Sven Mislintat – kicker interview transcript

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Arsenal’s new head of recruitment Sven Mislintat spoke to German publication kicker about his new role.

Lewis Ambrose has translated the interview for us, see below.

Note: If you’re a publication using this translation, please credit Arseblog News with a link back to the original article.

On Friday you started your job at Arsenal, on Saturday there was already a game against Man Utd. Have you had time to realise what drastic changes there are in your life, Mr. Mislintat?

I was already made aware the last time I walked through the Dortmund office – or my last home games against Tottenham and Schalke. It hurts to say goodbye, but I’m curios about what comes now. It’s a conflicting feeling.

Why start at Arsenal in the middle of the season?

You have to leave your old club cleanly and start at the new one with a bit of time. October, November, December are the best times. It’s the quietest time for transfers. You’re there to build a portfolio (of targets) and it isn’t yet (the time for) decision-making.

The Premier League considers itself the strongest in the world. Rightly so?

The chance to find out will be very interesting. I saw games in England where I wouldn’t recommend a player from either side to Dortmund. On the other hand, Arsenal dominated in Cologne for 70 minutes even though Arsene Wenger had rotated the entire eleven from the derby against Tottenham. It’s hard to say if the Premier League really is the league all others should be measured against. At the very top the Spanish clubs have won the important trophies in recent years, not the English ones.

What do Arsenal expect from their new ‘head of recruitment’?

When I check the press in England and Germany, people probably think I’ll find an (Ousmane) Dembele in every transfer window. I’ve been put on an inconceivably high pedestal.

You’ve been billed as a ‘transfer-guru’. Are you under more pressure than at Borussia Dortmund?

When I started at Dortmund, the most that was asked of me was whether I could do analysis or opposition analysis well enough. I was lucky to start at the beginning of a new era.

In what way?

I had ways to develop myself that wouldn’t have existed had I arrived at a club with an strong structure. I could establish myself and grow into my role. Today Arsenal have signed me with brutal expectations, it’s impossible not to be aware of that.

So: With Mislintat, everything will just fall into place?

Signing me isn’t a guarantee that you’ll make good transfers. That needs an outstanding team who are driven, hard-working and really really on top of the task to find the next Ousmane Dembele or Dan-Axel Zagadou.

In future will you look at different markets than up until now?

Definitely in England, where we haven’t closely looked at Dortmund, other than at youth level. The Premier League is my ‘local market’ now. Beyond that it depends on conversations with Arsene and the sporting needs of the club. Which qualities, characters should we sign? Which replacements are needed? Which contracts are expiring? Firstly I need to figure out how things currently stand and learn the philosophy to exactly deliver Arsene what is needed.

Your reputation is for finding young, promising talents for Dortmund. Will your task change at a club as rich as Arsenal?

I can’t completely assess that just yet. Arsenal are already a club that resembles the transfer approach of Dortmund.

Will the club go another way because Man Utd, Man City and Chelsea simply have more to spend?

Or perhaps because Arsenal want to…

Spending huge sums of money is up to the owner’s approach and Arsene Wenger’s.

Will you assist Arsene Wenger directly?

Of course, and gladly. Arsene and CEO Ivan Gazidis are the people I’ll report to.

Wenger was divisive early in the year. Isn’t it inevitable a manager of 21 years will be worn out?

Sir Alex Ferguson was in his job longer. At the end of May, Wenger won the cup. For the seventh time in 21 years. On top of his three league title wins. I find it really difficult to deny his success. I’m excited to work with him! I can only learn from someone who has proven his quality over decades.

Jens Lehmann is part of the coaching team at Arsenal and Per Mertesacker will lead the youth academy from the summer. You’re head of recruitment. Why is German know-how so popular?

I don’t know but I have nothing against it. The setup will definitely make communicating easier for me to begin with.

Did you feel like a ‘secret boss’ at Dortmund, as Stern once wrote?

That completely goes against my philosophy. If you ask anyone from my old team, nobody will say: Sven is the boss. I’m a clear advocate for open communication on an equal footing, complete honesty and hard analysis – that’s my behaviour. That’s what made my old department at Dortmund so good.

The conflict with Thomas Tuchel incited your departure from Dortmund. With hindsight, are you thankful?

There are a lot of things I’d have preferred not to happen. The same probably goes for Thomas Tuchel. Ultimately, it harmed all of us.

In the statement about your move…

…that topic has already become too big. I only said that that time instigated thoughts that I could still do something different. There was not one ‘bad’ reason to leave Dortmund. Only that I didn’t want to look back at 65 and wonder what could’ve happened with Arsenal and in London.

Did Borussia Dortmund do everything to keep you?

