Wednesday 18 January 2017

Arsenal swoop for man who spotted Riyad Mahrez

Jeremy Wilson

Published 09/02/2016 | 02:30

Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez has been a revelation this season in their unlikely march to the top of the Premier League. Photo: Nigel French/PA
Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez has been a revelation this season in their unlikely march to the top of the Premier League. Photo: Nigel French/PA

The Leicester City scout who helped discover Riyad Mahrez and N'Golo Kante has joined Arsenal in his own big transfer ahead of Sunday's potential Premier League decider at The Emirates.

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Ben Wrigglesworth had been approached by Arsenal about joining the team headed by Steve Rowley and has now accepted the position of first-team video scout.

It is part of an ongoing investment in the recruitment and analysis processes around manager Arsene Wenger and is also further proof of how talent identification and the interpretation of football data is becoming such a valued area of expertise.

Like an increasing number of specialists in his field, Wrigglesworth does not have a professional playing background but has instead proved himself in similar roles at Leicester since 2012 and, before that, Notts County. Wrigglesworth is expected to be involved not just in player recruitment but the analysis both of Arsenal's performances and also those of their opponents.

With Leicester five points ahead of Arsenal at the top of the Premier League table, Wrigglesworth confirmed his departure on Twitter.

"After 3 + 1/2 unbelievable seasons, working with amazing people, I am now starting a new chapter... It was a very difficult decision, leaving Leicester, but I had to take an opportunity that doesnt come round often. I only wish the best for Leicester in the future."

The signings of Riyad Mahrez for £400,000 from Le Havre and Kante for £5.6m from Caen have been particular highlights since Wrigglesworth was part of Leicester's scouting team, with the club also winning the Championship in 2014 before surging to the top of the Premier League this year.

Arsenal are investing millions at their training base on a new player performance centre that should open next year and will specifically include data analysis and scouting suites. It also follows the purchase of the US-based football data analytics company, statDNA, for just over £2m.

The information provided by statDNA, as well as the work done by scouts and analysts, helps narrow the search in the recruitment of players but Arsenal do also still then generally rely on regularly watching prospective signings in person.

Decisions

Wenger, who has been working with chief executive Ivan Gazidis on the off-field changes, then still always has the final say on transfer decisions.

"We have to keep our approach under review," explained Gazidis at last year's AGM. "We have to be smarter and work more intelligently than our wealthier competitors. As we strengthen the squad the market of players that can improve it becomes smaller; it is always harder to find the final 5pc.

"All transfers are ultimately football decisions and these are made by our manager, who has an outstanding record in identifying and developing talent and also importantly of thinking strategically on behalf of the club."

Sunday's 2-0 win against Bournemouth means that Arsenal could move to within two points of Leicester on Sunday.

"It was important to bounce back from the results we have had of late and it was important to do that with the result that Leicester got," said Aaron Ramsey. "It will be an interesting game on Sunday. What they have done this season is quite remarkable. We have got to be right on it to get all three points."

"It was important to win against Bournemouth and hopefully we can take some momentum into that game and come away with a victory.

"It is important to get a few wins now. We are in a good position now and hopefully we can maintain that."

Bournemouth had been enjoying their own decent run ahead of the visit of Wenger's side but they were undone by two quickfire goals and when they did create chances, they found the visitors' goalkeeper Petr Cech in fine form. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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