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Danny Karbassiyoon Arsenal Scout

I'm Danny Karbassiyoon, ex-player and current scout, ask me (almost) anything!

Posted by Danny Karbassiyoon about 5 years ago · 20 replies

Ex-pro for Arsenal during the Invincibles era, also played for Ipswich Town and Burnley. Current Arsenal scout in North America. Founder of football app Fury90: Twitter / Website.

I'm not at liberty to answer everything, but I will do my best!

This AMA opens on 8 July 2015. Danny will be with us from 8pm, London time.

This is an AMA (ask me anything) thread

From time to time we will invite people to answer questions about their connection to Arsenal. Keep in mind that not all questions will be answered, and that our community guidelines still apply. Don't bother asking what the person thinks of Tottenham, the answer will always be shit.

20 Comments

Ix Techau Evil Mastermind 14,276 pts
Posted about 5 years ago by Ix Techau

Danny Karbassiyoon has left the building! We want to thank Danny for taking the time out of his talent-hunting schedule and answer all these silly questions instead of spending his day finding the next Zidane. This thread is now locked, and all unanswered questions have been removed to make it easier to read through. Thanks for participating!

Ix Techau Evil Mastermind 14,276 pts
Posted about 5 years ago by Ix Techau

How much are scouts and coaches privy to when it comes to club transfers in general? Do you know if the club is talking to someone, or is it all very hush hush even for you? If it's one of "your" players, are you involved at all in the business side (recommending a fee, etc)?

AMA Response:

Most scouts are hyper-focused on their own regions, and for that reason, we may not always know if another scout is tracking a certain player or if a deal is close to being completed. We all obviously know what we are looking for in terms of players as a Club as a whole, and when scouts either see each other in London or at tournaments (it doesn’t happen often), we’ll obviously exchange information or perhaps even ask for their opinion on a certain player, but apart from that its all very private.

It’s all done for quite good reason as well – the more people that know we are in for a player, the higher chances those people tell other people who may eventually share it with someone who decides posting it on social media is naturally the next step. [Good] Scouts take pride in being very discreet about their work. With Joel, for example, I’d been tracking him for nearly 5 months before the press caught wind of our interest– when the time was right and we were prepared to do something with him and his club, someone made contact with the press and the craziness began on social media.

We’re generally not involved on the financial side, though, we are quite tuned in with what is going on because of the relationships agents and scouts build. As part of our homework, we’ll find out what the selling club is looking to get, and what would make the player happy at his new club. We’ll obviously present this to the appropriate people at the Club and let them do the rest of the work when it comes to finalizing a deal.

Praxeum Slappin Da Bass Monn 1,141 pts
Posted about 5 years ago by Praxeum

Are you sent a list of targets to look at beforehand, or do you randomly travel around hoping to discover the next gem? Bit of both?

AMA Response:

It’s usually a bit of both. This industry is massively built on trust so if a trusted agent were to call the Boss or Steve Rowley or another scout and let them know that they have a player in my territory that is interesting, I’ll obviously be passed the recommendation and make time to go make a decision on the player. Same thing applies with the agents and contacts I’ve established in my own network. If an agent, coach, or contact has recommended multiple players and none of them have been good enough, the odds of following up on their next call won’t be very high.

Scouts will also attend events hoping to find players, but there’s a lot of prep that goes into that as well. Knowing what players and teams are going to be at an event and really streamlining the process to make it as efficient as possible is very important. My territory is quite large and there’s always footy being played somewhere, so knowing where to be and when to be there is vital. Its very easy to waste time and money if you don’t prepare properly.

diabylover 11 pts
Posted about 5 years ago by diabylover

In every interview where one of our players is asked about Abou Diaby, they always say he's one of the best players they've ever played with (or something along those lines). We obviously never got to see him in a long first team run, but when he was fit you could see a glimmer of something special. What's your take on him?

AMA Response:

Yea, all the gloating about his ability and how kind of a person he is isn't a lie. As someone who was put out of the game because of injury, I feel for him. Good pros do everything they can to get their body right and be fit and sometimes luck just isn't on your side. There were a lot of amazing comparisons made of Abou to Vieira when he first came. I think if injury hadn't gotten in his way, he would have had a very very high ceiling in terms of development. I mention technical ability a lot (and for good reason, its one of the most important thing we look at when bringing players in), and he had it. To find a big guy like that who is willing to tackle and work both ways is hard. As mentioned, the fact that he's such a good guy doesn't make it any easier.