I think so. I’m not mad at anyone. The opposite: I find what Hans-Joachim Watzke said at the AGM incredibly bold. To take responsibility for this development during such a difficult phase for the club, he has my utmost respect. By allowing me to leave, Watzke and Michael Zorc gave my work over recent years the highest recognition.

Watzke says letting you go is the result of his mistake that you were treated ‘like an outsider’ for 18 months. Was this acknowledged too late?

Only too late in the public. Internally, there were talks between him and myself – also between Zorc and myself – quite a bit earlier. We all made our peace on this issue. There’s a strong understanding on both sides.

Had you hoped for more support when Tuchel banned you from the training ground and refused you access to the team?

That’s not possible in professional football.

Why?

Counter-question: what would come of it?

A clash between Zorc/Watzke and Tuchel.

Exactly, I shouldn’t be that important.

So does this apply to you: No prophet is accepted in his own land?

That’s too harsh, far too strongly worded. What is often true is this: the recognition comes later in the place you you grew up.

In your 11 years there were a few dozen transfers you were involved in. Which players did you have to fight for the most?

If we’re talking about the transfers I was most pigheadedly stubborn: Shinji Kagawa and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Why Kagawa?

Thomas Kroth had tipped us off. Then there was Sven Mislintat, who hadn’t been in the job very long, advising his bosses: ‘there’s a Japanese guy in their second division, let’s sign him!’

I had to do a lot of persuading. We were in Japan six times to watch him. Kagawa signed for just €350,000.

And Aubameyang?

We scouted him as Robert Lewandowski’s replacement but in our eyes he wasn’t that. He really didn’t embody Lewandowski’s strengths, because he’s a completely different type of striker. So it took longer to make the decision to sign him, initially to play out wide.

Which transfers didn’t come to fruition and left you annoyed?

The trouble between Tuchel and myself was ignited over Oliver Torres from Atletico Madrid. He’s a genius in possession and I wanted to sign him. For me he’s one of the best ‘numbers eights’ with the ball, he orientates himself excellently, albeit with small weaknesses. For me, with half a year to prepare, he was the perfect Ilkay Gundogan replacement.

Critics say the current BVB squad hasn’t been put together in a very balanced manner. Do you leave Dortmund with a bad feeling that you were very involved building the squad?

I’m leaving with a worse feeling than when I first requested to leave. We were top of the league then.

Can you imagine returning to Dortmund at some point?

I was born in Dortmund, I’m a Dortmund kid, I studied here. Of course I won’t rule it out but I’m not leaving with the intention to return. I’m following my path to develop further and I want to keep learning. At Arsenal I want to do the very best job I can do. I’m excited for the challenge and can easily imagine myself at Arsenal, in London, for 10, 12 years as long as my family and I feel at home there.

Is there an agreement, as Dortmund allowed you to leave, that you won’t sign any Dortmund players?

No. I have the utmost respect for my old club. In all aspects. But, the fact is, we’re rivals now.

In 2018 you could be returning in the Europa League. Will that turn into mixed emotions?

Firstly, I’d be so excited to go to the stadium that was my living room for 11 years. But let’s be clear: after that, I’ll want my new club to win.

What are you most afraid of as you start in London – driving on the left or football at Christmas as a father and family man?

For my first year I’m lucky: we play on 22nd December against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool and then not again until 28th December. Then Arsenal play on New Year’s Eve.

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lessthanthesumoftheirparts
lessthanthesumoftheirparts

Absolutely brilliant read! Cheers Lewis

Too Drunk To Be Offside
Too Drunk To Be Offside
Georgycharles
Georgycharles

Not sure what a clichéd article about Wenger not being very good at defence, has to do with Mislintat appointment ?

Too Drunk To Be Offside
Too Drunk To Be Offside

Wenger not being very good at defence has everything to do with whats transpired at the club in the past seasons. Been the difference between expectation and reality.

Georgeycharles
Georgeycharles

I just don’t see the point in an off topic link, to a lazy article, recycling a rather well worn theme.

Why not
Why not

Stop Drinking. It is a clinical depressant!

Jasmeet
Jasmeet

Sportskeeda is a shit site. It’s mostly user-submitted content with very low editorial standards. One cursory glance at their homepage is enough proof of that. Any two-bit writer can submit articles and get published. I would know; they published me once.

Jimbo Jones
Jimbo Jones

It was worth a read. Thanks for the link.

Anony
Anony

Off topic, but I just found this saw this video of gunnerblog making different variant of same joke all trip, as his girlfriend gets increasingly annoyed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvavh1o9GkA&feature=youtu.be

IamaGoober

Great read.

