Sven Going: What now for Arsenal’s Recruitment?

The news we all knew was coming broke yesterday that Arsenal Head of Recruitment Sven Mislintat was to leave the club.

Mislintat was an excellent appointment. He seemed to fit the mould of where the club is right now.

At Borussia Dortmund he oversaw a scouting department which excelled in finding fairly unknown gems from mid table sides or young players struggling for a break through. From Ousmane Dembélé to Marco Rues, Emre Mor to Shinji Kagawa. He was clearly good at his job.

Dortmund are currently 6 points clear of Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga. This is hugely to do with their excellent recruitment policy, which Mislintat oversaw before leaving for Arsenal in 2017.

Saying that, he was just one piece of the jigsaw when he was at Dortmund.

He does not scout every player. He did not unearth every gem. He worked with a network of scouts across Europe and beyond who would recommend players to him. He will then make the decision whether they were worth a closer look, and perusing.

To put it simply, he was not the only person involved in Dortmund’s intelligent recruitment process, although he did head up the department.

Likewise at Arsenal, in the year he has been here, we have seen some good players join. Namely Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi.

Both players fit the Mislintat mould.

Torreira was very well known, performing well in a mid-table Serie A team. Many in Italy rated the Uruguayan as one of the top 3 defensive midfielders in Italy last season.

He was not an unknown, but he certainly was not well known outside of Serie A watchers.

Likewise Guendouzi was playing in Ligue 2 in France prior to us signing him. He has come out of nowhere.

However Mislintat would not have “discovered” these players on his own. That is not how scouting works. And certainly not the Head of Recruitment’s role.

As Head of Recruitment, it was Mislintat’s job to oversee his network of scouts, employ them, manage them. He would then run the final rule over a player prior to recommending him to the powers that be.

By the time a Head of Recruitment sees a player, the local scout might have already watched him a dozen times or more.

Back under Arsene Wenger, it was always known when Arsenal were heavily interested in a player as Steve Rowley would turn up to watch him. This was often seen as the final scouting mission prior to making a decision whether to buy or not.

Mislintat was the same. He would not have watched every single player. He was not down Hackney Marshes looking for the gems himself. He had a network of scouts, mainly mean and women who had been at Arsenal for some time.

He also had his own contacts. Agents. Freelance scouts. People who would recommend players to him.

He was certainly not a Nowhere Man.

For whatever reason, Mislintat decided to hand in his two weeks notice. There has been plenty of speculation as to why he did this.

He felt pushed to the side when Raul Sanllehi took over from Ivan Gazidis, and was unhappy about the Spaniard looking to recruit a Technical Director. He had a falling out with Arsenal’s existing scouting network, unhappy that they were (in his eyes) not doing what he was demanding. That he was homesick. After 15 years at Dortmund and a lifetime living in the city, he decided to try out a new job, with a new company, in a new country. It did not work out.

An interesting theory I have read made up is that he actually had a restrictive covenants clause in his contract with Borussia Dortmund which stipulated that if he left the club, he was unable to work for another German club for 12 months. That the plan was always to join Bayern Munich, but he has to park himself somewhere for a year before making the move.

Whatever the reason, he is now going, and like everything Arsenal related, it has become huge news.

The fact that no one can name who the Chief Scout of Head of Recruitment at Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United or Liverpool sums it up. Who does the job at Juventus, Monaco, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid or Bayern Munich? The fact is, no one could name who their “Sven Mislintat” is, yet they are hugely successful clubs who have recruited well over the years.

Hell, look at Sampdoria.

They found Lucas Torreira somewhere in Uruguay, bought him to Italy and he became a superstar. Who was the guy who did that? I have no idea.

The point I am making is that good recruitment is beyond one man. It is a team effort. From boots on the ground to the negotiating team. It is more than just one man.

Whilst Mislintat might have been one of the best, he is not the only top end Head of Recruitment of Chief Scout out there. He is not the only man with a track record of recruiting talented players whilst working on a budget.

Francis Cagigao is one man who has been heavily linked with Mislintat’s old role overnight.

Cagigao is a former Arsenal youth player. Despite his name, he was born and bred in London, the son of Spanish parents, winning the FA Youth Cup with the club in 1988.

For a long time he was Arsenal’s man in Spain and has been working with the club for over 20 years.

The first player he recommended to the club was Lauren.  He has also been credited with being involved in the recruitment of Cesc Fabregas, Alexis Sanchez, Hector Bellerin, Santi Cazorla, Jose Antonio Reyes and Fran Merida.

In 2017, he was promoted to Head of International Recruitment following interest from clubs in Spain.

An exclusive in the Evening Standard back in 2017, suggested Arsenal were considering him for a new role as their sporting director.

Sanllehi has been looking to recruit a Technical Director for some time. It is a role that could incorporate the majority of roles undertaken by a Head of Recruitment, or he might decide to keep the roles separate, promoting Cagigao to Head of Recruitment and then going out and getting in a Technical Director.

One thing that is for certain, Arsenal were a success before Mislintat – both on the pitch and in recruiting players – and we will be a success after.

Our fans just have a habit of making a mountain out of a molehill.


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