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Sven Mislintat officially joins Arsenal

Is this another battle between Gazidis and Wenger?

Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal - Premier League Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Arsenal announced today that Sven Mislintat, previously the Chief Scout and Head of Professional Football for Borussia Dortmund, will be joining the club as the new Head of Recruitment.

Mislintat, who played a significant role in the signings of several of Dortmund’s young superstars like Robert Lewandowski, Shinji Kagawa, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Ousmane Dembele, will officially start with Arsenal in December, according to the club’s website, right in time for the January transfer window.

Although the terms of the deal are unknown, SPORT BILD reported yesterday that Arsenal paid a fee of two million euros to get Mislintat, who has been highly sought after by other clubs, including Bayern Munich.

According to Arsenal, Mislintat will work closely with Arsene Wenger and Ivan Gazidis, “plus other coaches, the background analytics team and our global scouting network.”

Mislintat has a strong analytics background, and even co-founded a football analytics start-up called Matchmetrics. Also, as an interesting side note, Mislintat’s arrival virtually guarantees that Thomas Tuchel, Dortmund’s former manager, will not be Wenger’s eventual replacement, despite persistent rumors in the British press. Mislintat and Tuchel reportedly clashed during their time working together to the point where Mislintat was even banned from the training ground.

As I wrote yesterday when the announcement seemed imminent, the addition of Mislintat could have a big impact on the club beyond his (hopefully) successful work on transfers and player recruitment. Mislintat will be replacing Steve Rowley, a long-time ally of Wenger. While we’re certainly not privy to much of what goes on behind the scenes, the hiring of Mislintat may indicate an attempt by Gazidis to gain more control over the club’s football operations. Rumors of tension and disagreements between Wenger, Gazidis, and the board have picked up steam over the last several months, especially over Wenger’s relatively unchecked power (think his unwillingness to work with a Director of Football). Also, as Scott covered recently, Rowley apparently stepped down over frustration with Arsenal’s transfer dealings. Together with the departure of Dick Law, Arsenal’s chief transfer negotiator, in September, Rowley’s exit certainly leaves a power vacuum that Gazidis looks eager to fill.

For the record, Wenger had this to say in the club’s official release about Mislintat:

We are delighted that Sven is joining us. 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.

I would find it hard to believe that Wenger would be against adding someone with Mislintat’s excellent track record and familiarity with technology and analytics. Yet, with the pace of changes in key front office personnel the last few months, we may be witnessing a notable shift in Wenger’s influence over the club as nears the end of his tenure as manager.