The 2021 summer transfer window is fast approaching, with Arsenal set for a major overhaul of the squad.
The ones who are primarily tasked with the technical decisions are the manager, Mikel Arteta, and technical director, Edu Gaspar. They worked in close conjunction with each other last summer after the sacking of Raul Sanllehi.
One more departure towards the end of that window which went relatively under the radar was that of contracts guru, Huss Fahmy who stepped down from his role as head of football operations.
To fill Fahmy's void, Arsenal confirmed the appointment of Richard Garlick in January.
Garlick, who has a background in law and is a qualified solicitor worked as the director of football administration at West Bromwich Albion between 2010-2018. His role at the Hawthorns was primarily concerned with contract negotiations with players and their agents. Additionally, he was also in charge of certain other aspects of managing the club, such as imposing rules and deciding on the punishments in case of breaches.
He is said to be a man with a sense of humor as evidenced by his epic response to an agent who had a strange request. Speaking to Express & star, Garlick said:
After his long tenure at West Brom, Garlick went on to join the Premier League as their director of football - a role he stepped down from in light of the European Super League controversy.
At Arsenal, one of Garlick's roles would be to manage relationships with football's governing bodies. As someone who has worked with the FA himself, this should come in very handy. Additionally, the relations between Arsenal's executives and the 'non ESL' clubs are at an all-time low - executives from the 'big six' all resigned from their roles with the Premier league committees - it could well be that Garlick represents Arsenal, taking the place of CEO Vinai Venkatesham who stepped down from his Premier League role on the Club Strategic Advisory Group (CSAG).
One of Garlick's first tasks would be to sort out the future of Emile Smith Rowe whose contract will expire in two years. Smith Rowe has been one of Arsenal's shining lights in a dim season. Arteta loves Emile and the player loves Arsenal, so this should be one of Garlick's relatively easier tasks.
Now comes the real challenge. Arsenal have a decision to make on a number of players whose contracts expire in 2023. Bernd Leno, Hector Bellerin, Granit Xhaka, and Reiss Nelson are names whose futures need to be sorted in one way or another. The same can be said about players whose contracts expire next year - Calum Chambers, Mohamed Elneny, and Alexandre Lacazette.
The primary decision obviously comes from Arteta/Edu. They're the ones who set the direction in terms of who to keep and let go. Garlick will have to work within that framework and negotiate contracts accordingly. Another interesting development is Tim Lewis' role in Arsenal's board. He's essentially Kroenke's most trusted man at Arsenal right now. Garlick will have to satisfy multiple parties in his negotiations considering Arsenal are more tightly monitoring finances than ever before.
In some cases like Lacazette for example, if Arsenal aren't able to find a suitable buyer, they could offer the player a new contract. There have been reports of a one-year contract offer on the table - but again, it is unclear what the terms are. This is something for Garlick to work on.
The Athletic came out with an interesting report recently that suggested one of the reasons for Fahmy stepping down from his role was because of 'Edu’s expanding role - he is insistent all recruitment conversations flow directly through him. He has placed himself above the parapet.'
What this means is Edu sees himself as someone who needs to be involved actively in everything. It reminds me of Wenger wanting to involve himself in the overall management of the club and also have a say in how much we pay for a transfer, the wage, etc.
It was frustrating as the financial aspect is best left to an expert. On the other hand, that added self-responsibility also means more accountability. Edu failed to bring in an attacking midfielder last summer, a position Arsenal desperately needed. Additionally, he failed to sufficiently shift out enough players - we had to leave out two players from the squad. You can say that it is a COVID year and whatnot, but he put himself in a place where he must take that added responsibility when perhaps he could've used more help from actual experts in this domain.
It is said that Edu played a key role in convincing Flo Balogun to stay at Arsenal which he deserves credit for. Keeping this in mind, it would perhaps be better off if he focused purely on the technical aspect of the game given how much work there is to do. Arsenal need to bring in about 7-8 players and over 15 have been linked with moves away. The appointment of Garlick was an absolutely essential one - it can ease the burden off Edu.
Garlick is more experienced than Fahmy when it comes to sports law and contract management in the context of a football club so let's hope that things move quicker and in the right direction.
Arsenal’s ‘Champions league wage bill on a Europa league budget’ has been trimmed recently. With the recent departures of Sokratis, Mustafi and Ozil, coupled with Kolasinac’s loan and Luiz’s contract expiry end of season, Arsenal’s annual wage bill would have gone down by an estimated £45m.
This excludes the loan expiries and the other 15+ departures that have been linked with moves away. Now, it would be totally unprecedented to see that many leaving the club, but we should brace ourselves for at least 10 players leaving. The wage bill would have been cleaned up which means Arsenal can bring in more players.
Arsenal were always going to sign Thomas Partey last summer, but as documented by other sources, we were first trying to sign Houssem Aouar. The bid fell short of Lyon’s valuation but another factor was us being unable to offload enough players. This summer, that has changed. Our squad has been trimmed since January and several others are expected to leave.
I expect a summer of big spending from Arsenal. The concern rests mainly in terms of how we’re going to spend the money? Edu and Arteta are rookies at this level and have had huge trust placed in them. Garlick’s role would be to ensure that we are able to get deals over the line with agreements done in such a way that the long-term future of Arsenal is protected. Sometimes, you cannot avoid overpaying, but in many other instances, you can. You only have to look at some of Arsenal's recent dealings and the picture becomes clearer.
Every little counts for Arsenal. Garlick, with his expertise, might just be the man to ensure that things get smoothly done. The work starts now.
See you in the comments!