Ian Herbert: Frantic deadline-day transfer business by Arsenal and Manchester United shows value of a technical director

Manchester City began working on this summer’s transfer window in October

A lot of names popped up in that frantic finale to the transfer window, including one who went on national radio claiming to be Danny Welbeck’s agent. The player says he has never heard of him. But it was two quiet men who showed the way at Manchester City and Chelsea – the clubs whose summer business demonstrated to Manchester United and Arsenal that deadline-day chaos is not the only way of doing things.

They were City’s director of football Txiki Begiristain and the Chelsea technical director, Michael Emenalo. Their clubs’ calm pursuit of targets established long before the transfer window opened provided a contrast to the opportunism of Arsenal – who took Welbeck on a five-year deal after he presented himself at their London Colney training ground, seemingly to seek sanctuary from the prospect of signing for Tottenham – and Manchester United.

Begiristain – a gregarious Spaniard and former Barcelona winger – has never given a British media interview and Emenalo keeps an equally low profile, but both deconstruct the notion that technical directors are an unnecessary interference in English football. City owe the success of their system to Brian Marwood, who helped Abu Dhabi to establish the structure. Five years ago he brought in players who caused City to be decried as big spending but whose purchase seems like good value now. Yaya Touré cost £24m, approximately the same price United have paid out for a season of Falcao’s services.

The director of football model went pear-shaped during what can only be described as City’s “Italian period” – the Roberto Mancini years, when he demanded poor value purchases such as Javi Garcia and Maicon. But the relationship between Manuel Pellegrini and Begiristain has been a different story. City began work on this summer’s transfer market last October and secured each of the targets they had laid out – Bacary Sagna, Eliaquim Mangala and Fernando. Everton’s Ross Barkley was identified as a desirable further addition, though the packages that City were confronted with – £50m at one stage – reflected  the huge difficulties attached to buying the  best British players.

It has been a similar picture at Chelsea, where Emenalo and Marina Granovskaia – Roman Abramovich’s senior adviser, who joined the board last summer – create the same capacity to initiate rapid and pre-planned player acquisitions. When Jose Mourinho arrived back at the club last summer, some doubted whether Emenalo had a future at Stamford Bridge, but he has established a working relationship with the Portuguese which saw the club make the early move for Diego Costa. The striker’s immediate impact has left Arsenal’s supporters wondering why they were not in that particular picture.

They have signed Welbeck instead. Though there is potential for him to resolve the relative lack of goals that haunted him at United – if Arsène Wenger only plays him through the centre – there was real chaos about his acquisition. He says he has never heard of Jonathan Hope, the man who went on the BBC to talk about how he was brokering the deal.

United executive Ed Woodward delivered the kind of squad that Louis van Gaal, now on holiday, will believe he can work with.  But figures by the Sporting Intelligence website show that the club paid out a net £122m this summer, over £70m more than the second biggest spenders, Arsenal. Running one of the biggest clubs in the world and developing the relationships with football people that are integral to squad restructuring is a tall order for one man.

Some at United feel that Van Gaal could not work with a technical director. But his successful relationship with Marcel Brands, now at PSV Eindhoven and technical director at AZ Alkmaar during the Dutchman’s successful period there, reveals a precedent. “Van Gaal is not that hot on buying players,” says one Dutch source. At Arsenal, the respected chief scouted Steve Rowley, a Wenger contemporary, provides the know-how. But it takes an eternity to make a decision. The quiet men showed this summer that there is another way.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'