Burgess leaving Arsenal after two years
Written by Simon Austin — June 13, 2019
ARSENAL Head of Elite Performance Darren Burgess is leaving the club just a year after carrying out a radical revamp of his department.
The Australian was informed of his sacking shortly after Arsenal's 4-1 Europa League final defeat by Chelsea on May 29th. Both club and practitioner are refusing to comment at the current time as the terms of Burgess’s settlement are finalised.
The 45-year-old was appointed to the newly-created position - which put him in charge of both sports science and medical - in July 2017. His former employers, Port Adelaide, said Burgess had been “hand picked” by manager Arsene Wenger, while the practitioner insisted it was “one of the toughest decisions of my professional career” to leave the AFL outfit.
Last summer, he led a ruthless restructuring of his department, leading to a raft of high-profile departures. Head of Medical Colin Lewin, who had been at the club for 23 years, was the most notable redundancy.
Physios Ben Ashworth (who had joined Arsenal in 2012), Andrew Rolls (2013) and James Haycock (2015) also exited. Into the breach came senior physio Chris Morgan and rehab physio Tim Parham, while Jordan Reece was promoted from the Academy.
Burgess also invested in data science, with Mikhail Zhilkin and Susana Ferreras recruited from outside football. If you also factor in the hiring of lead sports scientist Tom Allen and nutritionist Richard Allison, who arrived in the summer of 2017, you will see that this was the most radical reform Arsenal had seen since Wenger arrived 22 years earlier.
However, such a level of change inevitably led to tensions. Firstly, there were the remaining staff who pre-dated Burgess and had been close to Lewin, such as Head of Medical Gary O’Driscoll, S&C coach Barry Solan and therapist Takahiro Yamamoto.
There was also American Shad Forsythe, who had joined in 2014 after winning the World Cup with Germany, who continued to hold the confusingly similar title of Head of Performance.
At the end of last season, Forsythe was offered the Director of Performance position by Italian giants AC Milan, who are now led by former Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis. The Gunners persuaded him to stay and he will now take on a beefed-up role following Burgess's exit.
There was another strand of influence, too, with manager Unai Emery bringing in his own S&C coach, Julen Masach, in June 2018. Arsenal tailed off badly towards the end of last season, losing to Everton, Crystal Palace, Wolves and Leicester in the Premier League in April alone, ahead of that Europa League final humiliation by Chelsea at the end of May.
Burgess was Head of Fitness and Conditioning at Liverpool from June 2010 to October 2012, before joining Port Adelaide as High Performance Manager in October 2012. He remained with the Australian outfit for almost five years before joining the Gunners.