Time to dispense with the Grimster?
By Kevin Whitcher
Arsenal’s French scouting ain’t what it used to be
After the weekend’s defeat, amongst an email discussion with some regular correspondents, the following question was posed…
Compare all AWs signings from France to those from other countries recently. Who would you rather have?
Squillaci, Giroud, Chamakh, Park and Koscielny?
Or Podolski, Cazorla, Arteta, Jenks and the Ox?
It was answered with the simple conclusion –
For those unaware, former player Gilles Grimandi is Arsenal’s chief scout in France, a post he took up in late 2005. Previously he has been a director of football at French club Valence, although whether or not their filing for bankruptcy is anything to do with the Grimster is not something I am aware of. Rather strangely, he finished his playing career at Colorado Rapids in the MSL, although before Stan Kroenke bought the team. It was not exactly an unqualified success, as once he got over there, he never took part in a competitive match before calling it a day.
It should be no surprise that the inside track on French players Arsene Wenger used to enjoy in his first years in London has disappeared over the years. Aside from the scouting network of all major clubs being much more sophisticated these days, the men who Wenger would have had closest links with have, in all probability, moved on since he was last active in France in 1994.
There have been successful imports from France since Grimandi took up his post. Adebayor, Sagna and Nasri have – in different ways – proved worth bringing to the club, although they have not actually helped bring any trophies unlike their illustrious predecessors, Grimandi included.
A change in the coaching set up is regarded as having improved the team’s defensive resilience. It is generally agreed that the goals conceded against Manchester City and Chelsea were down to individual errors rather than team shape, although there are valid questions to be asked about the concession of Chelsea’s two free kicks. However, stronger defending for all goals would have seen them prevented. So there is work to do on individuals at the same time as bedding in a new philosophy of being less reckless positionally when the team have the ball. Yet matters would be helped if the quality of the players acquired was better in the first place.
Newcastle have demonstrated that a good scouting system can bring genuine talent from France at cheap prices. Yohan Cabaye cost less than £5 million and Hatem Ben Arfa was not much more.
Arsene Wenger is notoriously loyal to the men that work for him. Perhaps he has to get ruthless if he wants to improve his squad instead of frittering millions in transfer fees and wages on players recommended by Grimandi.
3rd October 2012
User Comment and Reaction
User comments on this article are now closed. If you want to continue the debate, why not do so on the Gooner Forum.
Welling Gooner 9:16am 3rd Oct 2012
How people are writing Giroud off is beyond me. He bullied SKertl and Agger at Liverpool. Yes he has missed guilt edge chances but in time and with confidence i think he will be a pivotal player in the side. To many people who think they know everything and write people off straight away. - Post No. 29251
Paul 9:18am 3rd Oct 2012
At the end of the day Wenger has the final say on who we buy.Unless Wenger goes it doesnt matter who are scouts are.Its Wenger who is the problem.Wenger knew about Ben Arfa and Cabaye they were not unknowns.The signings of Chamakh Squillaci Gervinho Giroud and Park have Wengers prints all over them - Post No. 29252
don froth 9:29am 3rd Oct 2012
Pony player, pony scout! His only notable moment for arsenal as a player was that punch away at Lazio. - Post No. 29253
Herbert 9:48am 3rd Oct 2012
How typical from he gooner. A new stick to beat the club with, what is the point of this article? You have no idea about the internal scouting setup, you dont know if the recent poor players were anything to do with him or not! Wish you guys would actually do some research before firing more negative trite out, but then again why am I suprised. This is the home of the angry minority - Post No. 29254
Diaby is made of wafers 9:59am 3rd Oct 2012
Don't forget the fore head Gervinho is also from the sh1te French league !!!!! Lets not forget Gilles was a pile of turd as a player as well - Post No. 29255
chris dee 10:10am 3rd Oct 2012
