Mislintat's arrival at Arsenal helps pave way for Wenger's eventual departure
The transfer window might be shut, but Arsenal could well have just made their most important signing of the season. On Monday, the club's official website confirmed the rumours that Sven Mislintat will be joining as the new head of recruitment. It's a huge coup for the Gunners to land such a coveted scout, and is another example of Arsenal paving the way for Arsene Wenger's inevitable departure.
Only at Arsenal are backroom appointments followed by fans in such dedicated detail. Excitement over the addition of former Invincible Jens Lehmann to the coaching staff was understandable, but it was fascinating to see how much interest there was generated by the recruitment of fitness coach Darren Burgess and contract expert Huss Fahmy.
Arsenal supporters have become hungry for fresh faces behind the scenes. It's a consequence of Wenger's extended reign; unlike Sir Alex Ferguson, the only comparable manager of modern times, Wenger is not given to constantly refreshing his staff. A job under Wenger tends to be a job for life.
That also speaks to Wenger's management style. While Ferguson was a master of delegation, Wenger prefers to oversee things himself. That's all very well, but it makes him effectively irreplaceable.
When his contract drew to a close at the end of last season, his future was hotly debated. However, realistically it would have been a logistical nightmare for Arsenal to change manager. Replacing Wenger would have meant a complete overhaul of the football side of the club; Arsenal would have required a new sporting director, a new academy head and a new scouting guru. One of the reasons Wenger is suspected to have struggled in recent years is that he's spread too thin. As it happens, that actually makes his position at Arsenal somewhat more secure.
However, the building blocks are now being put in place so that Arsenal can consider moving on. Lehmann will soon be joined at London Colney by Per Mertesacker, who has agreed to head up the academy. There is talk of Raul Sanllehi or Marc Overmars arriving as a senior sporting executive, and now Mislintat will be lending his significant expertise to the Arsenal cause.
Arsenal's scouting setup has been in need of an overhaul for some time. When Mislintat arrives, he will effectively replace Steve Rowley, who has been in place for more than 25 years. In recent times, Arsenal appear to have fallen somewhat behind their rivals when it tomes to recruitment, and they'll be desperately hoping Mislintat can give them back some semblance of competitive advantage.
When Wenger first arrived, his network of contacts was sufficient for Arsenal to land some of Europe's most promising talent. However, other clubs have since developed extensive networks that have enabled them to comfortably overtake Arsenal. While once he was able to lure the likes of Nicolas Anelka, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira, it feels significant that he doesn't really have any of the current golden generation of young French talent.
Mislintat clearly has an eye for a player, having had a hand in the signings of Shinji Kagawa, Robert Lewandowski, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ousmane Dembele. His proficiency at unearthing stars enabled Dortmund to compete with the riches of Bayern Munich, and a similar task awaits him at Arsenal. The Gunners can not match the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea in a straight bidding war, so they need to work hard to identify talent early.
In the club's official announcement, Wenger said: "We are delighted that Sven is joining us. Identifying and developing talent is a core part of our philosophy and Sven has an outstanding track record over many years. We look forward to him taking our existing recruitment approach forwards."
Wenger may talk of maintaining the existing approach, but Arsenal fans will be hoping for a degree of innovation from Mislintat. They want new ideas in this new era. Wenger might have had this say on the new arrival, but even he must surely know this an appointment made with one eye on the end of his Arsenal reign.
James McNicholas is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @gunnerblog.