Arsenals head of football, Raul Sanllehi, is the lone survivor of the process that led to the recruitment of Unai Emery and he cannot afford to get it wrong again
When Ivan Gazidis sat down alongside Unai Emery at the latters unveiling in May 2018 he openly acknowledged he was not presenting the man who, until the very last moment of the recruitment process, everyone else had been expecting. It had all been pretty surprising to Mikel Arteta, too, given the former Arsenal midfielder had been in advanced talks about taking the head coach role. In a rhetorical flourish typical of the now-departed chief executive, Gazidis suggested anyone following the story until this point had been several steps behind all along, saying: Those who know wont speak and those who speak wont know.
It was all a little self-congratulatory and now feels fruitless, too, because Emerys subsequent demise means there will be an even steelier gaze on the selection of his successor. Gazidis works for Milan these days and another of the three-man panel that recommended Emery to the clubs owners, the head of recruitment, Sven Mislintat, controversially moved on in February.
So the common denominator in the two exercises will be Raul Sanllehi, who became head of football when Gazidis departed last December, and there is a sense the former Barcelona administrator will stand or fall by the decision he oversees next.
The way Emery, who never looked a comfortable fit at Arsenal and struggled to communicate with his players, fell short casts a sharp light on the machinations that brought him there. Gazidis had spoken of the chemistry between us in Emerys interview but had also been quick to divide responsibility for the choice, stressing it was unanimous. The noises since then suggest it was in fact Sanllehi, who held the more lowly head of football relations title at that point, who got his man in the end. For every painstaking analysis of Emerys failings there must be an acknowledgement that the biggest error in the first place was to decide he ticked more boxes than seven other interviewees.
Sanllehi will sit on a new committee this time, joined by his choice for the technical director role, Edu, and the managing director, Vinai Venkatesham. The merry-go-round that took place in the executive positions while Emery was in charge offers some mitigation for the on-pitch performance.
The house needs to be in order upstairs and how effectively the panel works to choose the most suitable manager now will be a sound indicator of Arsenals health.
It is why alarm bells sounded when Nuno Esprito Santo, the Wolves manager, was mentioned in connection with the role in the 48 hours before Emery was sacked. Nunos performance at Molineux, albeit with the resources of Fosun and the network of Jorge Mendes, has been exceptional but the catch lay in the small print. Sanllehi knows Mendes well and an element of distaste surfaced among some sections of the fanbase at the prospect of Arsenal handing de facto control to the so-called super-agent.