Posted about 5 years ago by Invincibles2004

Do you ever play football anymore, for keeping fit or fun with friends?

AMA Response:

I've now unfortunately got 4 screws, a metal plate and a cadaver cartilage in my right knee! My playing days are over*, but I try to get out on occasion to just pass the ball and remember the feeling of lacing up a pair of boots :)

*I really don't feel like having some doofus tackle me in a 5 a side or Sunday league game and put me in a wheelchair.

Ix Techau Evil Mastermind 14,276 pts
Posted about 5 years ago by Ix Techau

What prompted you (or was it Wenger?) to switch your position from striker to left back? Was it something in your behaviour that suited you better, or was it a gap in the team that needed filling?

AMA Response:

Going to answer this one kind of quickly compared to the others: Around that time, the Club's strikers were: 1) Henry 2) Bergkamp 3) Wiltord 4) Kanu 5) Aliadiere 6) Jeffers 7) Reyes 8) Bentley 9) Owusu-Abeyie 10) Papadopoulos

Left backs were:

1) Cole 2) Clichy 3) Cygan (kind of)

One day before training 8 months into my contract, Eddie Niedzwiecki (reserve team manager at the time) told me the Boss had asked to play me at left back that week and for the game the following week (@ Watford ). I trained at left back for 3 days, then started against Watford on the Monday. I wasn't spectacular, but it went well enough. I finished out the season there, then returned from summer holiday and started the preseason friendly against Barnet as a left back. From there, I suppose, I went from being 11th (probably even lower than that!) in the striker pecking order to 3rd at left back. Worked for me!

Ix Techau Evil Mastermind 14,276 pts
Posted about 5 years ago by Ix Techau

Do you decide fully what players you take on trial, or is there a screening process from senior scouts? Do you have a quota on how many you are allowed per season?

AMA Response:

When I first started scouting, I was 23 and didn't particularly have any scouting background. I went to England for several weeks and followed Steve Rowley and several other scouts around to Premier League and other level matches. They'd have me write reports and they'd asses them. For the first couple of years, if I recommended a player, another scout would come out and decide whether or not it was worth bringing him over. After successfully recommending several players on my own, I earned enough trust within the Club to not need the prior filter and can now recommend players as I see fit.

We don't have a quota. Not all regions/countries produce players at the same rate, and sometimes even the best countries won't produce players for several years on end. Forcing trials cheapens your reputation as a scout as well as that of the Club.

MrArsenal 8 pts
Posted about 5 years ago by MrArsenal

If you openly eat a Mars bar at Colney, does Wenger suddenly jump out of the shadows and punch you in the face?

AMA Response:

He will not. At least I don't think so. After games on the coach, there's always a basket filled with loads of sweets and chocolate bars to help you replenish some of the sugars you lost during a match. That and of course a nice meal depending on how long the trip is. These days fitness is such an important part of the game that you hope players won't abuse the fact that there's a basket chock full of Lion bars going around the coach.

Simen 1,019 pts
Posted about 5 years ago by Simen

How did it feel to make your debut at Highbury? And how do you compare it to the Emirates nowadays? Atmosphere-wise

AMA Response:

Man, what a place. You know every time I go back to London, whether it be pleasure or for work, I make it a point to go to Highbury, and I always find myself just staring through the gates reminiscing. I only got to play once at Highbury, but it was the last stop on the tour of London Steve Rowley gave me during my trial on a day off, and its always remained so special to me.

It was just a week away from the Premier League kicking off and he stopped right in front of the Marble Halls before saying "Last stop, welcome to Highbury." As a kid, walking through the stadium with literally no one in it apart from SR, my Dad, and several groundsmen was like Heaven. I remember looking at the tunnel, then walking through it and telling myself I'd do it for real one day.

The thought of Matchday at Highbury still gives me goosebumps. The coach rolling down Avenell Road, walking into the Marble Halls, hearing the crowd through the windows right next to the street. I was literally living a dream. I remember after warm-ups the night I played waving to several of my reserve teammates in the paddock who called my name, putting on my match shirt and walking down the tunnel alongside Marcus Bent. The tunnel was so small and the guy was so big that were just about an inch apart from one another. Not sure if you remember the game, but we went down a goal, then came back to win 3-1 to a really, really good Everton side. Cahill, Graveson, Bent, all played that day despite our team being a bunch of kids + Edu, we fought back and stunned them. I believe they were 3rd in the League at the time as well. What a fun night.

