Black v. Yellow Part 3: Bigger Absence, Tuchel or Mislintat?

Black v. Yellow Part 3: Bigger Absence, Tuchel or Mislintat?

Which Former Club Employee Will Dortmund Miss More?

By: Robert Hay Jr and Nate Smith

As Dortmund’s swoon continues to reach new lows, our weekly debate series continues. This week, Robert Hay and Nate Smith pause from preparing their Thanksgiving meals (silly Americans) and wonder what might have been. This week, Arsenal announced the hiring of respected Dortmund talent scout Sven Mislintat as their new head of recruitment, a major change to the way the club does business. Mislintat had been courted by Bayern Munich (allegedly) and other clubs but something about that North London air appealed to the 45-year-old. A further twist was revealed in an interview Mislintat did after his departure, where he cited a training ground ban by Thomas Tuchel as the moment he first considered leaving the club.

As the drama continues on and off the pitch, our writers debate this week who Dortmund will miss more: the former coach who found so much success or the former scout who found so many players?

Sven Mislintat – Robert Hay

I should win this argument by simply listing the following names: Robert Lewandowski, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ousmane Dembele. These were three of the many names the scout is credited with identifying and helping Dortmund sign in recent years. The man undoubtedly has an ability not only to spot great players but to find those who will sign for Dortmund. In the age of FIFA and Football Manager, this is something we are tempted to overlook as an overrated skill.

To see the result of a poor talent spotting network, take his new club. Once Arsenal’s famed scouting networking in Europe was discovered and copied, the club lost out on major names at the bargain prices they were used to paying. The key to talent acquisition is not simply, “that player is good” but finding a player at the right time and the right price. Two of the three players listed above have moved on from BVB, but they brought a large amount of money with them. They also were not signed when they were too young to be true contributors. Take Shinji Kagawa, someone who undoubtedly fits with Dortmund and was signed at a time when his price was lower than his value.

Mislintat will always be remembered for helping Dortmund escape the financial crisis it faced last decade, but it is his ability to see a player from different angles and perspectives that will be missed most. He is known for employing scouts of different background and philosophies, so many eyes can view a player’s game before any decisions are made. At a time of coming upheaval in the club – assuming Peter Bosz cannot turn this around – his historical knowledge and ability to assess talent will be essential to the next coach. Germany is rich with young, up-and-coming coaches who have benefited from the investment in coaching infrastructure the Federation has made over the past twenty plus years. What is not so abundant is talent identifiers who can find great values to sign and sell if needed.

Thomas Tuchel- Nate Smith

Ajax, Southampton, St. Etienne and yes, Schalke. What do all of these clubs have in common? They are all exceptional at the recruitment and cultivation of young talent. There is little doubt that Borussia Dortmund has had monumental sustained success following a similar model to these smaller clubs (though the riches of the Premier League see Southampton climbing the list of wealthy clubs every season), but scaled up to a European contending club. Their comparatively limited resources to others of their reputation have led them to be innovative in all areas of the club, from the development of players to the grooming of young coaching prospects.

Dortmund hit their zenith with this model under Jurgen Klopp, winning two titles, and his departure was followed by another tactical maestro, Thomas Tuchel. As is now well documented, Tuchel lost his battle to keep the club from selling off valuable assets, and a feud developed between the promising manager and the supremely well respected Head Scout, Sven Mislintat over transfer business. The radical decision of the club’s hierarchy to side with a scout over a manager with such a good reputation spoke volumes about how the club views its operations. Clearly, Dortmund were signalling to the Football world that no coach is bigger than the program, and decided to move on to Peter Bosz.

Fast forward to this week, and Mislintat has officially been poached by Arsenal to run their recruitment operations, and the club is now in the midst of some Herculean struggles under Bosz. Despite another summer of sterling recruitment, the team cannot seem to find the will to collectively elevate their game, falling into a rut that has extended for almost two months. Their hot start and squad full of a ‘Who’s Who” of emergent talent now may not be enough to save their Dutch manager’s job.

Think back to those clubs at the beginning again. What else do they share with each other? In addition to their skill with youth, these clubs also routinely fall short of true contention and fail to attract the best coaches the world has to offer. Despite losing Mislintat, Dortmund have a program in place that has lead to a prosperous and stable period in the club’s history, one that they have adhered to since the middle of the last decade. It has proven to be enough to field an exciting team, contend in the league (or at least keep pace), and make some noise in Europe. The loss of an admittedly great scout won’t change this, as he was but one part of a talent unearthing machine that ways in place before his arrival, and will continue to be after he has left. However, as the club’s recent history has proven, the best way to turn the club from annual peripheral figures into legitimate contenders is with a truly elite manager.

There is a reason why Thomas Tuchel is one of the hottest commodities in football these days. Not only does he carry the Pep Guardiola seal of approval, he is a true tactician and an innovator; one who seemed destined to become part of the yellow and black fabric of the club. His anger at his best players being allowed to leave without much of a fight should come as no surprise, considering he knew that he had a team capable of challenging for the title. That kind of no-compromise fight to win does not seem to be a part of Peter Bosz’ personality, and in time (whether or not the Dutchman is relieved of his duties) the club will come to miss their former fiery leader. Will the club be fine in the long run? Absolutely, but if the Tuchel saga has shown us anything, it is that the world’s best executive duo is still capable of making a mistake.