Arsenal’s grand plans to restructure post-Arsène Wenger have begun to splinter with Sven Mislintat, brought in as head of recruitment, set to leave after feeling his position has become untenable.
The German, whose ideas in the sphere of spotting and developing talent are highly regarded in European football, was initially appointed in November 2017 by Ivan Gazidis, with the idea that his role would evolve into that of a technical director as the club aimed to refresh its operation once they moved on from the Wenger era.
Wenger was no fan of the technical director concept and brushed aside the idea, which was one the club were keen to move towards. Since Gazidis departed to join Milan and handed over to a new internal management scheme led by the director of football, Raul Sanllehi, and the managing director, Vinai Venkatesham, Mislintat’s chances of becoming technical director have diminished.
He was the natural choice but with Arsenal looking elsewhere, including towards their former midfielder Edu (currently a coordinator for Brazil’s national team), Mislintat has sensed that he would be sidelined, no longer having a decisive say on prospective signings. It seemed like his position, instead of growing as he had hoped, would be reduced to that of a glorified chief scout, which is not what he moved from Borussia Dortmund to do.
Quite apart from the experience he can bring to the role, Mislintat will be a loss to Arsenal as a person. In character and ideas, he shares something of Jürgen Klopp’s rock and roll vibe and has a similar bigger-picture belief in football’s capacity to pay attention to the game’s soul in a heavily financed modern world. He also had a lot to offer to the strategic overhaul intended to refresh the way the club operates at executive level, and brought with him a modern way of thinking and a strong passion for his area of expertise.
Mislintat has in recent months been part of the new executive team set up to bring a shared leadership which included his fellow German Per Mertesacker as head of the academy as well as senior figures from the business, football, contracts and data side of the club. He is the kind of person who is keen to bring his own ideas to the table, without feeling the need to adhere to convention. Down to earth, as interested in people as performances, his attributes extend beyond just having a good eye for a potential player.
Before moving to London he spent many years at Dortmund, where he helped in the development of Shinji Kagawa, Robert Lewandowski, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ousmane Dembélé, among others. This track record made him an exciting appointment for the overdue modernisation of recruitment at Arsenal. Dortmund are an example to aspire to for a club hoping to streamline their operation and become more efficient in the market by spotting potential talent before it becomes prohibitively expensive.