in the comments.

UPDATE: Raul is gone.

308 Responses to “Something rumbling at Arsenal HQ (long read)”

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  1. Marko

    Barça legend Hristo Stoichkov spoke to Bartomeu about Alphonso Davies months before Bayern came on board. Bartomeu’s response was “he is Canadian, no thanks.”

    Big lolz

  2. Thorough

    Whatever happens, the calubre of players Raul bought last summer, have to be equalled or surpassed by whoever is in charge of transfer from this summer going forward. Kroenke, Raul, and all those executives are greedy bastards. It’s the playing aspect that people like us are concerned about and that must not be sacrificed for the so called ‘Arsenal Values’. If we’d overpaid for players like Mbappe maybe we would have become the new Liverpool by now.

  3. The backpass

    Pedro

    Why is my reply to Valentin removed but this kept up?

    “The three people who keep accusing me of lying are the same village idiots who keep not understanding basic point.”

  4. curse

    arteta wanted arsene’s job, now he’s got it!

    starting to think he might be a genius given his journey since barcelona.

    I vaguely remember someone suggesting raul ran everything and Mikel would have to go through him. as this question got put to Mikel he responded (not verbatim) saying he has a direct line to the kronkes!

    well played Arteta. well played. 👏

  5. Emiratesstroller

    Reg

    The answer is probably YES. I don’t think that Arsenal will be recruiting “high
    maintenance” players in the future.

    The club will focus probably on players which are good value and will fit in
    with the club’s stated recruitment policy rather than some of the more recent
    acquisitions such as Luiz, Sokratis and even possibly Willian.

  6. Barney Malachenko

    Even under Wenger it took very long to sign players we used to end up signing injured players like Kim Karlstrome there was no statement of intent even now Zaha is available at a decent fee we’re waiting and dithering to sign a French or Brazilian player we don’t need to go far around the world when solutions are next door.Arsene was an economist by profession he was always balancing books but on the field it caught up with him big time the quality was no longer there all sold gold.In my 30yrs of supporting Arsenal this board has sold out our soul away i.e look at the hierarchy not much of fomer players are involved that tells you how bad it is.Look at the Capitan’s role too there is non.The real last Captain was Viera of which Arsene betrayed by selling him at his prime all because of balancing books.