You forgot to mention other players that Grimandi has scouted,AlexSong,Diaby ,who before his ankle was decimated which has made him injury prone was rated the best young midfielder in Europe and currently Coquelin and Gervinho. Not too shabby a record is it?It's to easy to go through a list and point out unsuccesful buys,you could do that at every club in the world.Grims record is more positive than negative. By the way what is the Gooners response to the daily ridiculing,vitriol,bile and hatred of our club,our board,our manager,our players and our fans by scumbags Adrian Durham and Darren Gough on Talk Trash? Or is beneath the editor/writers of The Gooner to reply to this daily trashing of our club? Or will the answer be a twee'just turn your radio off'instead of fighting fire with fire? - Post No. 29256
Ron 10:48am 3rd Oct 2012
I cant see hammering him has any mileage mate. The problems we have on the field are all created in the boardroom and then fostered and heartliy fertilzed in the Coach's office in my opinion. French players are often a bit hit or miss anyway ie either excellent or humdrum and not much in between so his record isnt that bad surely? - Post No. 29257
Stroud Green Road Boy 11:16am 3rd Oct 2012
Due to the fact we all know Wenger ain't going anywhere, I think we flail around desperately looking for other things that could possibly turn the club's fortunes (on the pitch that is, plenty of 'fortune' being made off it). As you've said, Wenger has lost his 'inside track' on players in France, and elsewhere, it follows. That's what gave him his edge. Wenger without his edge is what we've had the last few seasons, with all the now familiar failings brought to the fore. What difference can it possibly make whether Grimandi or some other French bloke is the scout, nothing will change until Wenger goes. Sadly there are plenty of people, in the board and amongst the fanbase, that are very happy with 'no change'. - Post No. 29258
Big John 11:43am 3rd Oct 2012
'Sack the medical team' 'Sack the scouts' 'Sack the number 2' 'Sack the board' Dear Christ could it not be any more obvious that there is ONE person who needs to go before anyone else? ARSENE WENGER. OUT. - Post No. 29259
Tony Evans 12:16pm 3rd Oct 2012
I think the key word in your article, Kevin, is ruthless when applied to Wenger. A more ruthless boss, dare I say like Fergie at Manure, would never indulge and tolerate so many poor performing players. Wenger obviously has his merits as he has proved by keeping us top four on such a tight fisted budget where many others have failed but for me he completely lacks the ruthless streak required to turn Arsenal in to a team of real winners. - Post No. 29261
The Fonz 12:49pm 3rd Oct 2012
Im confused by this piece? Doesnt seem to be relevant at the moment, and seems ill thought out. Do you have something a bit more substantial to back up your words? Considering our scouting netowkr is the envy of most clubs, you have chosen to highlight a percieved weakness without any insight.Id like to say im suprised kev but its a sign of the times really.... - Post No. 29262
fozzy's mate 12:57pm 3rd Oct 2012
While I don't like the signings from France you list Kev I don't blame Giles. The problem is that we don't sign players as good as those sell. That is because we have people like MSS Gazidis doing DDT Kroenkes bidding. We have £153 million at bank yet Gazidis spouts that when we want to sign a player we have to get another one out. No other big club works on this model. Hence we sell one of the best strikers in europe while signing unproven ones such as Giroud and Chamakh. We do scout the top talent but don't often buy if as when a rival comes in we drop out. Look at Hazard and Mata. We have recruited well in other areas, no doubt Carzorla and Podolski are quality, but Podolski is playing wider than I thought he would. I see us making more chances but also missing more. With our financial model we won't improve as we don't spend the profits generated by player sales, hence the cash mountain builds to 153 million. How much do we want in the bank befire we compete for the top players, £250 million, £300 million? It doesn't matter who we scout, when we have those at the helm that we do. - Post No. 29263
Jumpers for Goalposts 13:47pm 3rd Oct 2012
Interesting article Kevin. The French players you mention are nowhere near the quality of Wenger's early French imports (Vieira / Petit / Wiltord / Pires / Anelka / Wreh). A more difficult question is whether that is down to Grimandi or to the fact that France are a million miles away from the dominant team of the late 90s / early 2000s. Something you haven't mentioned though is the ridiculous transfer fees we pay for these players, which could and should be used to pinch tried and tested Premier League players like Hangeland or Dempsey or Fellaini. - Post No. 29265
