When Ivan Gazidis hired Sven Mislintat as head of recruitment at Arsenal in November 2017 surely neither of them expected to depart the club just over a year later. What has happened in the space of 14 months shows just how quickly things change in football, as the Gunners have lost their chief executive to AC Milan and recruitment specialist, nicknamed ‘Diamond Eye’, in quick succession.
Mislintat revealed in an interview after joining Arsenal that he envisioned staying at the club for “10 or 12 years”. 14 months is how long the 46-year-old lasted in his role. The likes of Konstantinos Mavropanos, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were all signed under the German’s watch, yet his decision to leave over what looks set to be diminishing influence is based on Arsenal opting to hire a new technical director - a position which the former Borussia Dortmund head scout won’t be considered for.
And then there were two. Raul Sanllehi, the new head of football alongside Vinai Venkatesham, who takes up the mantle of managing director. Sanllehi in particular was brought to Emirates Stadium for his extensive contacts in the game and business acumen. Able to push deals over the line and make the key calls globally, the Spaniard’s relationship with Mislintat was expected to mould together to give Arsenal an edge in the transfer market.
Venkatesham’s credentials are second to none. He boasts a Master of Arts (MA) degree in Economics and Management from the University of Oxford and has been involved in the sponsors drive which has seen them sign a new sleeve sponsor deal among other new partnerships.
Indeed, Gazidis’ comments about creating a “catalyst for change” before former manager Arsene Wenger was handed a new two-year contract in May 2017 didn’t fall on deaf ears and he confirmed last summer exactly how his plans would be executed.
“We have two technical experts involved in the process and many more behind them helping them,” said Gazidis.
“The two technical experts would be Sven Mislintat, the head of recruitment and Raul Sanllehi, who works on the negotiation side and then Unai himself, who has a big say.
"I felt that when we decided to make the change on the football side, that we needed to come up with a new structure and one that involves world-class people that would challenge each other and have that robust debate, but then get behind each other and the decisions that are made and execute them as well as we can. Everyone in this team has enormous experience.”
The power hierarchy at Arsenal is led by Stan Kroenke, although it is clear the American billionaire has taken much of a backseat in recent years. His son Josh has become the active face behind KSE’s (Kroenke Sport & Entertainment) ownership of the club, and was heavily involved in the process to appoint Unai Emery as head coach in the summer.
“It's a very short time that I worked with him [Mislintat] but I worked well and pleasantly with him,” Emery said. “I think he has big experience in Germany and here, and it's one issue in the club and the club is working on that. I can only say to you that my experience with him is positive and is good.”
Mislintat’s impending departure leaves Arsenal with a gap to fill. The early contenders to be appointed as technical director are former Gunners midfielder Edu Gaspar, current Ajax chief Marc Overmars, Roma technical director Monchi and Arsenal’s head of international recruitment Francis Cagigao. The latter in particular is credited for being the man who brought Cesc Fabregas, Hector Bellerin and Santi Cazorla to north London.
Cagigao is highly respected within the club and has previously received offers from top level European clubs which he’s turned down. Arsenal’s power vacuum over the past year has seen them lose their longest serving manager, CEO and head of recruitment and they will now be looking to create stability on a ship which was once renowned for its steadiness.