The transfer window this summer will no doubt be an important one for Arsenal. Reinforcements are badly needed if the club wants to challenge for a Champions League spot next season. As a result, much focus has been put on Arsenal’s head of recruitment Sven Mislintat. So who is he and why have so many Arsenal fans pinned their hopes on him?
Sven Mislintat began his career at Borussia Dortmund as a scout back in 2006. During this time, the club was experiencing severe financial hardship and had almost gone bust in 03/04, accruing a life-threatening £100 million debt. Mislintat was recruited with the sole purpose of sourcing cheap talent that could later be sold for significant profits. It didn’t take long for the German to climb the ladder as he had considerable success finding hidden gems. Shinji Kagawa, Mats Hummels and Robert Lewandowski may not have been household names when they first signed for Dortmund but that would soon change.
These players helped the club win back to back Bundesliga titles in 2012-13 and 2013-14 and helped Dortmund reach the Champions League final in 2012-13. Afterwards, Mislintat would go on to unearth even more young talents such as Christian Pulisic and Ousmane Dembele. There was a method to his success. Mislintat, a sport scientist graduate, took a keen interest in the moneyball boom happening in Major League Baseball, where analytics became the holy grail in sport. Along with his meticulous mind for numbers, he understood how to effectively organise the scouting process, assembling a diverse scouting network that provided him with a variety of informed opinions on potential players. His work paid off big time for Dortmund who turned these low cost signings into massive profits.
Yet there were storm clouds gathering for Mislintat. He clashed with then manager Thomas Tuchel over signings and influence – leading to Mislintat being banned from the training ground. Despite Tuchel leaving the club in May 2017, Mislintat decided to move on, joining Arsenal in November 2017.
It didn’t take long for Mislintat to make his mark as the Gunners’ chief scout. His first signing was in January – an unknown Greek centre back, Konstantinos Mavropanos from PAS Giannina. The youngster impressed Arsene Wenger so much that he made the first team squad instead of being loaned out. Mavropanos made his league debut against Manchester United at Old Trafford where he impressed many fans and journalists with his assured performance.
Though coming back to training since a groin injury suffered in October he’s highly rated by Unai Emery. Mislintat would also play a key part in luring Henrikh Mkhitaryan to Arsenal as part of the Alexis Sanchez deal and getting Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to the club. Aubameyang has been simply electric since his arrival – neck and neck with the likes of Salah and Harry Kane at the top of the goalscoring charts.
Arsenal’s signings this summer had the influence of the German head of recruitment – the signings of Bernd Leno and Sokratis from the Bundesliga. Furthermore, the signings of Lucas Torreira and especially Matteo Guendouzi enshrine the philosophy of Mislintat – smart signings borne from a good network that can identify promising potential. Guendouzi arriving from Lorient, a club in Ligue 2, highlights the importance of clever signings at a low cost.
Just like in Dortmund, Mislintat is already gaining influence at the club, as he was promoted to technical director in November, now working under the club’s head of football Raul Sanllehi. The Gunners just aren’t able to financially compete with Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City so people like Mislintat are a vital cog for the club to unearth quality signings. This becomes ever important when the club’s majority owner Stan Kroenke hasn’t even invested any of his own money into the club. A self sustainable model is admirable but will only get you so far.
It is hoped that in January, but especially this summer, that Mislintat can once again weave his magic for Arsenal. The rewards could be extremely positive for Arsenal and set the club up on a positive platform for the foreseeable future. Time will tell if that shall happen.