It has been claimed that Raul Sanllehi wanted Luis Enrique as Arsenal manager but we ended up with Unai Emery. Is that what Raul wanted? The answer will tell us a lot about where Arsenal go next.
Back when Unai Emery was first appointed as Arsenal’s head coach to usher us into the post-Wenger era, Raul Sanllehi wasn’t quite the large figure he became when Ivan Gazidis left.
It was claimed at that time that Enrique was Sanllehi’s choice, something Mundo Derpotivo reported around the same time that David Ornstein revealed Arsenal’s five-man shortlist (by naming eight managers it could be).
In fact, Arsenal were said to be in ‘pole position’ to land Enrique. Others on the list were Max Allegri, Julian Nagelsmann, Carlo Ancelotti, Patrick Vieira, Mikel Arteta, Thierry Henry, and Thomas Tuchel.
Emery’s name was nowhere to be found.
Two of the three people who sat on the panel to decide Arsene Wenger’s successor are now gone. Along with Sanllehi and Gazidis, Sven Mislintat had also a seat at the table. Now only Raul is left and what happens with Unai Emery will be his call after he helped push out Mislintat.
“In his 14 months at Arsenal, Mislintat proved that his way of doing things worked in the Premier League,” Christoph Biermann writes in ‘Football Hackers’. “Arsenal’s newly appointed Director of Football, Raul Sanllehi, however, decided to put more trust in his network of agents as far as recruitment was concerned. Mislintat saw this startling development as a signal. His contract was terminated by mutual consent.”
Before interviewing Emery, all three had their own picks. Gazidis wanted Arteta while Mislintat wanted Domenico Tedesco or Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsmann. Emery, however, reportedly blew them all away as he outlined his plans for Arsenal and the job was his.
So does he still want Enrique? Possibly. There was brief mention in the book ‘Football Hackers’ that Unai Emery had been Sanllehi’s pick in the end, but the weight of evidence seems to suggest he initially preferred other options before being swayed by Emery’s presentation. If that’s the case, Arsenal could look to break from Emery at the end of this season.
Enrique is currently out of work, quitting as the Spain manger in June due to ‘personal reasons’. That, sadly, turned out to be the illness of his nine-year-old daughter, who tragically passed away at the end of August.
I certainly wouldn’t expect him to return to work anytime soon after such a devastating loss, but come the end of the season, things might seem different and he could be ready to return to work, if not before.
If I was Unai, I’d have one big eye looking over my shoulder while the other tries to find that presentation so I could start delivering what I promised.