The one thing I will say is; does he actually realise he has joined Arsenal? The ultimate Kings of dragging their feet over transfer targets.

Like you can guarantee the reason why we never signed Kagawa was because by the time we were looking to book our 15th flight back to Japan to just double check that he was actually any good, Dortmund already had him in the changing room singing his induction song and meeting his new teammates…

So if that whole saga surrounding Tuchel horsing around when attempting to sign Oliver Torres, just wait till he’s sat in the negotiating room with Arsene.

leroy
leroy

very exciting for arsenal’s future. he comes across as a ‘no-nonsense, let’s get down to business’ type. it’s probably unrealistic to expect him to replicate the success he had at dortmund, but i feel that he’s a big upgrade on what we’ve recently had. welcome and good luck, Sven!

PFo
PFo

Completely agree. Seems like a really, really clever guy. Interesting about that chap Oliver Torres at Athletico: we could use a new deep lying “number 8” who’s brilliant in possession…

Jasonissimo
Jasonissimo

Not if his “small weaknesses” are in his defending.

Wengers Zip
Wengers Zip

Santi wasn’t great at defending and we were happy with him being our number 8…. besides, he’s 23, he’s yet to hit his prime years…

master floda
master floda

I’d rather stick with Xhaka (for now). Olivier Torres has not really managed to break through in his two years at Porto and his flaws are mostly defensive. So maybe Tuchel was right not to sign him. Although he is still very young and it’s not unusual for a player that age to stagnate a little in his development. Maybe he will become a great player, but right now, I don’t think he could make it past Elneny and Coquelin. Lso, with With Maitland-Niles and Willock we do have two exciting midfield prospects.

mo974
mo974

Torres could be a replacement for Santi. Same kind of player, incredible technique and who can flourish in an attacking side like ours. In his first year at Porto he was magnificent under Lopetegui then Simeone brought him back and tried to mould him into some agressive and direct player, and that’s not his style. Went back to Porto who are now coached by another kind of Simeone style manager in Conceicao, he is a bit lost amid injuries and defensive duties.Like you said he is still a young player and a very great prospect. But he is not a deep lying midfield player nor dm.He cant be in competition with the likes of Coquelin Elneny et all. He is in the Ozil mould, a purely offensive player who needs DM to protect him.

Gunner
Gunner

Interesting stuff indeed, hope he does not feel under too much pressure and can go about his job. Will keep an eye on Óliver Torres 🙂

Ondi
Ondi

“Today Arsenal have signed me with BRUTAL EXPECTATIONS, it’s impossible not to be aware of that” No pressure at all ; )

Spanish Gooner
Spanish Gooner

A clever deep lying 8 who is fantastic on the ball? If only there was a club needing one of those!

sixteen swans
sixteen swans

Here’s the problem I have.

It doesn’t matter one whit what treasures Sven manages to unearth if we’re never going to commit to buying that player in the end.

Recent revelations point out that back in 2013-14 we were on the brink of bringing in Antoine Griezmann for a paltry €15m is just one case in point.

It may well be that the only type of player our new head of recruitment is likely to be successful at having a hand in actually acquiring has all kinds of historical caveats attached. And that’s not going to help us as much as it might.

Obviously, I hope that this won’t be the case. But I’m pretty sure the reason our current squad isn’t far stronger that it presently is isn’t down to player identification.

Sp*rs have an arguably stronger squad (yeah, right) at a fraction of the cost of ours. Man City have an actually stronger squad than ours for a billion quid more (and can legitimately win both the title and the CL).

If Wenger is going to make the best out of Sven then he has to climb aboard the project. If he doesn’t then, in the short term at least, it’ll be business as usual.

Bill
Bill

maybe that’s the plan, a guy with an eye for talent and the other guy who has all the right phone numbers. What happens in the summer may be different. I have not felt it would be for years, but this year there is a dramatic shift in personnel that have track records not like our own track record. I was quite sure we would not really sign anyone of consequence this past summer, but I feel more optimistic about next because of this.

Da Boss
Da Boss

I think you’re sort of missing the point here, these appointments have really been made to plan for life after AW. He see’s himself there for 10-12 years by his own admission, AW will be here for 2. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love the new back office team to start adding top quality players to the ranks straight away, but I think this is one that needs to be allowed to grow. Plus, if we are looking at a new manager in 2 years time then how much top end recruitment will really take place in the interim? Let’s hold on to our seats because this is going to be a bumpy ride.

Bill
Bill

What you don’t think these guys have ideas about players to sign, it’s not like they are outsiders to the game here. They are experienced people who have taken a stroll around the block a couple of times.

