Former Barcelona Director of Football, Raul Sanllehi, has officially joined Arsenal in his role as head of football relations. Sanllehi brings a wealth of experience within the transfer window, and has been recruited to help shake off Arsenal’s poor reputation with transfer negotiations. During his 10 years at Barcelona, Sanllehi has been involved in some of the biggest deals in the history of world football – Neymar, Suarez and Dembele, to name but a few.
Ivan Gazidis recruited his expertise to make Arsenal a force in The Premier League, and in Europe, and Sanllehi looks like he wants to make his mark straight away with a big money move for Jan Oblak. The goalkeeping situation at Arsenal has been well documented, with Petr Cech’s powers rapidly declining and David Ospina looking a long way off a top four keeper, despite being an excellent back up.
Jan Oblak has been a revelation since joining Atletico from Benfica in 2014, logging more than 50 La Liga clean sheets. One obstacle could be his £89m buy out clause, which would see Arsenal drastically break their transfer record for the third time in 12 months. Arsenal are unlikely to do this for a goalkeeper, no matter how good, especially when they desperately need a centre back and a CDM as well, so Sanllehi will have to bring his sharpest negotiating skills to the table to drive the price down. He is valued at £45m by transfermarket which I believe is a price Atletico Madrid may be willing to accept.
Even if Atletico Madrid choose to settle for less than his buy out clause, there is no doubt Oblak will come at a premium, even if Arsenal did manage to drive down his buyout clause, but any outlay must be seen as an investment. At 25 years old, Oblak has 10 plus years at the top level ahead of him, and he’s only going to get better. This long term goalkeeping solution would allow Arsenal to continue to build year on year, without having to look for a new gloveman, similarly to what Manchester United and Tottenham have done with De Gea and Lloris respectively.
Cech’sreaction speed and lack of mobility have become a major problem for Arsenal, but Oblack would change this instantly. The keeper, who stands at four inches shorter than Arsenal’s number one, is quick off his line, fast to react and good with the ball at his feet. Despite being relatively small for a keeper, he commands his box well, and brings a calm head and reassurance to those in front of him – exactly what Arsenal need.
A move for any goalkeeper will likely see David Ospina leave the club and Petr Cech step down to become the club’s number two. Ospina is a good keeper, but Arsenal need a world class keeper like Oblak if they are to compete once again. While Cech is unlikely to be happy at becoming the club’s number two, he is likely to prefer it over leaving the club, due to his desire to stay in London.