Ben Knapper has left Arsenal to become the new sporting director at Norwich City.
Knapper joined Arsenal as an analyst in 2010 having previously held a role at Prozone. He was promoted to lead analyst in June 2015 before becoming the club’s first loan and pathway manager in February 2019. He was a vital part of Edu’s ‘Football Intelligence Team’ and worked closely with academy manager Per Mertesacker.
First team players including William Saliba, Emile Smith Rowe, Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah and the recently departed Folarin Balogun all benefitted from loan spells under Knapper’s watch.
There’s also been a big upturn in the number of academy kids venturing out on year-long moves since he took over. This summer alone, 15 youngsters were shipped out to gain further experience of senior football.
In a recent podcast, Sarah Rudd, previously head of analytics and software development with StatDNA and Arsenal, praised Knapper’s transition from the world of data.
“Ben was there from day one of StatDNA,” she told the Training Ground Guru podcast.
“He is incredibly well versed in using data to analyse the game and now using it in a recruitment context, so I think that was a clever shift in terms of the personnel doing the scouting. He focuses on loans, but I think he’s also involved in recruitment, particularly within the UK.”
Norwich have confirmed that Knapper will formally start his new role at Carrow Road on 27 November.
In his first interview with his new club, he said: “I’m absolutely delighted to be joining Norwich City. It is a club that I’ve admired from afar for a long time.
“My interactions and dealings with the club over the years have always been very positive. It is a club that has always left an impression on me, and I’ve been really impressed with how they operate.
“There are clearly some very good foundations already in place. I’m really looking forward to getting started, meeting everyone and contributing to the next chapter of success in the club’s journey.”
In a message to club staff, Edu said of Knapper’s departure: “We are so proud that Ben has been appointed Sporting Director at Norwich City.
“Of course, we are all sad Ben is leaving us, because he is such a top professional and person, and we have enjoyed a great working relationship together.
“He has been a huge asset to us during his career at Arsenal, where he has developed through our performance analysis teams to become our highly successful Loans and Pathway Manager.
“Ben has played a key role in the positive development of so many of our men’s players over the years, where he has driven a part of our football strategy to give our players the best possible experience, to ensure they return to us with enhanced qualities to continue their careers with us or elsewhere.”
News of Knapper’s departure comes hot on the heels of Gary O’Driscoll’s departure for Manchester United. As far as we’re aware, the club’s former head of sports medicine is yet to be replaced.
Arsenal are also on the hunt for a new CEO with Vinai Venkatesham set to leave at the end of the season.