Arsenal’s ‘Football Intelligence’ unit – and what the revamp means

Arsenal announced last week that Stan and Josh Kroenke would become co-chairs, while veteran board member Tim Lewis will become vice-chair. There was little fanfare: for the club, this simply means the formalization of existing structures and processes.

But more changes are on the way. Following Edu’s promotion to the club’s first sporting director in November the athlete can reveal that there will be several new appointments in the Brazilian’s department. Jason Ayto becomes Arsenal’s assistant sporting director, James Ellis becomes head of recruitment.

Effective, intelligent recruitment has played a crucial role in Arsenal’s resurgence under Mikel Arteta. These revised roles recognize the good work that has been done and secure key employees who played their part in the rebuild.

These appointments, which are likely to follow, are all about cementing the structures put in place after the club sacked the majority of Arsenal’s existing scouts in the summer of 2020. The work of this scouting department, led by Francis Cagigao, should not be overlooked when assessing Arteta’s squad – Thomas Partey had been extensively scouted and courted by the previous regime, and Steve Morrow’s youth department brought in Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Reiss Nelson.

Still, the multitude of exits allowed Edu to build to his specifications from the ground up. Although some in the wider footballing world scoffed at Arsenal having “no scouts”, those who stayed behind at Arsenal recovered. A new department was quickly formed at the center – one informally known as “Football Intelligence”.

The stakeholders form the supporting pillars of the revised recruiting department. Ayto began looking for the club in 2014 and has since acted as the club’s recruitment coordinator – effectively Edu’s right-hand man. His role as assistant athletic director will expand his responsibilities.

Read  F1 calls for sporting sanctions for budget cap breaches over financial penalties

The original Football Intelligence team also included first-team scout Mark Curtis, data analysis specialist Tolly Coburn and loan manager Ben Knapper. They were valued contributors and are expected to retain a significant role within the new structure.

Ellis, the new recruiting chief, joined the club in the summer of 2021. After drastically slimming down in 2020, Arsenal began hiring new scouts the following year. Ellis joined from Fulham as ‘First-Team Scout UK’ and was responsible for screening homegrown players and reporting to Edu on their suitability for Arsenal’s squad-building plans. He should be given a broader role.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta with (left to right) Director of Football Edu, Director of Football Richard Garlick and CEO Vinai Venkatesham as he signed a new contract last May (Photo: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

So these are evolutionary rather than revolutionary steps. Edu was given a blank sheet and used it to create a successful blueprint. Now to make it official.

There is no denying that Arsenal recruit intelligently. One has to go back to that chaotic summer of 2020 and the signing of Willian to find a deal that categorically didn’t work. Additions like Ben White, Martin Odegaard, Aaron Ramsdale and Takehiro Tomiyasu have far exceeded expectations. Even more controversial deals like the acquisitions of Nuno Tavares and Albert Sambi Lokonga were relatively cheap gambles and shouldn’t result in Arsenal losing significant money.

Arsenal have been praised for their ability to focus on alternative targets, such as signing Leandro Trossard and Jorginho in January after missing out on Mykhailo Mudryk and Moises Caicedo. This is indicative of the depth of planning that flows into each window. Preparations for the coming summer began last year.

Read  Stage 3 red flagged as all three M-Sport Pumas hit trouble

If there’s any uncertainty about Edu’s new job, it’s about its precise dovetailing with the job of the academy’s head, Per Mertesacker. In his role as sporting director, Edu will assume overall responsibility for all Arsenal academy activities in addition to his existing responsibilities for the men’s and women’s teams.

Per Mertesacker with Tino Quamina during a youth team training session (Photo: David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

“Edu’s promotion formalizes his already growing influence on our Academy operations and we look forward to Per and Edu working together to further strengthen the integration between our men’s first team and the Academy,” said Chief Executive Vinai Venkatesham. Edu actually rose above Mertesacker.

The board-level changes are more of a cosmetic nature. Arsenal have a board of four, two of whom go by the surname Kroenke – Stan and Josh being co-chairs makes perfect sense. It was thought for some time that Tim Lewis would rise to the position of chairman, but he was instead given the title of vice-chairman. The conclusion is the same: on a day-to-day basis, he is the local owner’s man and deeply involved in the running of the club. When Arsenal tried to make peace with Brighton & Hove Albion over Caicedo, it was Lewis who made the call. Businessman Lord Philip Harris retains his seat on the board.

Arsenal board members Tim Lewis (left) and Josh Kroenke (Photo: David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Some of these new titles are reminiscent of the time when the club promoted Arteta from ‘head coach’ to ‘manager’. It was work he was already doing effectively, but they felt his accomplishment deserved recognition and reassurance.

Read  Big 5 Sporting Goods (BGFV) Set to Announce Earnings on Tuesday

Arsenal are a healthy club. Their placement in the league is an indication of that, but behind the scenes you also get the feeling that the leadership team has developed an effective way of working.

You don’t want to rip it apart and start over – it’s about keeping key people and continuing to improve.

(Top photo, left to right: Edu, Mikel Arteta and Vinai Venkatesham; Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button