Raul Sanllehi believes Arsenal are making a mistake by going back to a system involving a first-team manager, rather than a head coach.

Raul Sanllehi and Edu
Raul Sanllehi and Edu

Former Arsenal head of football Raul Sanllehi is currently working as director general for Real Zaragoza in the Spanish second tier, having spent two-and-a-half years in north London with the Gunners.

Looking back on his former club from afar, Sanllehi thinks they’re making a mistake by giving Mikel Arteta the job of ‘manager’, rather than ‘head coach’. Even if he accepts that it’s working right now.

“They have betrayed the model a little bit now,” Sanllehi told The Athletic. “By going back to the manager at the top, that is a mistake, but that is their mistake. I would have not allowed that to happen. But that’s fine, it is working so far for them.

“I do not agree when clubs call the first-team coach ‘the manager’. First-team coach is first-team coach, that is enough.

“Nowadays, the workload is overwhelming, and I need him to concentrate on the first team.

“Anything that distracts you from that is not your responsibility — travel arrangements, the pitch, salary budget, medical department. We will get other people to do that. The first-team coach is short-term oriented — just win tonight’s game.”

Mikel Arteta and his coaching team with the Premier League Manager of the Month award (Photo via Arsenal)
Mikel Arteta and his coaching team with the Premier League Manager of the Month award (Photo via Arsenal)

The timing of Sanllehi’s comments is obviously not ideal to help him make his point. Arsenal are top of the league, with Arteta having won Premier League Manager of the Month for August.

But we shouldn’t draw conclusions too soon. The general idea behind having a head coach, rather than a manager, is that it allows for a smoother transition when you need to make a change.

If you have a head coach, exclusively in charge of winning matches, then that’s all you lose when you decide to let the head coach go. You don’t lose your voice in the transfer market, your development chief, and so on.

Perhaps the real test of Sanllehi’s beliefs will come when Arsenal decide they need to move on from Arteta.