Arsenal managing director Vinai Venkatesham has addressed a number of topics including transfer plans, trophy aspirations, redundancies and improving communication with fans in an interview with the club’s official website that follows Saturday’s behind-the-scenes restructuring.
The Gunners announced yesterday that head of football Raul Sanllehi is to leave the club, with Venkatesham – who has been at the Emirates for more than a decade – set to take them forward.
Standard Sport understands that Sanllehi and Arsenal parted on good terms, with his exit due to a restructuring rather than any reflection on his work.
Venkatesham’s strong business and financial background is thought to be seen as key with clubs operating with diminished financial capabilities caused by coronavirus, though football decisions will fall under the remit of technical director Edu and manager Mikel Arteta, with contracts expert Huss Fahmy then responsible for getting transfer deals over the line once targets have been identified.
Addressing transfers and the football side of things in his interview with Arsenal.com released on Sunday, Venkatesham, who described Arteta as “absolutely fantastic” and “dynamic”, said: “We have, in Edu and Mikel, two individuals who are responsible for our technical plan.
“Of course, [that is] overseen by me and the board, but those two are the experts and they have a very, very clear plan about how they want to rebalance our squad in the short term, in the medium term and in the long term. We’re starting to work on that immediately in this transfer window.”
He added: “In terms of the board, we work very, very closely. So we’re in regular contact with the owners pretty much every single day and we’re all here to achieve the same thing and that’s to push this football club forward and to get this club back where to where it needs to be.
“We’ve been active in the market and we saw recently that we brought in Willian from Chelsea, a signing that Edu and Mikel are really, really excited about and I’m sure our fans are excited about as well. And we’ll continue to work hard this transfer window.
“I think it’s going to be a challenging transfer window post-coronavirus, it’s going to be unusual and it’s going to be challenging, but we’ll continue to work hard to deliver on our objectives to strengthen the squad and Edu and Mikel have a really clear plan around how they’d like to do that.”
Arsenal have received criticism in some quarters of late for pressing ahead with their summer transfer business after announcing that they would be proposing 55 redundancies at the club.
On that issue, Venkatesham said: “We had to make a difficult decision about proposing redundancies.
“That decision is about making sure that we have the right structure and the right size of organisation going forward, into a very, very different world that we’re going to face post-coronavirus and making sure we can be as strong as possible on the other side. So there’s going to be some tough decisions.”
Arsenal endured a difficult 2019/20 campaign, with Unai Emery sacked as head coach in November and replaced the following month by former captain Arteta, who secured the club’s 14th FA Cup triumph at Wembley but was only able to guide the team to an eighth-placed Premier League finish – their lowest for 25 years.
And Venkatesham admitted the club’s impatience when it comes to stop falling short of expectations and getting back to competing for league and European honours.
“We are impatient,” he said. “So we know we’re not where we want to be and we are impatient, because we want to get to where we want to be, as quickly as we possibly can.”