Arsenal’s diverse scouting network is one of the most well known in club football, with Arsene Wenger and his team frequently finding young unknown prospects and developing them into superstars.
One of the most important members of this system is Chief scout Steve Rowley, who has the final say on potential signings, and creates reports and videos for the boss to study. Speaking with the clubs official magazine, Rowley speaks about all aspects of his work and why the network has become so successful.
You can read part one of this interesting interview below, with the second part coming tomorrow. He speaks about the unknown members of his team, as well as his day to day activities. He also talks about Cesc Fabregas and Carlos Vela, whilst touching on youth development and the importance of loaning.
Q – Steve, tell us a bit about the scouting structure at Arsenal.
A. First of all let me say it’s a real team effort at Arsenal. I have 12 scouts based in the UK, and aside from that we have a worldwide network. We have recently developed the Americas. We have our former left-back Danny Karbassiyoon in America, and he covers Mexico too.Then we have Sandro Orlandelli who looks after the scouting in Brazil, Argentina and the rest of South America, along with Pablo Budner and Everton Gushiken. Bobby Bennett does all of Scandanavia, where he has been doing a great job for seven years. We have Francis Cagigao who does Spain and Portugal while Gilles Grimandi does France and Switzerland. Jurgen Kost covers Germany, Czech Republic, places like that. Then we have Tony Banfield in Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. Finally we have Peter Clarke, another of our former players, who is based in Holland.
Q. And what’s the process for finding players? Do you tell them where to be or do they follow their own leads?
A. Well these scouts are all responsible for their own countries, they have built up a big network of contacts over the years. They have met players, coaches, other scouts, so they all get tip offs, they then go and watch, and then report to me via our database. If the report sounds interesting then I will tell them to watch a couple more times, then I will send another scout to look at the player, to get a fresh perspective. If they come back positive too, I will go. But there is no set number of times we watch a player. For Fabregas for example, you watch him once or twice and that’s enough. Other players though may play in a poor league, so you need to watch them more when they come up against a good team. So there is no set rule, basically I trust my scouts and if they say ‘Steve, stop messing about’ then I’m there.
After i’ve watched the player I will compile a dossier for the manager, and also a video which contains the player’s good and bad points. The manager is so, so good at assessing a player that he can say straight away whether he likes what he sees or not. Then he will get onto his own contacts around the world to find out more about the player’s background, so it’s not just down to playing ability. When he’s made the decision, we move quickly to seal the deal.
Q. Arsene Wenger has a reputation of signing lesser known names, so do you tell your scouts to focus more on those type of players?
A. Well we know about the bigger names too of course, we knew about Messi when we knew about Cesc obviously because they were in the same team, but we couldn’t do anything about it because he is Argentine. Generally though, yes the prices are more competitive when they are relatively unknown. I think the gaffer likes the fact that they are not going to cost millions and millions, but I also think that what’s important to him is that it gives him more scope to develop the player through his own coaching methods. At the same time if we bring a 16-year-old in through our scouts, I fully expect him to be able to train with the first team and not look out of place. They have to be of a very, very high standard.
Q. What was it that made Cesc Fabregas stand out for example, when you first saw him play?
A. It’s a combination of things. The boss loves intelligent players, physically they also have to be of a certain level. Midfielders have to have great stamina and with Cesc, even at 15, you could see he would run all day. He had the basic requirements, added to great intelligence and great technique, just as every player we bring in has. We also look for that winning attitude. People like Cesc, Denilson – all of them in fact – they have the right mentality. There are also players we scout who are undoubtedly very talented, but you know that for whatever reason, they will not be a success in England. Can they adapt to this league? It’s a big question.
Q. Did you have scouts at the Africa Cup of Nations looking at systems and players?
A. We had scouts there, but only looking at players, not systems and so on. Africa is an interesting market, and the boss has very good contacts in Senegal and Ivory Coast, so he helps a lot on that side. He’s usually already heard of the player when I tell him I have just had a recommendation.
Part two of the interview to come tomorrow, with thanks to Gooner-Chris for typing this interview up.
Article By – J.Sanderson