The Emirates is obviously amazing as well. I completely understand the reason for the move and love how even more Arsenal fans are able to see the team play on a weekly basis. The fact that we were able to keep the stadium so close to Highbury (and the Arsenal tube stop) makes me really happy. Highbury was certainly more intimate, but that's because the stands were right on top of you. You could hear everything the crowd said if the ball rolled off the pitch. It was pretty surreal - with that said, the matches I've been to at the Emirates have been great as well and I think the efforts the Club have gone through in order to make it feel like home have been very beneficial - especially that Spirit of Highbury!

Simen 1,019 pts
Posted about 5 years ago by Simen

You've been training with legends like Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp. What personal attributes did they have that we might not know about? What is your favorite team mate ever? And who was your role model as a youngster?

AMA Response:

I've said this before in interviews and podcasts, but I don't think many fans can really appreciate just how good the top players in the world at their trade until they find themselves either a) trying to mark them or b) playing alongside them. I was definitely the same. I knew they were good before I signed for Arsenal, but the first time I got to train with the first team, which hadn't to be on the second to last day of my trial), I was just taken aback by just how...awesome...they really were. Of course we get to see their brilliance in action on a weekly basis, but seeing it on a daily basis is something special. Henry wasn't just quick, he was so powerful. If you did happen to catch up to him, you'd have to deal with his ridiculous strength. Mix that with his creativity, awareness then top it off with his ability and well, you have Thierry Henry.

Bergkamp was just a master. His technique, his first touch, his ability to turn the slightest window of opportunity into a world class goal impressed even the greatest players in the Invincibles. Once again, his power and strength, mixed with his intelligence and ability to actually execute the stuff he was thinking made him a super hero.

I immediately took a liking to Pires when I arrived. His running style was so unorthodox but his movement, his ability, and his never ending side footed passes and shots had me wide-eyed. The understanding he had with Vieira and Henry from their time together in the French side was also so obvious.

My role models were Zidane and Ronaldo (original). I went to England as a striker and still can't get enough of Ronaldo in his prime - Swimming through defenses like they weren't there; Combining skill, power and the highest degree of precision to devastating effect. He was the man.

Zidane to me was also the complete footballer. He had such a presence on the pitch (imagine having to deal with both Zidane and Vieira as the opposition defense - oof), but was so good and made it look so easy. His turns, his awareness, his lunging one first touches, his off balance air-tight control, and his ability to step up in the big games and do the business. I know if he was my captain, I'd of certainly been more than happy to rally for the cause.

Simen 1,019 pts
Posted about 5 years ago by Simen

Who was your best mate while playing professionally at Arsenal? And what does a professional footballer spend his time on when not in training and not on the road?

AMA Response:

I was very good friends with Cesc, Phil Senderos, Mo Volz, and Seb Larsson. I still keep in touch with the four of them but far more with Phil, Mo and Cesc. I stayed with Moritz at his flat during my first two weeks at the Club and we became really good friends. Phil and Cesc lived in digs together at the house I stayed at for the second part of my trial, so I became good friends with them when I'd go back to the house to see the landlady (She was and still is amazing). Cesc in particular didn't speak English when he came over, and armed with my high school Spanish, I was one of the few people that could converse with him on a day to day basis at training. It was pretty unique experience for an 18 year old American to have friends from Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, and Germany.

There is certainly a lot of down time when players aren't training. We'd usually go in by 9am and be done by 2pm and have the rest of the day to do what we wanted. Most of the time we'd go back to our houses, play Xbox (or PS - I bought both :/ ) watch movies or go into town. A lot of your energy goes into recovering and getting ready for the next day's session or that week's game, so going into town (I lived in Enfield) was a bit of a chore sometimes.

Oh, we also went to Nando's a lot.

Mani 72 pts
Posted about 5 years ago by Mani

non-strictly-football alert

What are your favourite hangouts in RVA? Is there a place where you go to watch Arsenal matches?

more footbally stuff

When you watch a televised Arsenal match, how much of it do you spend analyzing the players, and how much enjoying the spectacle? Is it just second-nature/subconscious habit to constantly pick up on player's patterns and team moves and so on?

not a question

I loved your Scouting Analysis type articles on SWOL (which I am a member of, but haven't been too active as of late), and loved the footballing insight you provided on some of the plays you chose to breakdown. A lot of Arsenal's play seems to be on instinct and improvisation; is it possible to coach something resembling that instinct, or are we just really fucking lucky to watch Arsenal's mesmeric football?

