All change at Arsenal as the background revolution continues

by Tony Attwood

Quite often, when a manager moves on, his background team are also removed, and the new manager brings in his own men to work alongside him.

For example, when David Moyes took over at West Ham to deliver them from the reduction in the cost of running the London Stadium (their rent to the taxpayer actually goes DOWN if they are relegated) he didn’t come alone.  Billy McKinlay, Alan Irvine and Stuart Pearce all moved to the TaxPayers Stadium and Chris Woods (who was kicked upstairs) was the only person on Slaven Bilic’s team to be retained.

So it goes in football.  But I suspect not at Arsenal.

My guess is that when Mr Wenger leaves, his immediate assistant Bora Primorac (known as the First Team Coach will either retire or move with Mr W if he goes to another footballing job).  Boro is 63 next month, and he might fancy not having to work seven days a week even if his boss still likes it.

All that might seem normal, but behind the scenes something else is going on.  There is a continuing revolution in fact, largely organised by Trevor Saving, the chief operations officer at Arsenal, and overseen by Ivan Gazidis the big boss.  Indeed the number of members of the support staff working with the first team, PL2 team (the under 23s) and the under 18s has tripled in recent years.  They are building a completely new club.

Those who have gone

Steve Rowley as chief scout is one of the longest serving members of the team, and one of the most recent to leave.  He was at Arsenal before Mr Wenger, and had a few amusing tales to tell of how he adjusted from a role in which he went to watch possible targets next time their club was playing in London, to one where on the first weekend after the new boss’ arrival he was sent to a remote part of Brazil to watch an 18 year old.  There is a suggestion however that he might work on a freelance basis for Arsenal, given the extent of his knowledge.

It was announced in September that Dick Law would be leaving, but I have not seen a date given.  He was described in the media as the effective Sporting Director of the club.  He left (or is soon leaving) for “family reasons”.

Those coming in

At the time it happened we covered the arrival of former Team Sky legal expert Huss Fahmy in July.  He now oversees contract negotiations.   He was formerly of cycling’s Team Sky, the executive who will be responsible for player contracts.

Some time ago we also noted the arrival of the head of high performance, Darren Burgess and we have mentioned David Priestley as head of psychology and personal development, who was one of the first of the new wave of employees of the club, arriving to work on the mental preparation of the Arsenal players.

Darren Burgess worked with Liverpool before going to Port Adelaide (the Australian Rules club) in Australia, and it is said that he was specifically chosen by Mr Wenger.  Indeed so certain was the club that this was the man Arsenal needed they allowed Burgess to stay in Australia until September and then pop back for a while in October to handle the end of the season.

It appears that Darren Burgess will oversee all areas on the technical side of the club apart from scouting, which starts with StatDNA and includes Arsenal’s own scouting team.  Mr Burgess is also regarded as one of the very top experts in fitness and conditioning in sport.   As such he will have overall control of medical matters, player fitness, working with David Priestley in relation to psychology, and also working on the analysis of performance at Arsenal.

Indeed in a very real sense this is the completion of the work that began with the purchase of StatDNA itself as it now gives Arsenal a better level of information and analysis across all aspects of football.

At the same time it seems Ivan Gazidis has tripled the number of support staff around the first team and junior sides at Arsenal.   Among those arriving is a new performance nutritionist, Richard Allison.

The Borussia Dortmund chief scout, Sven Mislintat, has been suggested as an long-term replacement for Rowley but no final decision has yet been made on who will take the role

Those staying

Tony Colbert, the fitness coach whom the media had suggested might be under threat of dismissal, is staying, working under Darren Burgess who works with the first team squad.   Also staying will be Shad Forsythe, the head of head of athletic performance enhancement who prior to 2014 worked with the German national team.

Gilles Grimandi, one of the first players Mr Wenger brought to the club, and long time chief scout in France is expected to stay, at least until Mr Wenger goes.  He was linked to the role of director of football about ten years ago, but nothing came of that rumour.

Why do it backwards?

Letting the new manager bring in his own staff is so ingrained in football it seems odd to reverse the process.  But as Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Everton, Sunderland and Tottenham have all found to their over time, new managers don’t always work – and if they are allowed to bring in their own team, and then something goes wrong, the disruption level can get too big for the club to handle.

Liverpool brought in 11 managers between 1990 and 2015 and Tottenham had 21 managers between 1991 and 2014.  Arsenal, of course, are working to ensure it doesn’t happen to them.

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20 Replies to “All change at Arsenal as the background revolution continues”

  1. Tony, very often when I’m reading Untold on my mobile device (as I often do during my commute), the pop up advert covers the entire page with no way for me to close the page without exiting the browser. The last offending advert was TUI. Would be great if you could sort it out.

    Secondly it was interesting to hear Mustafi’s attack on media. Xhaka’s interview Last week also had some quotes on similar but more subtle lines. Thankfully the players have taken notice of what’s going on, or atleast started to speak out against them if they already knew. Although I worry a bit that the media would turn against Arsenal even more and paint the players who speak out as lunatics and deluded.

  2. Changes to existing process obtainable at a big football club like Arsenal and periodic reshuffling of personnel at the club are bound to happen as these are inevitable ingredients needed if the club is to make progress and continues making progress and not be left behind in the scheme of things in top club football management activity as constant progress making is concerned.

    Arsenal FC is a conventional professional football club whose sporting Moto I believe is centred on winning games and Titles but not at the expense of keeping a healthy financial bank account but maintain a good financial bank account thus entrenching and ensuring the club financial is viable and self sustaining at all times.

