Arsenal losing their identity after ditching envied scouting system

Arsenal are losing their identity by ditching the world-famous scouting system that unearthed Fabregas and Vieira… this new agent-led approach MUST bring back the glory days or fans will never forgive them

  • Global scout Francis Cagigao was one of 55 staff Arsenal have made redundant
  • Other prominent members of their scouting department have lost their jobs
  • It’s clear Arsenal are moving towards a more contact-based recruitment policy
  • Technical director Edu is a close friend of the prominent agent Kia Joorabchian
  • Philippe Coutinho and Willian are two Joorabchian clients linked with Arsenal
  • This shift will only be deemed a success if Arsenal start winning trophies again 

Two statements from Arsene Wenger five years apart summed up Arsenal’s longstanding identity.

In 2013, Wenger said: ‘The future of Arsenal will rely on the quality of work we do inside, to scout and develop. We are respected all over world for our values. We are not artificial.’

Then in 2018, while confirming his departure after more than two decades, Wenger signed off with this: ‘To all the Arsenal lovers take care of the values of the club. My love and support forever.’

 Arsenal have made redundant their head of international recruitment Francis Cagigao – who discovered Cesc Fabregas, Gabriel Martinelli and Hector Bellerin – as part of cost cutting

 Cagigao has been with Arsenal for two decades and helped discover a number of key players

Arsenal technical director Edu (centre) is clearly taking the club in a different direction

Those values Wenger spoke of seem to be changing now.

Scout Francis Cagigao was one of the 55 to be made redundant by Arsenal on Wednesday. Sportsmail also understands head of UK scouting Peter Clark and fellow recruitment specialist Brian McDermott have been told they will lose their positions.

Cagigao was the man who found Cesc Fabregas, a £500,000 buy from Barcelona back in 2003, while he was also behind moves for Hector Bellerin and Gabriel Martinelli.

After Martinelli sprinted the length of the pitch to score that solo goal against Chelsea earlier this year, Fabregas took to Twitter: ‘Francis Cagigao strikes again.’ 

Less than 20 minutes later, Bellerin scored, and Fabregas added: ‘And Francis Cagigao strikes again and again. Legend.’

Praise for the scout rather than the players. Countless others became bargains, too. Patrick Vieira was one of those, plucked from relative obscurity for £3.5million in 1996 via the old operation.

Cesc Fabregas, one of the players unearthed by Cagigao, praises him on Twitter in January

Cagigao was the one who discovered Fabregas, who spent eight years with Arsenal

Bellerin was another player unearthed by Cagigao, joining Arsenal back in 2011

Martinelli, the 19-year-old Brazilian forward, is another to have been scouted by him

Patrick Vieira was another gem unearthed for Wenger by Arsenal’s methods of recruitment

Wenger loved a bargain. He famously thought managers should treat the club’s money as if it was their own. 

He wanted promising players who were hungry enough to make a name for themselves in England and so deployed his worldwide talent spotters to discover diamonds in the rough.

It was only towards the end of Wenger’s tenure when he decided to splash the cash. Even then he signed a sure thing, purchasing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for a record £56m.

But there has been a clear change in direction since Wenger’s exit.

Under Raul Sanllehi, the club’s head of football, and Vinai Venkatesham, managing director, Arsenal have moved towards a more contact-led recruitment strategy in recent seasons.

Edu is there as technical director, and it is no secret he is close to agent Kia Joorabchian.

arsenal’s technical director Edu is close to the prominent agent Kia Joorabchian (pictured)

Edu is pictured with Arsenal’s head of football Raul Sanllehi during a match last year

Since the start of last year, former head of recruitment Sven Mislintat, StatDNA guru Jaeson Rosenfeld and now Cagigao have all left the club. It is said that members of the analytical and scouting teams at Arsenal have felt marginalised of late.

Joorabchian looks after David Luiz, who joined Arsenal for £8m. He also represents Philippe Coutinho and Willian, who are now being linked. 

Sanllehi is said to be close to Arturo Canales, who brought Unai Emery to the club as manager and whose client is Pablo Mari.

The club’s hierarchy appear to believe building relationships with intermediaries is the way to go.

You wonder what Wenger makes of this from afar. He may see this as a slap in the face to the identity he helped create in 22 years at the club.

In his new role as FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development, Wenger earlier this year announced a groundbreaking talent development programme. 

Sven Mislintat was Arsenal’s head of recruitment but left the club last year

It involves the Frenchman setting up more youth competitions to offer clubs the opportunity to identify talent.

That is in Wenger’s blood. He made the odd mistake, too, of course. Ray Parlour loves to tell the story of Igors Stepanovs, the centre-half from Latvian club Skonto.

He arrived at Arsenal for a trial and the players, having fun with Martin Keown, bigged up Stepanovs in front of Wenger. Dennis Bergkamp was yelling: ‘Great header! Great tackle!’

Wenger didn’t realise they were teasing, and apparently the sight of Bergkamp standing up and applauding had a big impact. Stepanovs was signed for £1m and offered a four-year contract.

Really, he should have been nowhere near this Arsenal team. But an injury crisis cropped up and Manchester United away was the next fixture. 

Stepanovs started, Arsenal were 5-1 down at half-time and eventually lost 6-1. It would have been worse, were it not for David Seaman.

Igor Stepanovs was recruited by Arsene Wenger after players wound him up in training

Still, this Latvian flop showed how far-flung Arsenal were willing to go to find signings for Wenger.

There were others who were more successful. The young lad from Swedish side Halmstad called Freddie Ljungberg turned out to be a decent acquisition, after all. He’s still there.

Former captain Tony Adams acted as a scout for a while, as did Gilles Grimandi.

Now that department is seemingly being downsized in favour of this different direction.

Will it work? That’s what Sanllehi and Co are banking on, though you do wonder how much input the manager, Mikel Arteta, will have on comings and goings from now on.

Arsenal have spent the last four seasons outside of the top four. They want to be back there, and in the Champions League.

If this is what makes the club competitive, then fans may forgive the change of approach after years of doing it Wenger’s way.

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