Just four days after our impressive performance and victory against Chelsea in the FA Cup Final, news broke that Arsenal are making 55 employees redundant, due to the financial strain caused by the coronavirus pandemic with star scout and head of recruitment – Francis Cagigao – being the most high profile casualty.
Disbelief was probably the first reaction of every Arsenal fan across the world, considering almost every first team player, as well as Head Coach Mikel Arteta took a 12.5% pay cut back in April to help the club come through these uncertain times without any problems. To make matters worse our owner, Stan Kroenke, has seen his net worth increase by roughly £300 million throughout the pandemic which could have easily covered the estimated £2 million a year in wages the 55 employees would have earned.
Possibly the most puzzling development of the story was the fact we have let our head of recruitment Francis Cagigao go, even after the impressive impact he’s had on recruitment over the last 15 years or so, playing a pivotal role in deals for players such as Cesc Fabregas, Hector Bellerin and more recently Gabriel Martinelli. It seems to be a strange decision to let someone with his track record and experience leave, however is it an indication of our new board’s approach in the transfer market? The players initial skepticism over the situation turned out to be justified, as reports suggest that they are planning talks with the Gunners hierarchy to find out the reasons behind the decision. Arteta may have to play the role of mediator once more to diffuse the situation and help the players move past it in time for next season.
Background on Francis Cagigao
The English scout has been associated with Arsenal since the 1980’s when he joined the club as a youth player, going on to win the FA Youth Cup in 1988 playing under manager Pat Rice. He then moved on to Barcelona B, but was unsuccessful in his player career, changing his focus onto discovering young talented players when he re-joined Arsenal over 15 years ago.
Cagigao was initially hired as a scout, but his impressive contribution which saw him discover players such as Cesc Fabregas, meant he was able to rise up the ranks and become a fundamental member of Arsene Wenger’s back room staff.
Rating Cagigao’s best signings
In this section, I have picked out three of the most successful players which Cagigao has brought to the club, evaluating their impact and rating them out of 10 in terms of their time as a whole at Arsenal.
Cagigao was pivotal in bringing Cesc Fabregas to the club from Barcelona at the age of 16. Whatever you may think about the Spaniard, he was an unbelievable player in which Arsene Wenger was able to develop into captain material by the age of 21. Ending his time in North London with 57 goals and 92 assists in 304 games from centre midfield shows the quality that he possessed. This is without a doubt one of Cagigao’s most successful signings and if he stayed for longer I would have rated him higher. 8/10
According to reports, Cagigao wasn’t the only scout at Arsenal to recommend Alexis Sanchez, but his strong links with Barcelona due to him playing in their youth setup meant he was able to help push the deal over the line. There is no denying that Sanchez was a class act when playing for the Gunners, leading to many Arsenal fans thinking he is the best player of the Emirates Era. Countless times he dragged his often underwhelming teammates to better results, seeing him leave North London with 80 goals and 45 assists in 166 games. Even though it ended poorly, the Chilean was an incredible singing and definitely deserved a mention. 9/10
Another player who Cagigao scouted for Arsenal was Santi Cazorla, who was relatively unknown when he arrived at the Emirates, but quickly became a fan favourite. His low centre of gravity, quick feet in tight areas and awareness on the pitch meant he was nearly impossible to tackle, couple this with the fact he just as strong on his left foot than his right he was a brilliant player to watch. The way he dictated games from central midfield in one of the most physical leagues in the world, despite being 5’5, is testament to his technical ability and was definitely up there with one of the best players I have seen live. Sometimes stats don’t show the full picture for a player, and even though his return is respectable for someone in his position, Santi ended his time at Arsenal with 29 goals and 45 assists in 180 games. 8/10
Have Arsenal changed their approach in the Transfer Market?
As you can see from the above, our traditional approach of using scouts to discover talent from different places around the world has been very successful in the past, however it appears that after this decision Arsenal are leaning towards a new approach which will see us build strong relations with “super” agents and therefore be more likely to sign their clients. Our first signing this summer is likely to be Willian from Chelsea, who’s agent is Kia Joorabchian, as he has strong links to the club due to being a long-time friend of technical director Edu. On this occasion, I am not massively against the signing of Willian as he is on reasonable wages and will definitely help ease the burden of creativity for us next season.
However, certain aspects of the deals for David Luiz and Willian do worry me slightly, as both players were over 30 when we signed them and couldn’t agree a new deal with Chelsea due to their strict policy of only giving players of that age a 1-2 year deal maximum, therefore I don’t want Arsenal to become a club that hands players long term contracts on high wages on the sole basis that we have a good relationship with their agent. Not only does this limit our options massively, but there is a clear motive for the agent to offer us players that perhaps other clubs wouldn’t consider, as they will be entitled to a cut of the deal. Personally, I believe a combination of both will be best moving forward as having proven scouts to recommend players has worked for some of the most successful teams of all time, also I feel that we would be less likely to identify young talents such as Martinelli and Fabregas at the time, if we were to scrap this system completely.
Overall, I believe the fact that the club have made 55 members of staff redundant comes across as a very immoral decision, especially after our players were the only team to take a pay cut in the Premier League, with that money intended to be used when the club finds themselves in a situation such as this one. It is one of many decisions that has been made by owner Stan Kroenke that hasn’t shed him in a good light, hence why so many Arsenal fans are unhappy with the way he conducts business. As a result he has only saved an estimated £2 million a year, therefore making it seem an even more bizarre scenario and one in which a club the size of Arsenal shouldn’t even consider if they were being ran efficiently.
I’m a 20 year-old Arsenal fanatic and aspiring Sports Journalist, who will be studying how to write about the Beautiful Game at Solent University from September in an attempt to make my dream into a reality.
Since the age of 8 I have played academy football, but unfortunately it didn’t quite work out – therefore I decided to pursue the next best career for me.
I am aiming to write honest and interesting articles about the club I love, and to share my opinion (one from the younger generation of Arsenal supporters) with as many other fans as possible!