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Why Arsenal’s New Head Of Recruitment Is A Big Deal For The Gunners

Arsenal pulled off a second big win in the span of three days when the club successfully secured the services of scout Sven Mislintat from Borussia Dortmund. The Gunners, coming off a comprehensive defeat of archrival Tottenham on Saturday, named Mislintat their new head of recruitment on Monday, an important move for the North London club.

Mislintat is the man responsible for bringing the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Shinji Kagawa and Ousmane Dembele to Dortmund. He takes over for Steve Rowley, who has been the chief scout for Arsenal since before Arsene Wenger arrived in England. Mislintat’s appointment is kind of a big deal for the Gunners. 

“We are delighted that Sven is joining us,” Wenger said. “Identifying and developing talent is a core part of our philosophy and Sven has an outstanding track record over many years. We look forward to him taking our existing recruitment approach forwards.”

When Wenger came to London in 1996, Arsenal developed a reputation for finding and producing young talent. Wenger was the spearhead of a player revolution in which Arsenal scoured foreign leagues for gifted players, bringing in the likes of Patrick Vieira, Nicolas Anelka, Remi Garde, Marc Overmars and Emmanuel Petit in his first couple years in charge. That recruitment policy continued through the early 2000s with Freddie Ljungberg, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Gilberto Silva, Gael Clichy, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie. 

Arsenal scout

Emirates Stadium. Photo: @JalanArsenal | Twitter

But as Arsenal entered the 2010s, recruitment shifted. Even while still saddled by the costs of moving from Highbury to Emirates Stadium, Wenger failed to bring in the type of young players who had become the foundation of his 2003-04 Invincibles team. Instead, Arsenal often signed older or veteran players like Mikel Arteta, Yossi Benayoun, Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podoslki and Olivier Giroud, as well as less experienced players who didn’t turn out, like Marouane Chamakh, Sebastien Squillaci, Wellington Silva and Andre Santos (older, but no better). 

While the last few years have seen Arsenal make some big signings, it didn’t take a professional scout to determine the abilities of Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Petr Cech and Alexandre Lacazette. Even Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi were relatively well known in the soccer world as full-time internationals with World Cup experience. 

The arrival of Mislintat will, in theory, improve Arsenal’s ability to find and sign the next big star before they become a recognized commodity. 

The greatest example of Mislintat’s abilities compared to that of Rowley, the man he replaces, is in the status of the two American youngsters at each of the clubs: Gedion Zelalem at Arsenal and Christian Pulisic at Dortmund. Arsenal brought Zelalem over from Maryland in 2013 at the age of 16. Despite initially impressing in a preseason tour of Asia, Zelalem has yet to make a Premier League start and hasn’t appeared for the full USMNT. Pulisic meanwhile has become one of Dortmund’s most important players and the attacking lynchpin for Team USA before the age of 20. 

Arsenal scout

Would you rather have Gedion Zelalam or Christian Pulisic? Photo: @RuffneckScarves | Twitter

While this is a simplification, it gives an idea of where the Arsenal scout has been compared to Dortmund’s. 

Arsenal is trying to modernize its approach to recruitment. After starting a revolution when Wenger first arrived, the club has been left behind by richer clubs who have proven to be just as adept at scouting while also having the resources to sign the biggest names. Mislintat could be the man to move Arsenal back into the forefront of scouting. 

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