Winning a football match with ten men is hard, isn’t it? As is trying to play a game of doubles tennis with just three people. Or trying to play chess on your own.
Park this thought for now.
One club whose fanbase is certainly feeling confused right now is Arsenal.
With an owner who’s situated miles from north London and aiming to run a self-sustaining model, the Gunners are having to endure the punishment of missing out on the top four and losing the Europa League final by entering the summer transfer window with a limited budget.
While missing out on last season’s targets may be forgivable – especially considering Unai Emery has had just one season in the job – the failure to invest in the squad and better the crop for next season seems unacceptable.
If this wasn’t clear throughout social media and fan reactions, the open letter to the Kroenke’s has left spectators in no doubt.
This time last year the Gunners had secured all their targets in preparation for the new season. Sokratis, Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi, Bernd Leno and Stephan Lichtsteiner had all agreed moves to the Emirates almost a month before the new campaign kicked off – and this all occurred during a World Cup summer.
With this all in mind, the Gunners’ faithful are right to demand answers and feel frustration towards the lack of activity at the club. Gabriel Martinelli, 18, a youngster with potential but not expected to have a first-year impact – though it’s worth remembering that most thought the same of Guendouzi – is the only player to arrive thus far.
A summer that promised much change has seen failed bids for Wilfried Zaha and Kieran Tierney, with Arsenal simultaneously failing to shake off their deadwood. This time a year ago though, ex-Head of Recruitment Sven Mislintat was still in the job, and the fact there is a distinct lack of activity in his absence is absolutely no coincidence.
Arsene Wenger was under no illusions about the understanding and knowledge of the scouting market that Mislintat possesses.
Quoted from Arsenal’s official website, Wenger welcomed the German’s arrival stating: “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.”
This was the first step towards a restructuring at Arsenal, which would see the appointments of Raul Sanllehi as Head of Football Relations before his promotion to Head of Football, with Vinai Venkatesham becoming the Managing Director of the club after Ivan Gazidis’ departure to AC Milan.
Arsene Wenger was the next to leave as Arsenal dropped the role of manager within their structure and instead looked to appoint a Head Coach.
Mislintat’s work with Arsenal reaped almost immediate rewards. His contacts from his time at Dortmund presumably helped the club to land Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Sokratis, while Guendouzi and Konstantinos Mavropanos underlined his astute eye for a scarcely known prodigy.
It’s clear that Mislintat’s work was efficient and aggressive, ensuring Arsenal found their targets and strengthened the depth of their squad.
For years they lacked depth and experience in defence, but in came Sokratis and Lichtsteiner. The Gunners lacked grit and tenacity in midfield, but in came Torreira and Guendouzi. The Emirates missed a goal-hungry attacker, but in came Aubameyang.
Of course, in just two windows it’s extreme to credit Mislintat with total and complete praise for the business conducted during his time in north London, but equally it would be naive to underestimate the value of his presence.
When you compare last year’s window to this one, the Gunners are five first-team players short in recruitment, and it’s the fact no business is yet to be complete this summer that underlines how hard Milsintat’s absence has been felt.
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However, hope is not lost. In an enlightening interview Josh Kroenke, he responded to the Arsenal fans’ open letter and confronted their issues (for the most part).
One particular quote should be of real interest to supporters: “There’s been a lot of heavy lifting over the last 12 to 14 months. We have an entirely new structure that we’re really excited about.
“The final piece of the puzzle, as Raul (Sanllehi) said so elegantly in the release a few weeks ago, was our technical director in Edu. I’m really excited about his appointment.”
Edu’s appointment was delayed by his other commitments, and while his job title may not match that of Mislintat’s, the quote from Kroenke loosely suggests that Edu could fill the void left by the departed German.
Perhaps it’s no coincidence then that the transfer market seems to be throwing up Arsenal news with increasing regularity. Reports claim Dani Ceballos and William Saliba are expected to sign for the club soon – pertinently, this news arrives just weeks after Edu’s return.
Mislitant’s departure may have been detrimental to Arsenal’s summer transfer plans, but it seems Arsenal have found their man to steer the ship this summer.
As said at the beginning of the piece, winning a football match with ten men is hard.
Evidently, identifying targets and completing deals without everyone in place to make it happen is equally as challenging.
The elusive “final piece” looks to have finally arrived, and while Arsenal’s window has been a slow burner thus far, they could make a sprint finish now that the appropriate foundations are in place.