The truth is out, Arsenal will part ways with Sven Mislintat after little over a year at the club. Le Grove broke the story yesterday afternoon. I’d done my due diligence and verified a story I was first told about last week (and again yesterday). The Arsenal journos all came with stories after, and it was clear the club was briefing against Sven, with some very connected journos insisting the decision wasn’t made yet with some saying there was discontent amongst the clubs established scouts (who did such a great job over the last 5 years). Proper recognition for the legitimacy of our story arrived from the well-connected Rapha Honigstein who dropped more detail a little later in the day (quashing rumours the Bayern story as a nonsense as well).
‘According to club sources, Sanllehi, the former director of football at Barcelona, favoured a recruitment policy based on his extensive network of contacts throughout Europe, while Mislintat had been tasked by Gazidis to follow the kind of analytical and stats-based approach that saw 19-year-old midfielder Matteo Guendouzi join from French second-division club Lorient and 22-year-old Uruguay international Lucas Torreira arrive from Sampdoria.’
David Ornstein ran a piece stating Arsenal refused to deny the #SVEXIT after the above piece.
This mess stems from 9 months under weak King, Ivan Gazidis, an heir apparent who hid behind Wenger for 10 years. His short-lived tenure as defacto leader was always going to be a non-starter because he was driven by self-preservation and dodging anything that looked like accountability. He spent so long hiding from responsibility, he didn’t bother investing in a real vision for the new Arsenal.
To compound the meekness of his approach, he adopted a flat football decision-making structure designed to spread the risk of a bad decision making between three people (remember the ‘we all wrote a name on a piece of paper’ story). That structure appears to have created an unresolvable rift between Sven and Raul.
Ivan allowed two competing ideologies to duke it out in a winner takes all death match. When Ivan slinked out of Arsenal, the real fight for power ensued, and ultimately, Raul garroted the German when he was wearing football boots on a tiled floor (he had no chance). The man closest to Ivan is now metaphorically deceased.
Now it’s just two people at the club that matter. Raul, who is a down and dirty corporate hitman, along with Vinai, who is 37, and looks very much like he’s there to play nice. They say in business you should always have a good number two, so there’s someone to take the fall if things go to shit. Remember Zuck being accused of naivety for not letting Sheryl take the fall for his Russia woes?
The idea that we’re parting ways with a Head of Recruitment who wanted to identify talent using stats and analytics, for Raul’s approach that sounds like it’s straight out of chapter one of ‘Arry’s Way: The Hammers Years’ is fucking baffling. Raul might be many things, but he’s no expert in the world of player recruitment. Leaning into a network of contacts (super agents) sounds very familiar to Manchester United’s approach of the last 6 years. That didn’t work out well for anyone, bar the fat cat agents. Main difference is their commercial revenues dwarfs ours, so they can afford that approach.
Is Raul the real deal or a chancer that built a reputation off a cushy job at a mega-club? Has he just cleared the way to enact some atrocious ideas on Arsenal, unchallenged? Looks that way. This feels like a huge power play. Barcelona is not Arsenal. We don’t have the money to be them. If the vision is to create a Barca light, it is doomed to failure. I would place money on Raul not lasting longer than 3 years.
The Mixed Bag of Sven
The next question is the reality of Sven and his mixed bag tenure. As Matt and I discussed on the podcast, there have been a lot of depressingly poor decisions that have cost us dearly over the last year. The new exec team all signed off on the Ozil deal, they all allowed the club to roll into the season with Aaron in the last year of his deal, they all signed off a pack of older exDortmund players that won’t provide long-term value, they all thought Emery’s presentation for the new Arsenal was charismatic and clear. Those decisions have cost us a budget this window, which considering the caliber of manager is probably not a bad thing. However, Sven is not guilt free here.
That said, he’s given us Mavrapanos, Torreira and Guendouzi. Those moves, without doubt, should have set the tone for our transfer strategy moving forward. You also don’t know what Ivan’s marching orders were. He could have asked Sven to bring in experience to save our season last January. The plan failed, but there’s merit to that thinking.
‘However, the German’s position has been further undermined by the club’s willingness to appoint a technical director, a move that would amount to a de-facto demotion.’
There’s also the technical position the club is trying to fill, which has apparently miffed Mislintat, as they’d sit above him in the pecking order. I can’t really sympathise here. If you’ve been tasked with coming to Arsenal to recruit players, expecting a promotion before you’ve served 2 years or proved anything, you’re behaving in an entitled manner. It does beg the question as to whether Sven saw Arsenal as a stepping stone, versus a long-term home?
What comes next?
Now we have the chance to reset, we can’t fuck up. I loved Edu as a player, he’s a dreamy looking chap as well. If he’s here to set the style of the team and make sure we’re the most advanced innovators in the world, great.
However, there’d best be a very good answer to: WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR FOOTBALL LATELY?
Give me actual achievements. We can’t be bringing in folk because they were once loved as players. Give me doers with a vision and the tools to be utterly ruthless about what they find. We cannot continue to support mediocrity at Arsenal. We cannot continue to hire people that are happiest surviving in the shadows. We need people that are willing to place smart strategic bets on taking the club forward.
There are lots of clubs we should be looking at as we hire for the two open positions.
Who has been unearthing gems at Porto, Benfica, Monaco, Toulouse, Udinese and maybe even Shakhtar? Find talent that has successful records in situations that relate to Arsenal. Those that are doing things that haven’t been done before, who have found markets no one else is raiding, who can bring a level of detail and analytics that’s never been seen before. We cannot accept a hire that’s merely reaching parity with others. We have to use this chance to breeze past the competition.
We need to make smart decisions soon, we cannot have Emery leading the summer squad rebuild. He is not qualified to do that job. Outside the big names, his hit rate at PSG was poor. He signed slow and ill-suited players, we can’t be having that again. We are better than Suarez, Banega, and Carrasco. Those are Everton signings. We also need someone who can assess performances and make a really good decision on the next manager when we need one. Tell me where to find the next Monchi!
The biggest worry about Arsenal moving forward is the lack of leadership and accountability. We’ve opted for the Houllier/Evans dual operation and it stinks. Stan should go out tomorrow and beg Bepe Marotta to come in and shape up Arsenal. Someone who understands how to manage a club of prestige, create a winning culture, work the markets hard, brand a club, create a purpose and a guiding philosophy we can all believe in. These things are hard to execute, they require big balls and charismatic leadership. But the right hires can make magic happen.
Raul has completed his takeover of Arsenal, he sits atop the iron throne, and it’s not clear that he has what it takes to move us forward. The current strategy on offer looks like he’s trying to create a Brazil-Iberia talent pool underpinned by a detailed ‘Mino Raiola says buy this guy’ scouting report. Fanciful at best, a slow motion 5-year car crash at worse.
Arsenal were in choppy waters already, now we’re betting our future on one man with no track record for turning clubs around. I am very, very worried. The boat is rocking and water is coming aboard. All we can do is wait and hope the bad weather blows over…
The deeper worry is this: a lot has gone to shit since Stan took us private. Coincidence, that something more insidious?
(and listen. To the below podcast. Right now).