Arsenal are a very different club now to what we were 10 years ago - not just in terms of players and style of play, but the entire structure of the club off the pitch. Arsène Wenger was a man with deep rooted values and an unwavering philosophy. He had a certain class in the way he dealt with club operations which also extended into transfers. For example, he wouldn't deal with certain agents and had a reputation of scrimping when it came to paying few extra million to seal a transfer. Some called him stubborn - after all, this is a sport where fans want to see their teams registering silverware. Wenger wanted to win within his values and principles which he felt was the right way of going about things.
The reason I give this background is because as fans, we are used to the club doing business a certain way over the years.
After Wenger goes, we brought in Sven Mislintat to head recruitment. Raul Sanllehi starts his tenure that year as more of a 'chief negotiator' kind of guy and then there's Ivan Gazidis, the CEO who leaves the club after setting up a structure which looks good on paper.
Fans instantly warmed up to Mislintat who had an excellent reputation of identifying relatively obscure players who would go on to become superstars. Is that really different to what Wenger did for the majority of his tenure? Of course, Arsène lost that midas touch towards the end, but Mislintat was of a similar mold to Arsène when it came to recruitment.
SANLLEHI AS THE MAIN MAN:
When Mislintat left the club, Sanllehi became the main man. As Mislintat puts it speaking to Der Spiegel, the club went from a more analytics based approach to an 'agent driven' approach. Does that mean one is better than the other? We need to look at facts.
People are quick to pick on Sanllehi for the loan transfer of Denis Suarez - but what about Mislintat signing Lichtsteiner, Sokratis and recommending Mkhitaryan? Additionally, Unai Emery wanting Denis Suarez as reported by The Athletic is yet another reason Raul pushed the deal through.
There is a couple of ways clubs use agents to get deals done - One way is signing a player from said club who is represented by a particular agent. Clubs use the influence of that agent to push his client towards their direction. The other way is to go through an intermediary to negotiate on behalf of the club - we saw this in the Pépé deal, with reports that Arsenal had hired Jorge Mendes to broker the move. This would entail agent' fees or intermediary fees which is a grey area in football.
We see figures regarding agent fees being quoted in the media - Luiz' agent, Kia Joorabchian today has come out and disputed some of these figures pertaining to his client.
There is very little transparency in the world of football finance - so what happens is we try reading in between the lines and forming our judgement based on little evidence. And that can be dangerous.
But here's what we do know - have a look at our signings last summer.
-Nicolas Pepe, who the fans were crying out for was made possible because Sanllehi was able to get intermediaries to negotiate the deal - these are the same kind of people Arsene would hesitate dealing with.
-William Saliba wasn't represented by a super agent and is one of the best teenage center backs in the world.
-Gabriel Martinelli was a result of great scouting behind the scenes, where the board took the recommendations of Francis Cagigao and other scouts.
-Kieran Tierney is yet another example of Raul being instrumental in landing a player not represented by so called 'super agents'.
While I do think Arsenal don't need any more 30+ year old players past their prime - Luiz was a player that made sense, fitting the profile of player the club was looking at, with Laurent Koscielny unexpectedly throwing a tantrum. Luiz is now an integral part of the side.
Arsenal were restricted to loan deals in January this year, so the signings of Pablo Mari and Cedric Soares made sense. I am not sure if there were any better alternatives when you're only exploring the loan market. Additionally, The Athletic also reported that Arteta had watched footage of Mari before sanctioning the move.
You take a club like Chelsea which had a lot of Kia clients in the past - Luiz, Ramires and Willian among others. Haven't these players done great things for Chelsea?
There is no denying there have been clubs in the past that have suffered due to the power super-agents hold over the sporting director - a classic example being Jorge Mendes' influence at Valencia.
In Arsenal's case, however - there is absolutely no evidence to suggest a dumping of sub-par players by certain agents.
There is always a lot of hysteria, further exacerbated by the media when it comes to agent driven deals. Arsenal as a club in the way we do transfer deals is changing - as fans we are not used to this. It will take time to embrace this. So far, the signs in the transfer market have been good and that's what really matters.
It is very harsh to blame Sanllehi for the struggle we find ourselves in today - we had a squad lacking in balance, key players getting into their last years, a massive wage bill and a fading identity. It will take time for him to fix all of this. Yes, we should hold him accountable for decisions, but we need to have more perspective.