Arsenal confirmed last week’s exclusive: Sven Mislintat is leaving in early February, dropping an American style short notice period. It marks an embarrassingly short tenure for a hire of such expense/fanfare and it really does demonstrate the damage of a shite succession plan.
The story really is a mixed bag. What is clear is he didn’t impress Ivan or Raul. The timeline of the narrative seems to be this:
- Ivan promised Sven the Technical Director role when Arsene left. The German was hired with the promise of a promotion. Everyone in business generally knows that if you are hired into a sideways position, you’re usually being bullshitted (bullshat?) about a promotion that will never come.
- Sven’s first act was to bring the Dortmund band back together. He led the signings of Mikhi, Auba, and Sokratis (rumoured he wanted Pulisic as well). All very expensive with little hope for a long-term return on investment. Were these signings at the behest of Ivan who wanted to shoot for CL short term? Or were they all on Sven?
- He did bring some youth magic to the club. Lucas Torreira and Mavrapanos are Sven signings. There are conflicting reports over Guendouzi. I read that Wenger was a fan of MG and spoke to him, but then I’ve read that Emery was a huge pull for the player and his family.
- Worth noting that the players Sven is responsible for were likely overspill from Dortmund. Perhaps that’s why there were rumblings of discontent from the Arsenal scouting team. Sven was just a name dropper, versus a change agent (process/tech/hires).
- January comes around, the club is being linked heavily with players that look like they’re from the world of ‘contacts’ scouting. Suarez, Banega, James and Carrasco do not have the hallmarks of Sven. They are Emery and Raul teaming up.
Summary: Sven lost the power struggle. Raul and Emery ignored his recommendations. He didn’t impress enough to earn the promotion he wanted. He didn’t show up enough, which suggests his signings were black book specials. He had neither power nor the ear of the execs. He left.
So what’s next for Arsenal?
We could be looking to adopt a bit of the New England Patriots model.
The Patriots were $10 million over the NFL salary cap before Belichick’s arrival, and he quickly went about recruiting more affordable players that fit his system and philosophy. The result was a team that prioritized certain characteristics (toughness, intelligence, work ethic, ability to take coaching, and a team-first mentality), fit within the constraints of the salary cap, and allowed Belichick to develop a unique game plan for every opponent, and adapt on the fly.
“Whereas most people play the game, Belichick plays the opposition,” Wells says. “He adapts to the competition in order to beat them. It’s why he can win a Super Bowl with a largely mediocre roster—his players are adaptable. They play for each other and play for him, and they’ll do whatever they’re told to do to the best of their ability because of it. It goes to show what leadership and proper motivation can do.”
“Just like in business, a quick win is all very fine,” Wells says. “You can borrow from the balance sheet. You can hand out big contracts and bonuses to attract star players. But you mortgage the future. Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft don’t want to win once. They want to win over and over again. They know that’s how you build a fan base, that’s how you build a legacy, and that’s ultimately how you make money.”
Find players at elite clubs that have lost their way, offer them love and support, hope they repay you on the pitch. This method is also comparable to the one Wenger adopted in the early years. He gave old players a rebirth, he found value in markets no one else was looking in, and he took chances on broken players, he outperformed expectations on a budget.
Marc Overmars was a crock, PV04 was rotting on Milan’s bench, Thierry was a right wing back, Bobby P had an attitude problem at Marseille, and Nwankwo Kanu had had a heart attack!
The more I think about it, the more I try and convince myself that there’s value in an approach like this. Pepper in a few Nicolas Anelka’s (which might have been what Raul was trying to do with Malcolm last January) and we could make something happen. My only issue here is you really do need a next level coach to make something like this work (You also need to be finding actual gems as well).