Cheers, Danny! Hope I fortuitously run into you when I next visit RVA. <3

AMA Response:

1)I no longer live there (currently in Charleston, SC and moving back to London in August), but I lived in the Fan for 3 years and often hang out around there. Lots of cool restaurants on Main and on Cary Street. The Richmond Arsenal’s supporter group watches games at Gus’, but I was rarely in town on weekends to be there.

2)Funny you ask – I actually do analyze players/games even when I really don’t need to be. Before I became a scout, I’d watch games more for the enjoyment of it – unless of course I was watching a particular player to learn from (like Ashley Cole while I was at Arsenal). Now its kind of hard for me to just watch a game and not think about the things I think about often when actually scouting players.

3)Thanks! We haven’t been active on SWOL as of late either! Switched our focus to Fury 90 and have been pushing on there. The analysis articles were fun to do.

I don’t think it's impossible to teach the football you describe, but it certainly helps the scouts know what the Boss wants in terms of players to make that transition easier. The technical level of Arsenal players is very, very high – when you are that good on the ball, it provides confidence to yourself and those around you, and also helps nurture creativity and improvisation as you mentioned. A perfect example was Wilshere’s goal two season ago. Players don’t practice that sort of crazy sequence. They repeat simple things thousands and thousands of times, which instills that confidence and creativity to try such things, and ultimately the ability to actually pull it off.

IKnowYou 164 pts
Posted about 5 years ago by IKnowYou

When you are alerted of a special talent and you go to scout him, Do you watch his consecutive games - like 5 in a row or do you pick specific games - like against hard opposition/ derbies/ weaker teams... etc

AMA Response:

I've answered a bit about the process in another question, but I will highlight this. It is interesting to see players in different environments. I personally like to see how players do at home, away from home, in big games, etc. Its even better if the team they play for gets shellacked because you learn a lot about a player when things aren't going his way. Even when the player's team is winning by a handful, it's interesting to see how the player reacts and if he thinks its okay to take his foot off the pedal. You can learn a lot about a player's mentality and his desire to win in these situations.

Ix Techau Evil Mastermind 14,276 pts
Posted about 5 years ago by Ix Techau

What are the different steps involved in getting discovered by Arsenal, from a player's perspective? Obviously it all starts with being scouted, but what happens after that, and how involved are you in the process? Would be great to hear the full journey of a typical player from being discovered to signing his first professional contract.

AMA Response:

It all depends on the player and his club situation, but I'll recount one particular signing.

I was tipped off about the player when he was 13 and because of the age decided it wasn't extremely urgent and it could wait several months. A good friend of mine that I trusted made the rec and he also made sure I knew he had a European passport (<- this was exciting).

Several months later I made a trip to see him in training and really liked what I saw. He clearly stood out, but it was just training and so I decided I'd follow up with a game. I went to see him play 3 separate times and was lucky enough to be able to invite him to a tournament and guest play with a team in the city I was living in at the time. His family agreed to it and I met his dad at the tournament, explaining at this point that I was interested in possibly bringing him over. Still, the level I'd seen him play at to date wasn't the best, but I was still convinced he'd do well if I brought him over. His team ended up playing a much bigger, world renowned tournament a month later and he still impressed.

After the tournament, we brought him on a two week trial where he did very well and the Club were very interested. Because of his age we couldn't do anything immediately, so I continued monitoring him in the States and meeting up with him to make sure he continued to stay focused and moving in the right direction. It was good to meet with his family and spend time getting to know them as well.

During the time between his trial and the time he could legally move over and sign a contract, he came over to England several times to train and remain fit. Each time he went over he improved and his eagerness to make the move permanent was apparent, which was great to see. Finally when he was able to sign, he moved over, signed his contract and began his time at the Club full time.

Praxeum Slappin Da Bass Monn 1,141 pts
Posted about 5 years ago by Praxeum

Is there a risk to get 'scout blindness', becoming caught up by unearthing talent to the point where you believe "your" players are better than they actually are? Are you extra precious about Zelalem or Campbell, for example?

AMA Response:

I think there is and there isn't. You have to be very confident in any player that you recommend. We don't make recommendations that we think just might have a shot of making it. We make recommendations that we put our name behind and know will do well.

Obviously there are a lot of factors that come into play when any club signs any player that will determine how he ends up doing at that club. It all depends on the player, the club, and the situation, but I think many people are realists and can understand when a player they recommended just might not make it. With that said, when you're recommending that player before anything happens, you better go in defending him with all your might! There's no room for indecision.