johnnyhawleyloovinggooner 14:18pm 3rd Oct 2012
was there not other players recommended early but arsenal would not pay the money that have worked out well elsewere? will give the new players a run of ten games to find their feet,but it is a good point,we have spent a lot on players who did not work out. a purchace of two good players for the price of five bad ones is hard to argue against. also did the Giles recommond them or were they preffered by someone else? - Post No. 29266
maguiresbridge gooner 14:44pm 3rd Oct 2012
We used to have one of the best if not the best scouting networks in europe we've been left behind in that as well most teams buy duds now and again but arsenal more than most.Our chief scout Grimandi probably best known for stopping a spud being the first goal scorer or one of the first at the emirates if some of the dross brought to the club is anything to go by he's certainly not up to the job but like you say arsene is notoriously loyal in that department as contracts for the dross show as does his refusal to sort the keeper situation.The only time he is ruthless is when it comes to selling real quality players for profit. - Post No. 29267
Reg 15:52pm 3rd Oct 2012
@ Welling Gooner. I'm afraid Giroud is going to be another Wenger square peg relentlessly beaten into a round hole. You don't have to spend even a day in football to know he needs crosses. We've seen it all before with Chamakh, Bentdner, etc. I feel really sorry for the guy but we have a manager who doesn't know how to play to that type of centre forward. - Post No. 29268
Mandy Dodd 16:46pm 3rd Oct 2012
I know this is about Gimandi but on another note, seems like whoever our scout in Germany is deserves a bit of praise for recent work - Post No. 29269
Hi Ho Silva 17:34pm 3rd Oct 2012
His contract at Colorado was terminated before playing a single MLS match because he was the victim of several public attacks for being French. 2002 was the height of Anti-French sentiment in the US, remember 'Freedom Fries'? Hardly worth criticising him for that. Oh, I forgot what website I'm reading. - Post No. 29270
Yellow Chunda 17:57pm 3rd Oct 2012
Have to agree with Jumpers for Goalposts..why waste these fees when we could spend same on tried and tested PL players but then again what do we know ? I havent spent a year in football.. - Post No. 29271
Wombledin 20:18pm 3rd Oct 2012
No use blaming the scouts, its Wenger who hires them and the players. It's Wenger who is hopelessly biased in favour of French league footballers. If Grimandi went then he would be replaced with an equivalent who would do exactly the same as what Gramandi did. A bit of a daft article really. - Post No. 29272
JM - LONDON 22:04pm 3rd Oct 2012
Yeah, I think there's a deeper story here, and I dont think the fault lies particularly with Gilles. He is just another victim of the gross under investment that the team has had these past several years, he has no doubt been told to look at, and recommend players in a certain price/wage bracket rather than top class playing ability. You can't tell me Gilles dont carry a 'Gold card' entry permit in France (signed by AW) to see whatever he wants. Lets face it, AW is legend in his homeland. Hey, anyway, I just like the guy, he was one of the Le Rouge's! - Post No. 29273
GoonerRon 22:36pm 3rd Oct 2012
Bit unfair blaming Grimandi for signing Squillaci seeing as he came from a Spanish club. - Post No. 29274
QuartzGooner 3:11am 4th Oct 2012
Most of our French signings have been high profile players that Wenger would have known about without Grimandi's bringing them to attention. Koscielny might be the welcome exception, and probably Giles Sunnu and Amaury Bischoff, who each did little of note but hardly cost us much. Grimandi will watch players in person for additional information in scouting reports, and try to find out about players' characters, but the buck stops with Wenger, who has full access to French satelite channels and DVDs of all French League One games. - Post No. 29275
GG89 12:27pm 4th Oct 2012
Ummmmm... I think those french newcastle players could have been approached but Gilles doesnt speak La Gordie... Otherwise the article is unfair... if the tight fisted directors had forced AW to spend he would have done and those french as3nlmplayers that have joined chelsea could have come in and done a job for the gooners... I still think the artcle is unfair... Gilles Grimandi Da da da daaaaa da Gilles Grimandi Da da da daaaaa da.... - Post No. 29282
17th September 2014
Online Ed: Defeat in Dortmund