    Arsenal are still in this season’s Title race but the game business in their hands now before they go to Burnley on Sunday for a difficult match in the PL is their Europa League Cup match away to FC Klon on Thursday night’s where the Arsenal team 2 who have been playing in these games and steadily progressing in the competition are widely expected in football quarters to further progress with an away win over Klon despite the latter recent resurgence at home in the competition. In the interim, this Arsenal EL Cup match to Klon will be our focus.

  3. It does seem strange that with the end of Arsene’s time at manager of Arsenal that staff changes are being made. (I can’t believe I wrote that)

    However could it be that the (I find this difficult to think let alone write) new manager has already been arranged and the changes are being made with his knowledge.

    The board may be ‘football ignorant’ but those running the day to day details of the club are not especially with Arsene at the helm.

    We are approaching a very interesting time in football. Not just at Arsenal.

    Is the corruption in England in its last days?

    Will the corruption in FIFA and EUFA soon be fully exposed?

    Sadly there is no sign of the media in England employing intelligent pundits instead of loud mouths.

  4. Looks like the structure for a smooth transition will be in place for when Wenger’s successor takes over.

  5. Gazidis did say there’s going to be a ‘catalyst for change’, so we are now seeing the wheels in motion.

  6. I would find it rather strange if the Club didn’t have an idea of who they would like to see as their next manager. Top candidates don’t often come available as their contracts naturally come to an end and despite Arsène still having a full year plus this season on his contract, some of his recent comments suggest that is the right replacement is available next summer he might be prepared to go a year early. If not he will continue for another year.

    As to who the new manager will be, your guess is as good as mine. I believe it will be an manager with experience in more than one country. I don’t think it will be someone in their late 50s or older and it will be someone with experience at one or more of the top ten or fifteen clubs in the world. They won’t necessarily have PL experience but will need to have a good command of English.

  7. Dortmund’s scout…Mertersaker joining the coaching staff, isn’t a certain out of work German coach waiting for a top club?

  8. If Barca are only prepared to offer £20m for Özil, plus I guess a decent salary of say £250k per week, then we should offer hin the £20m as a resigning fee and £280k per week to sign a 4 year contract extension. It will surely cost us at least £80-120m to sign a ready made replacement and it will take a couple of years before Iwobi, Willock or any of the other youngsters are ready to take over on a week by week basis. They can do it some of the time but not every game.

    Put that offer on the table with a proviso that his performances against Burnley and United match that against Spurs and I will be happy..

    I would also put the same offer in front of Alexis although I think our in-squad replacements for him are far nearer being able to cope if he were to leave in January. Wellbeck is the obvious starter but both Nketiah and Reiss Nelson aren’t too far away from PL starts.

    If they sign – great. If they don’t at least the club will know exactly where they stand.

  9. I don’t think looking at the nationalities of people “recently” brought into the Arsenal organization is necessarily a good way of guessing at the nationality of whoever might be Wenger’s replacement at some point in the future. Looking at the languages spoken by the “top” people may be a way of guessing the language(s) spoken by a Wenger replacement.

    Whoever the replacement is, I don’t think it will be the newly out of work Pulis (sacked by WBA).

  10. Arsenal must have a pretty high opinion of Dortmund’s Michael Zorc (possible DOF) if they’re prepared to pay £1.5 million to buy his contract out, which will put paid to the Marc Overmars rumour.
    Other news, Adebayor is being rather uncharitable to Tomas Rosicky over his injuries history.

  11. Tony–

    This is O/T from this post– but media-related from a source– an editor (Josh Marshall) of a major US political website whose opinion I respect deeply. Having to do with an impending digital-media bubble/economic crash.

    “There’s a Digital Media Crash. But No One Will Say It.”

    Mr Marshall speaks in terms of a digital-media near-extinction event that is in-swing and inevitable.
    This from a man who built and grew his own political site from the nothing approx 18 years ago.


  12. It seems that any new manager will have to use the staff appointed at Arsenal, perhaps allowed to bring one other?

    How many managers will like that?
    Arsenal tend to create new things and this may well be “that next step” on the journey to “a new club”.

    As we all know, football is in need of new organisers and the article from Untold about the USA owners of UK football clubs, makes me think about the changes being worked on by Arsenal, and perhaps a few other clubs(The American owned ones?).

    Still, the ref situation needs to be sorted out in any case, but they could probably force that at the right time.

    Bright days ahead?

  13. @colario,

    Who says M. Wenger is not behind all this.
    After all he now has the ressources he has wanted since moving to the Emirates.
    He is as knwoledgeable on matters football as 99.99 of managers.

    So I believe he is doing what he has to, building for the future. Furthermore I cannot think this could happen without him being involved and approving.
    Considering the fact that the owner wants to keep Arsenal earning and adding value, and with player prices so out of reality, consolidating the club is a wise investment. And from what I read, they are getting the best of the crop, even paying Dortmund for their chief scout like he was a player.
    I do not know if this is a first, but I would not be surprised.

    What we are seing is some repeat of what Mr Wenger set in motion when he got to Arsenal more then 20 years ago.

    All that makes me feel good about the club.

  14. @Para…. Perhaps Arsenal already know who their next manager might be and he’s involved in the background. Perhaps, just perhaps, Arsene Wenger might call it quits in the summer rather than go into the last year of his contract and all of the hoo ha that goes with that.

  15. With all these backroom investment, It will only mean Mr Wenger will be at helm of matters for longer than haters like it to be.

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