Simen 1,019 pts
Posted about 5 years ago by Simen

Do you supply scout reports to videogames like FM/FIFA?

AMA Response:

I do not. I believe they just hire educated people in the field that kind of operate as scouts, but instead of reporting to a club, they report to EA, etc.

Simen 1,019 pts
Posted about 5 years ago by Simen

Do you suppose the modern footballer sometimes "stalk" discussion forums (like this one) to check fans opinions? Or do they generally spare themselves of the possible hate against them?

AMA Response:

I'll give you an anecdote: While I was on loan at Ipswich, I made my full debut in an FA Cup game against Bolton at Portman Road. I was ecstatic to be on the pitch, confident as anything, and really raring to go. My performance on the day reflected all that (despite us losing 3-1), and the press were really kind to me.

Though Twitter hadn't started yet and FB was in its infancy, forums and blogs were still quite popular and I found my way onto an ITFC supporters site shortly after the match ended. The comments were unreal. I felt like a king!

The next game we played was against Coventry and was in the league. At the time, were top of the Championship and flying. It was particularly fun temporarily leaving a massive club like Arsenal and their winning ways, and joining a smaller club like Ipswich and really getting to be a part of their winning ways. Against Coventry, I played the exact opposite of how I played against Bolton. Like bad. Like really bad. Like I still make a face when I think about my defending that day. Out of curiosity, I got back on the forum after the game (Keep in mind I was living in a hotel room at the time and didn't really know anyone in the team all that well yet, so free time consisted of just watching tv and browsing the internet). Perhaps I was subconsciously looking for a "oh its alright, he had a bad game, he'll bounce back." Nope. Instead it was things like "no wonder Arsenal don't want him", etc. It was pretty bad. I was 20 and had just been a pro for a 1.5 years, so I was new to it all. I decided against going back to the forums.

These days its a bit harder to just avoid things like that, though. With Twitter, Instagram, FB, etc, its very easy for fans or anyone to send a message directly to a player. Sometimes, If you make one mistake in a game, you'll have a host of messages just waiting for you when you turn your phone back on. A lot of players will just block people that are consistently hateful towards them.

Simen 1,019 pts
Posted about 5 years ago by Simen

Do you stay in touch with the youngsters that were signed on your reccomendation (to follow their progress)? Or do you concider them "out of your hands" as soon as the deal is done?

AMA Response:

I do keep in touch with them. For the most part, with the younger players (less so with the established pros), you get to know them and their families quite well before bringing them over. There's obviously a lot of people that make promises they can't deliver in this sport, so I've noticed more and more that the parents of good players are more guarded than before. As a scout who is interested, it's not only important to build trust with the player and the family but to also be able to explain why Arsenal would be the best fit.

As you are generally their first point of contact with the Club when the whole process begins, they usually feel the most comfortable telling you things about their situation once they have made the move, are no longer a prospect, and have now signed a contract. Personally I enjoy keeping in touch with them and seeing how they develop not only as footballers but also as people.

Simen 1,019 pts
Posted about 5 years ago by Simen

This question popped up when reading through some of your answers:

I've heard before that youngsters that are brought in from abroad are placed with host-families. Does this apply to all youngsters, or just some? What are the criteria, and when do they move out? When they feel comfortable? When they turn 18? Or when they learn the language?

AMA Response:

Its all on a case by case basis. I was 18 when I moved over and went straight into a flat (after two weeks at Mo's). I'd already been driving for two years back in States and was ready to go off to university and live on my own anyway, so for me it wasn't that big of a deal.

Cesc as I mentioned went to digs because he was 16. Phil was 17 at the time as well, so he was only in digs for a short while - this still makes me laugh and think how crazy (and young) players are when they start breaking into the first team. They'd go play first team games then go home to their landlady. LIVING THE DREAM!

Michael Papadopoulos didn't speak any English but he moved into his own flat when he signed. So did Clichy - (Michael lived in the flat next to mine and Gael, not speaking any English, lived in the flat below mine). Imagine the car rides to training :)

Most of the time it is when they feel comfortable, and likely when the Club feel as if they are ready to be on their own as well.

Ix Techau Evil Mastermind 14,276 pts
Posted about 5 years ago by Ix Techau

Danny Karbassiyoon has left the building! We want to thank Danny for taking the time out of his talent-hunting schedule and answer all these silly questions instead of spending his day finding the next Zidane. This thread is now locked, and all unanswered questions have been removed to make it easier to read through. Thanks for participating!

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