Football fans spend most of their time watching and reacting to what happens on the pitch. During the summers, that attention turns towards transfers. Rarely does the focus fall on management, but over the past year, Arsenal and their front office have been under the microscope. Mismanagement has crippled the club of late: letting contracts run down, botching transfer deals, and watching young talent slip away to league rivals. For what seems like an eternity, supporters have been flying their “Wenger Out” banners, when in reality, men like Dick Law, Steve Rowley, and until recently, Ivan Gazidis should’ve been up there too. So, what has changed? Arsenal Football Club have finally woken up.
Arsenal, regardless of the ups and down of the past decade, have always had a high-quality squad with top players from across the globe. In contrast, Arsenal’s management, year after year has become weak, lazy and dated. Wenger, although a part of it, remains the face of a deeply dysfunctional and mediocre management team. In particular, Arsenal supporters have been clamoring for a Director of Football for years. In the world of modern football, it’s a mandatory position for elite clubs. Arsene Wenger in the past, has attempted to play the role of both manager and director; clearly his results have not hit the mark.
Of the many issues Arsenal have faced over the past few years, scouting and transfers have been at the top of that list. Scouting has been a particularly troublesome area. For example, Wenger and Arsenal, once known for establishing, growing and developing elite young players, no longer hold that reputation. When was the last time Arsenal found a young player and developed him into a top-class talent? Perhaps Hector Bellerin can prove to be a recent anomaly, but he still has a lot to prove.
In the past month, the club has announced two signings that will prove to reinvigorate the front office. Sven Mislintat, who will take the position of Chief Scout, replaces Steve Rowley who had been at the club for 25 years and in the position since Wenger became manager. Raul Sanllehi, announced a week later, will finally fill Arsenal’s Sporting Director position.
Before we get excited, lets discuss who these men are, what these moves mean, and whether they will help Arsenal now and in the future.
Who is Sven Mislintat?
Sven Mislintat is a German scout, most recently for Borussia Dortmund. Spending eight years at the club working as their Chief Scout, Mislintat is directly responsible for bringing Robert Lewandowski, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ousmane Dembele, and Shinji Kagawa to the club. Kagawa, of note, was found by Mislintat while he was playing for Cerezo Osaka in the 2nd division of Japan. The man has reach, and he has been able to find a diamond in the rough time after time. Still not convinced? He was also credited for bringing in Mats Hummels, Neven Subotic, and Sven Bender, not to mention young talent like Christian Pulisic, Alexander Isak, Emre Mor (now departed to Celta Vigo), Mahmoud Dahoud… the list goes on. Borussia Dortmund have made a name for themselves in recent years, alongside Monaco as two of the worlds best talent finders. Mislintat’s addition to Arsenal, finally gives the club an elite scouting presence.
Who is Raul Sanllehi?
Raul Sanllehi is one of the most influential men in football, that you’ve never heard of. Unless you also happen to support Barcelona, or follow La Liga religiously, his name likely hasn’t come up in conversation. Originally a part of Nike, Sanllehi joined Barcelona in 2007 and became their Sporting Director. Sanllehi is especially known for two things. The first, his seemingly limitless connections across the globe. The second, his ability to get big transfer deals done, no matter the complications. Having a Sporting Director with renowned connections is always a benefit, however, it is his reputation for getting deals done that should be valued even higher. Arsenal have become the “almost signed” club under Wenger, especially recently. For some reason, the boss thinks talking about “almost” signing players deserves a prize. For Sanllehi, the prize is a signed contract and photo shoot with a new player. Sanllehi was the most critical figure in Barcelona during the signings of Neymar, Suarez and Rakitic. He is the connected, relentless director that Arsenal needs to elevate itself back to glory.
Sanllehi also brought Alexis Sanchez to Barcelona in 2011. Alexis may be on his way out, but if anyone could convince him to stay, it would be our new Director of Football.
What does this mean?
Clearly, these men come with tremendous resumes, experience and should prove to be excellent additions to the club’s management team. What they, and other various changes across the club indicate is a new era, or “renaissance” for Arsenal. Little by little, ancient members of the club’s staff such as Dick Law and Steve Rowley have been replaced and positions of uncertainty are being filled. In the past year Arsenal have now signed or confirmed a new Chief Scout, Director of Football, Academy Director, Contract Negotiator, and Performance Coach. Wenger remains the last man standing, but he won’t remain for much longer. The decisions made by the club have proven that there is a plan set in place for Arsene Wenger’s ultimate swansong. Although it won’t likely happen until the end of his contract in 2019, the club is finally headed in the right direction.