Morning all. Thanks to everyone who listened and provided feedback on yesterday’s Arsecast with David Ornstein. There was obviously a lot to get through, but as a general point people who make things – whether it’s writing, videos, books, blogs, podcasts, songs, art, comedy, comics, or anything else – really appreciate it when someone takes the time to send a message to say how much they enjoyed it, so don’t be afraid to tell someone who makes stuff you like that you dig it ?.
Anyway, I’m sure everyone has their own particular takeaway from the episode, a bit of information which resonated with them most, and for me it’s not new information but the departure of Sven Mislintat is the one I’m going to focus on today. I have to say I find it a little strange that people have been so dismissive of him and his work, and that this Friday will be his last day at the club after just over a year in the job.
Of course he’s not the only scout in the world, nor does he have a 100% record. Anybody involved in recruitment has hits and misses. Arsene Wenger had his fair share of both down the years, and it’s true of Mislintat too. Under his auspices, I think we can say one of the five signings he brought about hasn’t really worked, Stephan Lichtsteiner, and we’ve been over reasons for that in the last few weeks so there’s no need to re-tread over old ground.
Two of them have been pretty good. Even if I’m still a bit on the fence about Bernd Leno I think he’s performed well this season, and most of us have liked what we’ve seen from Sokratis but injury has hampered his first year with us. Still, when you look at our currently available central defenders, he and Koscielny are the best pair by some distance, so hopefully he can get fit and stay fit for the rest of the season.
Now, if you were to ask people, not just Arsenal fans, to highlight their signings of the Premier League season, I suspect many would say that Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira have been right up there with the best of them. The former has been both a surprise and revelation since his arrival from Lorient, and although I had some recent concerns we were asking too much of him, his performance against Man City was probably the one positive we had on the day and it was a big one too. It was the kind of controlled and mature display you rarely see from 19 year olds playing against the biggest teams, so it augurs really well for the future.
The latter has tired a bit in recent weeks, not uncommon for a player who is used to a winter break and then asked to play through the most hectic schedule in European football, but there’s no doubt that he has been a success thus far and someone who was brought qualities that the team was missing. I think he’ll find a second wind and will be crucial to our hopes of finishing where we want to this season.
So, that’s why I’m worried about Mistlintat’s departure and also why I don’t understand the reaction from some who think it’s not a big deal. He has brought us the future of our midfield for around £34m which, to put it in context, is much less than Liverpool paid for Naby Keita, it’d get you nearly one and half Jorginhos or almost two Freds. I’ve even seen people suggest Guendouzi wasn’t a Mislintat player, which is incorrect. We were first linked with him a month or so after he arrived at the club, and he outlines the background to the discovery here.
Torreira was playing regularly for Sampdoria, so wasn’t such an unknown quantity, but he was still a name that nobody had ever mentioned in relation to Arsenal, and if you listened to the podcast you’ll know that Sven’s methods involve him scouting players on a very, very deep level, so this was someone he’d been working on for some time. Now they’re both at Arsenal, hopefully we’ll get years from them both, and the outgoing Head of Recruitment deserves a great deal of credit for that.
Now, we basically have to start again. Mislintat’s plans for the summer will no longer apply, although it is possible that some of the players he has targetted might well still be on our list, but ahead of a summer when even if we have the maximum £100m available to us (which I suspect depends on Champions League qualification) we have to be really smart with our incoming business, and that whole side of the club requires urgent restructuring.
We have to appoint a Head of Scouting, with our long-time man in Spain Franny Cagigao a potential candidate; there’s obviously a desire to bring in a Technical Director with Monchi from Roma one of the stand-out names mentioned there; and then those guys have got to get down to work quickly, cohesively, and do so with the approval of Head of Football Raul Sanllehi, plus input from the head coach. Those are positions which need to be filled as soon as possible. This is not a can we can kick down the road, so hopefully the cogs are moving behind the scenes as we speak because otherwise we should be quite worried.
I suppose it’s also fair to say that when there is any kind of major upheaval at a football club, or any other institution, it can take time to find a team of people that can work well together. At Arsenal right now that’s true at administrative level, and it might even be a case that we go through a number of coaches before we find the ‘right’ one. It’s not to dismiss Emery by the way, but it wouldn’t be unusual for a number of men to make incremental improvements which create the Goldilocks environment for someone else to come in and take full advantage of.
Now though, the focus is well and truly on Raul Sanllehi. It’s clear that he moved to take the power behind the scenes which has precipitated Sven’s departure, so there’s now full accountability when it comes to the football decisions this club makes. That’s applicable to players we bring in, players that are sold, the treatment of existing players, and the decisions that are made in terms of squad building – again in conjunction with Emery, but Sanllehi is the man at the top of the food chain, so we know where to point the finger or where to give the plaudits.
Obviously there’s a lot to do between now and May, and our focus will be primarily on what happens on the pitch with our attempts to secure Champions League football for next season. But what we do off it and behind the scenes will go a long way to dictating the future of this club, so let’s hope the right decisions are being made for the benefit of Arsenal, and that they start to bear fruit soon.
In case you didn’t catch the podcast, you can listen/subscribe below. More from me tomorrow.