During the off-season, Arsenal made the tough decision of proposing 55 redundancies to club employees on August 5, and Mikel Arteta has addressed the decision and his players reaction.
At the time it was explained in a joint statement from Raul Sanllehi and Vinai Venkatesham that although the call was not one the club wanted to make, it was necessary to ensure the Gunners are able to compete in a post-COVID world.
The decision was met with criticism among some parts of the fan base as the statement also outlined Arsenal’s aim to continue to invest in the playing squad despite these redundancies. Arteta was keen to outline he understood the frustrations when looking solely at the financial side of the issue.
“I understand when you’re only looking at the financial point of view, you can get some contradictory messages. But what is clear is that the club had a very thorough plan of how they need to restructure in order to function better and be more stable for the future,” he said ahead of the Community Shield.
“They were very convincing with their argument that they gave to all of us that it was the right thing to do. Obviously it’s really sad, it was during the COVID period when we had to make a decision, to get our players to contribute to the pay cut one of the reasons was to maintain some of them [staff jobs].
“We’ve been trying to do the right thing and the club is trying to protect the future as much as possible.”
Another factor which raised eyebrows following the announcement on August 5 was that Arsenal players and coaches had agreed 12.5% pay cuts in April, specifically for the purpose of saving the jobs of non-playing staff.
Their FA Cup final win over Chelsea means the pay cuts of those who took them were dropped to 7.5%, but it was reported by The Athletic that players still felt upset that these jobs weren’t able to be saved by the club.
Understanding this, Arteta spoke in more depth on the players’ decisions to go ahead with the pay cut, stressing that it was not an obligation for any player but a choice.
“The players were happy to contribute to help the club in this difficult financial position and that doesn’t mean that after, you’re going to have a say in every decision made by the club, it cannot work like that,” he explained.
“At the end of the day, it wasn’t an obligation, it was a choice whether you wanted to do it or not. We tried to do the right thing as human beings to help a club that has been supporting us – in my case for many, many years and others as well – whether you were injured, sick, performing or not performing and we believe that was the right thing to do.
“Then the club has to be free to try to fight for the future in the most positive and stable way.”
In the meantime, Arsenal also confirmed the departure of Sanllehi as the club’s head of football on August 15. With that, came the decision for Venkatesham to be the lead figure of the club although his title remains managing director.
Edu and Arteta are heading up recruitment at the club but whether or not the Spaniard’s role will parallel the more overseeing one performed by Arsene Wenger after the restructure was not made clear, and hasn’t been confirmed as of yet.
“It’s something we are discussing at the moment. First of all, I want to wish Raul all the best, all my respect and admiration because I enjoyed working alongside him,” Arteta added.
“The club made a decision – a very difficult decision – but the way he left the club, I think he honoured them, everyone had nice words towards him and now we have to figure out what is the best way to ground our football club in the sporting side and that’s what we’re trying to do while trying to achieve all the targets we have for this transfer market.”
“I don’t know what’s going to happen [if his role will change]. It’s things we are discussing internally at the club and we want to find the best way to be as efficient as possible, maximise the people we have at the club to make things the right way.”