We could also look to Sevilla and more recently Roma for inspiration. The genius of Monchi has been well covered on this site. He’s one of the best talent hunters in Europe. Importantly, he finds value in both young and older players (Raul seems to be of this view). He most recently gave Dzeko a rebirth at Roma, but his real speciality is finding young players like Ramos, Rakitic, Reyes, Dani Alves and Keita. He usually moves them on for huge sums of money, with the uncanny knack of replacing them without decimating the progress of the club he’s running. I also found this tidbit from a 2014 Graham Hunter article about the Spaniard.
This is chaotic for a meticulously planned coach like Sevilla’s Unai Emery and it cranks up the pressure on Monchi not to make a single slip. And there are so many areas wherein that slip could occur: who to sell, how much for, who to buy, what type of guy to bring into this flexible, intelligent, technical but very hard-pressing football philosophy.
You’d think it would stress him. But last year he spent the majority of the season in London, conducting his business from a rented flat there and learning to speak English. Such an endeavour will augment both his market skills and his market viability when, as eventually must happen, he follows the route favoured by his pupils.
He’s a secret Londoner!
He’d suit the Spanish vibe of the club and he’s clearly good pals with Emery. He’d be a comfort for the both of them and he’d have the fans moister than a Mr Kipling baked good. David Ornstein has him linked for the Technical Director role, with Francis Cagiago replacing Mislintat.
We could look the Red Bull franchise for inspiration, seeing as we’re done copying whatever Dortmund are up to. They have a system of coach and player creation that really is a force to be reckoned with. They’ve built a vision around hard pressing young players that are given the chance to play and shine before being moved on to bigger clubs. This is Rangnick on what he scouts for.
‘The difference between us and other clubs is that when we sign or scout new players, we are fishing in a very small pond. We only interested in players aged between 17 and 23, as from our experience, when you are 23 you are no longer a talent. If you look at other clubs and their development, you can see that players start their careers earlier than 10 years ago and finish earlier too. So we are only scouting those players. The maximum age is 23. The second difference is that in both clubs, we try to implement and play the same style of football and of course between the two clubs, we make use of synergies that can be developed out of those two factors.’
Big difference between RB and Arsenal is there’s a philosophy that runs across all the clubs they have under the RB name. This from The Blizzard.
Here are the principles: one, add maximum possibility to the team and act, don’t react. So you need to dictate the game with and without the ball, not through individuals. Two, use numerical superiority and let the ball run directly whenever possible, with no unnecessary individual action and with no fouls. Three, use transitions, switch quickly. Try to win back the ball within five seconds with aggressive pressing. After winning the ball back, play quickly straight away, play direct and vertically towards the opponent’s goal, surprise the disorganised opponent to get into the penalty area and shoot within ten seconds of winning the ball back.
Now, it would appear Raul and Emery don’t want Arsenal to be a developmental setup. They want instant success, which is totally up to them. I just don’t think Arsenal has the resources to be a force there. I think we should be growing out a Dortmund+++ model. Or to be more precise, a project youth with bells and whistles.
I also think we should be building out our coaching staff in the same way we’d like to approach players. Hire in specialists in pressing philosophy, find the coaches with the best ideas when it comes to attacking, find the people who dream of clean sheets and wake up with dirty ones.
That’s my concern with having no CEO and a lack of scrutiny of what Raul is up to. We spent 14 years trying to expel a manager who controlled to the club, now we’ve handed footballing decisions to two people who basically answer to no one (I know, I know, they have a Whatsapp group with Stan). Emery was already allowed to hire in his mates. They’ve already seen off Sven, and though it might have been deserved, the idea of Monchi coming in makes things look even more nepotistic.
All good if it’s working out, not so good if it isn’t.
Still, Monchi is a f*cking baller and he’s done it at 2 clubs. On the face of it, that’d be a stunning coup. Makes you wonder why we were even talking to Edu if the Spaniard was available?
The positive of all of this is at least we’re heading into the unknown. Beats the stagnant vibes of the Wenger years. Let’s hope the latest chapter is a clearer vision for how we get to success. More efficiency, more excitement, more of a footballing philosophy we can all buy into.
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