Da Boss
Da Boss

I’m not saying that at all, I am saying that any recruitment that takes place now will be for life after AW. So if we are signing a midfielder, as we all want us to, I just don’t see AW sanctioning a signing that would upset his choice of Xhaka and Ramsey in centre mid. He hasn’t done it in the past when he sees players as settled, in fact he never has, so why would he start with only 2 years left? Do I see us signing another forward after signing Lacazette – no. Will we get a new number 10 – that is pretty much up to Ozil. Centre backs, now this is an area where I think we do need to make some decisions and I hope we see a signing either in Jan or next summer, and also the same for our GK situation. AW does have previous in terms of signing players in World Cup years, so let’s see. I just don’t think that these back office guys will start churning out hidden transfer gems and big signings the second they’re through the door, ESPECIALLY whilst AW is still in the big chair.

The Islander
The Islander

We like him on the island ????
He’ll suit Arsene very well
Clever use of words and reasoning

Ted E.
Ted E.

I like how he equated Dembele with Dan-Axel Zagadou, someone I, at least, had never heard of. He seems fairly confident in the boy (or himself).

Anonymarse
Anonymarse

Wasn’t zagadou some kind of musical?

Reality+Check
Reality+Check

Scouting isn’t our biggest problem, dithering is..
We almost signed the world 11 but..

crapaud
crapaud

This comment stood out for me “Spending huge sums of money is up to the owner’s approach and Arsene Wenger’s”

ChrisGoona
ChrisGoona

It does, but lets not fool ourselves on the complexity of transfers. With our new head of recruitment and the new negotiator, we are looking to address the entire process. Finding players early enough, and having the ability to seal the deal, we may give Arsene the players he needs to succeed at the top level again – as he did with Dein and co.

If Sven goes to Ivan and Arsene and says, this player is a gem, I am 100% sure of it, they have no qualms over pursuing the transfer with full commitment.

With a more efficiency comes more confidence. The deals will be signed off.

midgunner
midgunner

He had me at ‘portfolio of targets’…

Goonerink
Goonerink

Love his non sugar coated response to question concerning old loyalties vs new pastures.

Wengers Zip
Wengers Zip

brb getting Torres on the back of next season’s Arsenal jersey 😉 nah in all seriousness, this is great reading and i’m looking forward to what he brings to the table. but also cautious knowing Wenger, Gazidis and the rest of the boardroom are still in charge… lets see what happens.

Deo Lefebvre
Deo Lefebvre

Why are german interviews so much better?

Evang. Simon
Evang. Simon

hmmmm fingers crossed

Alphie
Alphie

Candid interview

Ozenal
Ozenal

I believe a fair few of our transfer failures have been to do with money or speed (which arguably is about money).

We need Raul as the key to nudge the board into releasing cash! And finding some team to take our deadweights.

Let’s hope that the communication between Ivan, Raul, Sven and Manager are strong.

sambo
sambo

Isnt he surplus to Barcelonas requirements because Neymar left? Am i wrong? I kinda see Barca as being a bit stale in the transfer market. Dembele was a panic buy after not being able to get their main men and really they havent signed a top class midfielder for a long time to replace Xavi and Cesc.

Santori
Santori

Right time to bring in reinforcement. For club.

We have aside from two wantaways marquee players a number ofb players getting older (Per, Koscielny, Monte( and as yet a lack of balance in midfield.

Contrbuting further to task on hand Ospina and Giroud may leave and we have to get a back up for Bellerin.

And Walcott…

Plenty of work ahead.

If this bloke speaks Deutsch…Draxler please.

sambo
sambo

This interview is telling. I might have to say one of the reasons German football is ahead of ours is the pundits and interviewers are adults. Maybe I’m wrong maybe the average German football talk and pundits are as silly as ours but it never seems so when presented with Mert or this case in point. Maybe its Arseblog that shields us from the tat but our mainstream pundits and questions are so childish and slanted and biased. Its infested with idiots. You rarely leave a post match discussion (if you bother anymore) with the feeling a kid watching this has improved his game from it. Maybe I’m being too harsh? But ”banter” is taking the seriousness out of our game and the usual Michael Owens of the expert opinions world in our football is really holding us back.

Isaac
Isaac

Is there an agreement, as Dortmund allowed you to leave, that you won’t sign any Dortmund players?

No. I have the utmost respect for my old club. In all aspects. But, the fact is, we’re rivals now.

I love the above answer

Dino
Dino

A very interesting un-gazidis interview. Seem like the man speaks what he think and not to please any particular person or group. We haven’t seen much of that from the Arsenal backroom recently. Curious to know how his relationship with the manager and the club go forward.