Ivan Gazidis and Arsene Wenger combined to leave the club in a right pickle. Operating on a Champions League budget, players were being overpaid and the handling of contracts left the club with valuable assets able to run down their deals and leave for a fraction of their worth. Two seasons out of the Champions League saw decline in revenues whilst costs continued heading north. Arsenal, supposedly run on tight business lines, dropped further out of contention, as the money that was spent in the transfer market was spent poorly.
Credit to Gazidis for two key decisions though. One, to take away the control of the scouting operation from Wenger by recruiting Sven Mislintat, and two, maybe nine years later than justified, giving Arsene Wenger the boot. The latter told us he’d be managing at another club this season, although my suspicion is that he is not getting any offers from clubs he considers worthy of his status. Go figure.
Anyway, with only a modest budget to play with, Arsenal’s chances of bucking the odds were reliant on good scouting, good youth development (although that will take time to bear fruit) and good coaching. Mislintat, Mertesacker and Emery.
The former Dortmund scout came with a reputation for finding young unpolished diamonds who became superstars – Hummels, Lewandowski, Gundogan, Aubameyang and Ousmane Dembele are some of examples of his work. Mislintat was behind the signings of Torreira and Guendouzi last summer.
If Arsenal are to rebuild, they need a quality man in charge of their scouting operation. That Bayern Munich are reputedly interested in Mislintat’s services tells you all you need to know.
Assuming, he does depart, it will knock Arsenal’s chances of recovery back severely. Remembering he was Gazidis’ appointment (arriving a few months before now ‘head of football’ Raul Sanllehi), things may have changed at the club since Gazidis handed over the reins to Sanllehi and Vinai Venkatesham. For starters, there have been stories that the club are trying to recruit former player Edu as a ‘technical director’. This, apparently, was a position that Mislintat was interested in, and his not being considered for it is effectively a demotion in terms of his position in the hierarchy at the club. Add to this the possibility that Sanllehi and manager Unai Emery may prefer other targets than Mislintat has identified (news stories point to a disagreement over Dennis Suarez, for example). Such things also undermine his work. As indeed does Emery’s admittance that the club are only looking at loan deals in the current window.
But most of all, one suspects that there has been a souring of relations because Mislintat is not an easy individual to work with. He has been described by one source as “not a team player”. There is no disguising the ugliness of his fallout with Thomas Turchel at Dortmund, a feud that ended up with Mislintat being banned from the training ground. Such personality differences may point to the head scout’s treatment – effectively it seems to come down to the head of football deciding he cannot work with his head scout and marginalising him to force him out.
This is pure speculation of course, but at a time when everyone should be pulling together, the smoke signals from the Emirates indicate that this just isn’t happening. In terms of working relations, the departure of Mislintat may be necessary. But looking at the club’s ability to find quality talent at bargain prices, the German would be a huge loss. The club line is that their head scout is going nowhere. Let us hope that is actually the case, in spite of all the stories.