The first few signings of the Sven Mislintat & Raul Sanllehi reign drew criticism from some people.
A few moaned that the likes of Pierre-Emirck Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were not the type of players they were expecting Mislintat to sign.
Senior pros who bought with them quality and experience, the criticism Mislintat drew for recruiting them was odd, especially taking into account Aubameyang’s electric start to his Arsenal career.
As the current transfer window opened, Arsenal were heavily linked with Sokratis, another Dortmund player. Another player closer to 30 than 25. Again, some outlets criticised, claiming that the German Head of Recruitment needs to “do more than sign his former Dortmund players”.
Mislintat was criticised for showing a “lack of imagination” in the transfer market. The recruitment of Stephan Lichtsteiner on a free transfer added to the criticism. He was simply not bought in to buy a 34-year-old right back.
At Dortmund, Mislintat gained the nickname “diamond eye” due to his reputation for unearthing unheard of young talent from around the globe. From Shinji Kagawa recruited from the Japanese J League all the way through to Ousmane Dembélé from Rennes in France.
Instead of criticise, Mislintat should have actually been praised for showing flexibility.
Arsenal lacked experience and leadership at the back, Mislintat recognised this and recruited Sokratis and Lichtsteiner. He also added Bernd Leno to the squad – who despite being just 26 has played over 360 games.
Mislintat has added experience to the side, and that is something that should be praised, not criticised.
Amongst the criticism by a few, it was forgotten that we also recruited Konstantinos Mavropanos in January.
The Greek international looked quality in his first two games against Manchester United and Burnley, but was unlucky to be sent off in the last game of the season against Leicester City. Mavropanos might become a superstar, he might not, but he is an early example of that diamond eye.
After the recruitment of senior professional to add experience, leadership and top end quality to the squad, the club have now shifted the focus to signing younger, talented players. The types of signings Mislintat made his reputation on in Dortmund.
Lucas Torreira is exactly the type of player Mislintat was recruiting for Dortmund.
Whilst he has burst onto the world stage with some impressive performances for Uruguay at the World Cup, prior to the World Cup he was an unknown with just a handful of caps for his country.
Some will point to 2 excellent seasons for Sampdoria, but let’s be honest, who actually watched him play? And if you did watch Sampdoria, it is unlikely that you will have picked up on him as he is an invisible wall.
At just 22, he is young and exciting. Exactly what Mislintat’s diamond eye is trained to find.
Younger than Torreira is 19-year-old Matteo Guendouzi.
Clearly one of Mislintat’s targets this summer was to recruit young central midfielders.
With Jack Wilshere departing and Aaron Ramsey’s contract still up in the air, Mislintat and Sanllehi clearly decided to go for exciting youth, rather than lumbering experience.
The easy option would have been to go out and get Steven Nzonzi from Sevilla.The former Stoke City and Blackburn midfielder turns 30 in December.
Torreira is one for now, who has an exciting future. Guendouzi – alongside Ainsley Maitland-Niles – is certainly one for the future.
Expect the French youth international to get plenty of game time in the Europa League and League Cup. With a year’s first team experience in Ligue 1, he is ready to join up with the first team squad. As the next 12 months rolls on, he will begin to get more game time and is a potential long-term replacement for Aaron Ramsey.
The shift in Arsenal’s transfer policy from the experience leaders to younger talented stars is set to continue with the club likely to complete the signing of 16 year old striker Sam Greenwood from Sunderland.
Greenwood scored six goals and provided six assists in 15 appearances for Sunderland in the under-18 Premier League last season. And recently posted a picture on his Instagram story from outside Arsenal’s London Colney training ground.
Arsenal have reportedly beaten Manchester United and Liverpool to his signature.
Another youngster looking set to join Arsenal’s youth set up is Barcelona’s 15-year-old full back Joel Lopez.
The 15-year-old defender has been playing for Barcelona’s Cadeta A side and had the opportunity to sign a new deal with the La Liga giants this summer.
However, widespread reports suggest Lopez is set to sign schoolboy terms with Arsenal before agreeing to a professional deal when he turns 16 in March 2019 after his family had a meeting with Raul Sanllehi.
Without wishing to hype up the likes of Guendouzi, Greenwood and Lopez too much, what is exciting is that we are once more securing top young talents from throughout Europe.
In recent years we have struggled to sign the best teenagers across the continent, and have fallen behind the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea in terms of quality of graduates produced.
The fact that City were heavily linked to Guendouzi, Manchester United and Liverpool wanted Greenwod, and Liverpool and Chelsea were reportedly in for Lopez shows just how well respected Sanllehi & Mislintat are.
As the pair continue to rebuild the squad alongside Unai Emery, we will continue to see a mix of experienced professionals and talented youngsters. There is a lot to be positive about at Arsenal at the moment.