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October 2016
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A typical week in the life of an Arsenal scout

By Danny Karbassiyoon

Danny Karbassiyoon is an ex-Arsenal player who went on to become Arsenal’s scout in North and Central America.   Danny’s autobiography, Danny Karbassiyoon – what’s it like? will be published by Untold Arsenal in the next couple of months.

Before receiving a phone call from Arsenal’s Chief Scout with an offer to join the Club as a scout in CONCACAF in 2007, I knew very little about the player recruitment world. Of course I knew a little bit about how Steve Rowley had scouted me, but the entire week he’d watched me at the camp that led to my trial, I didn’t even know he was actually in attendance.

When I did accept the offer to be a scout for Arsenal and flew back to London to undergo my training, I quickly learned what life as a scout entailed and what was to be expected of me.

I’ve always quite enjoyed the organizational side of scouting. In a region as big as CONCACAF, where the player pool is massive but historically not as talented as our neighbours down south or in Europe, it is vital to have a process in place that allows one to be as efficient as possible, both from an analysis point of view as well as the actual player identification side of things.

There are over 1.5m registered boys in US Youth Soccer as of 2014. There are semi-professional leagues, college, USL1, USL2, the NASL, and of course MLS, the pinnacle of the United States’ league structure.

Throw that on top of Mexico’s similar but very different youth to pro structure, add Canada’s system, then pepper in the smaller countries that make up CONCACAF and you’ve got yourself quite a daunting region to look after.

Staying organized, and knowing how to most effectively use your time is important in any profession, but when you’ve got a million places you need to be but can only choose one on any given day, it can become much more important in the world of scouting.

It is almost impossible to define a typical week in the life of a scout largely because of the dynamic nature of the field. Some trips – especially larger tournaments – are planned well in advance, while others are handled in a much more frenzied state, checking to see the quickest way to get to a city three time zones away in time for kick-off the following night. With that said, the first part of the week is generally defined by planning and research.

The planning and research portion of a scout’s work can often be more important than the actual traveling and watching of games. Most of the time the scout’s own research will dictate where he goes. Sometimes a lead from someone in his network will lead to a trip. A very small percentage of the time, a phone call from London will decide the next destination.

A week spent on the phone with contacts in different corners of your region may prove more useful than getting on a plane or hopping in a car to go watch a game. A scout’s network is his lifeline and it is important to build relationships with people whose opinions you trust. Recommend one or two players that don’t come close to what the scout is looking for, and I can guarantee it’ll be a lot harder to get back in touch with that scout in the future.

Now that you know what is going on in your region that week and you’ve decided on which game or which set of games makes the most sense to watch, it’s time to organize your travel. I used to be heavily dependent on our travel agent, but after years of travelling throughout the region, I am happier doing everything on my own.

Plane, rental car, hotel, match tickets, repeat.

As I mentioned, it is difficult to define a typical week because of the dynamic nature of football in general. Sometimes the planning happens midweek, or at the weekend while on another trip. Between all the leagues and countries mentioned above, there always seems to be a game on, so travel, though mostly at the weekend, can happen throughout the week as well.

Player assessment not only happens at the match but also prior with a load of video tools at our disposal. Part of the planning and research portion also includes getting a good idea of what type of player you’ll see when kickoff comes. Unless the player being assessed is a youth player with very little video, many scouts will have a good idea already of the strengths and weaknesses of a potential target before seeing them live for the first time.

When the match ends, it’s time to take your notes and make sense of them. As scouts operate as the eyes and ears of the Chief Scout and ultimately the Manager, it is important to be able to put well written reports together highlighting a player’s strengths and weaknesses and what our next steps will be. This is often done on the plane home or in the hotel room right after the match while everything is still fresh.

The week begins again upon touching down wherever home may be. Back on the phone, back on the internet – finding out more about players in your region and watching video to really understand the targets you are following. There’s also the task of finding out how the guys that you opted not to go watch that weekend ended up doing as well. This segues back into the planning and research part of it as a new week kicks back off.  


The Untold Books

Woolwich Arsenal the club that changed football, is now available on Kindle at £9.99.  For more details and to buy a copyplease click here or go to Amazon Kindle and search for Woolwich Arsenal.

Forthcoming titles:

Danny Karbassiyoon – what’s it like?  By Danny Karbassiyoon

Arsenal: The Long Sleep 1953-1970.  By John Sowman.  Introduction by Bob Wilson.




11 comments to A typical week in the life of an Arsenal scout

  • nicky

    Not much glamour.
    Living out of a suitcase.
    No home life.
    Rarely a success.
    An interesting insight into the life of a scout. They certainly earn their corn

  • Pete

    Danny – Thanks for this. One thing that has always intrigued me is the availability of match tickets at short notice – and presumably in prime seats. We fans know how challenging it is to access any kind of match tickets even given extensive advance planning – but how is it that a scout can decide the day before to attend a game – and then has a prime seat? Do clubs hold back a number of tickets for every match for other club representatives etc?

  • Danny K

    Hey all! Thanks for reading and apologies for not having responded last article – I appreciate your comments.

    Pete, to answer your questions, for the most part, yes, clubs will often have a section dedicated to visiting scouts. Kind of funny because you are all huddled into the same space/area sometimes watching the same player.

    In the US in particular, they aren’t accustomed to this scout culture just yet so getting tickets heavily relies on your network. A good scout will form relationships with the right people at the clubs or stadiums, or events he frequents. I’ve had to buy tickets on occasion if I’ve exhausted all resources and can’t seem to get one, but it is very rare.

    Also, it isn’t very conducive to work if you are sat in the middle of a bunch of singing fans who are both watching the game and wondering why a guy sat amongst them is taking notes!

  • Mandy Dodd

    Thank you Danny. Sounds like hard work!

  • Pat

    The mind boggles at the size of the task. 1.5 million youth players and somehow you have to narrow it down and know where to concentrate. Very interesting, though.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Is it true that the club often scout players 40-50 times before deciding?

  • Brickfields Gunners

    A very interesting read, thanks Danny . Hard graft , research , travel , a lot of time involved and luck , all to find the next gem . Phew !
    Keep up the good work and best of luck to keep the Arsenal conveyor of young players going .

  • WalterBroeckx

    I stick to blogging… 🙂

    I never really looked at it and realised what a job it is. Now I do love some travelling but I don’t think that I could do it week in week out. My wife wouldn’t appreciate it either… :-p

  • Tim Charlesworth

    Danny, wonderful to have you on Untold, and two great articles so far. I would be really interested to know how you compare players in different leagues, of different ages etc. Do you look for physical ability (strength, agility, stamina) or do you presume that such things can be improved by conditioning coaches at the club? Presumably you have to take some account of physical attributes which are less influenced by training (jump height, speed etc)? You presumably do focus on skill and technique, exclusively? Do you have some sort of ‘objective scoring criteria’ that you submit to the club allowing them to compare players from England to players in CONCACAF? I appreciate that some of this may be proprietorial, but would be great to get your thoughts.

  • Gooner S

    An excellent read.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Just been reading that Ty Gooden, not sure you will remember him, but he beat David Seaman from about 35 yards while playing for Gillingham, is now Arsenals scout in Belgium. Could be some rich pickings there if recent players anything to go by