Leicester City were – are – the flavour of the scouting month in England with their relatively cheaply assembled squad held as what can be achieved for minimal spend. Arsenal raided their staff for Ben Wrigglesworth, reportedly wanted Steve Walsh as well but were unable to persuade him to join.
Yesterday’s Europa League final in Basel brought Sevilla to everyone’s attention with a lot of focus placed on the success of their scouting and business plan. In part, it would appeal to Stan Kroenke, possibly more than the current self-sustaining model. The profits on transfers over the years seems staggering.
Arsenal are low-risk through relatively low activity in the transfer market. Sevilla are the opposite; high volumes of players pass through their doors but the financial gains have been spectacular. Sporting Director, Monchi, offers a prime example of how the model works in a fascinating interview in The Guardian as well an object lesson in how the fabled Director of Football role can improve a club.
Sevilla are at the point Arsenal were two decades ago but they’ve taken it a stage further. Arsène made a reputation for himself in signing unpolished gems. Sevilla are turning them around far quicker and at a greater profit. They need to; it’s fundamental to their business plan.
Successes have been few and far between since 2005. Promising youngsters failed to reach expected levels whilst African players seem to suffer because of the bad experience with Kolo Toure in 2008 and Emmanuel Adebayor being a pain in the Arsenal.
The scouting network at Arsenal has come in for criticism over the past decade, typically when players don’t work out. As Monchi observes, there is little logic to that at times. Sevilla is a good example from Arsenal’s perspective.
Jose Antonio Reyes should have delivered so much more for his talent but was undone by his homesickness. With the detail in scouting reports, should this have been identified as a bigger problem which couldn’t be solved – was exacerbated – by bringing his family with him?
At the other end of the scale, Sebastien Squillaci was an experienced international who had over 400 club appearances and 21 caps by the time he joined. Two French titles and domestic cups; this was a guy who knew the ropes. This was a man who must still dread the mention of Arsenal in his career.
There’s a stigma attached to players perceived to have failed, more so now than there ever was in the past. Christian Benteke, 33/1 with Paddy Power to win the Golden boot, according to the Euro 2016 betting, was regularly cited as a great signing after his first season at Villa. Now, he’s rarely mentioned as a signing, Liverpool being to him what Chelsea was to Fernando Torres.
Other seemingly ludicrous rumours are doing the rounds. Morata for €51m? Lukaku £65m? How much for a proven scorer like Higuain? Arsène has said Giroud will be leading the line next season but he’s hardly going to drop the bombshell that his compatriot will be leaving this summer. Theo will go first from his and the club’s perspective.
Somewhere it went wrong for the Arsenal scouting network. The market is more competitive and with money, Arsenal are one of the clubs Monchi referred to as taking fewer risks because they can afford to let the likes of Sevilla take the chances on players. That oversells Arsenal. La Liga is becoming a three-horse race and maybe we’re more comparable with Atletico than Sevilla.
But we seem to be caught between two stools; a big club with a small club mentality. It’s entirely in line with KSE’s philosophy that every signing is risk-averse unless it’s a punt on a player like Sanogo. With Arsène in control, that isn’t going to change soon. Perhaps we’ll see the congratulatory banner marking the success of the club’s economic plan.
More than anything, there is a sense that Arsenal’s options in the transfer market are too limited. It isn’t so hard to believe that Arsenal don’t go into as much detail as Sevilla and they certainly don’t appear to have ten choices for each position. That reflects the competitiveness of the market they find themselves in but it shouldn’t be that way. The club badly needs a PR win for the scouts.
That’s not to say Arsenal have to follow Sevilla’s financial model but it does strengthen the need for a Director of Football. In the modern game, it’s archaic to give the manager too much control and Arsenal are criticised regularly in this respect, particularly from the corporate governance perspective.
A change in outlook, in attitude, may serve us as well as an overhaul of philosophy, which may not even come about when Arsène eventually leaves. Kroenke has bought into the Moneyball idea too much to change. Perhaps he needs to tweak it a bit.