The former player who built Arsenal’s 'unique' scouting platform

Karbassiyoon is Product Owner at Arsenal

Karbassiyoon is Product Owner at Arsenal

AT the age of 20, Danny Karbassiyoon made his first-team debut for Arsenal and scored a late goal in a 2-1 win over Manchester City.

Just four years later he had retired from the game altogether after a series of injuries and failed stints at other clubs. This isn't a sad story though, because the American later returned and made a big impact for the Gunners in a completely different guise.

His transformation began when he came back as a North American scout under the late Steve Rowley and then set up his own mobile gaming company. These two roles gave him invaluable expertise in both scouting and tech.

The 37-year-old told Arsenal’s official website how he had set up his own gaming company, called SWOL, in 2012.

“It might sound a bit random, but I did it with my friend, because we both love tech and knew a few people in the industry," Karbassiyoon said. “We raised $2m, moved the company to London, built the workforce and I led product there, taught myself how to code, and led the developers.”

He wound the company down after five years and went back back to Arsenal as a UK scout, which is when he realised how his newly-found knowledge could help the club.

“That’s when I saw how the tools I had could make Arsenal a lot better, very easily,” he said. “My initial idea was to centralise everything and streamline the whole process. When Edu first arrived as Technical Director (in 2019), he needed to make three or four different calls if he wanted information on a specific target or new player.

“He would call the StatDNA guys, the scouts, the analysts – it would take a while. My solution was to have all that information ready by just typing in a player’s name to a database. I pitched my ideas to the club, and now here I am, sitting between the tech and football sides of the business.

What he built was a platform containing all of the scouts' reports, which was “geared towards the players that we want to bring into the club, and is led by Edu and the recruitment team.”

He added: “It’s a bit more sophisticated in that the various stakeholders are given the information that’s relevant and pertinent to them, but essentially it brings everything together in a usable platform.

“The scouting platform has been live for two years, and all of our scouts are using it now. They use it throughout the year, and then hopefully during the window is when we act upon all that data.”

The success inspired him to build a performance platform too.

“Once the scouting platform went live, we took that same technology into the strength and conditioning side as well,” Karbassiyon explained. “I work with (Head of Sport Science) Tom Allen and his team on fine-tuning what they need from it, and we have just come out of our second pre-season using it.

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“It deals with our current squad, and the analysis of how they are all performing. Again it’s easily accessible for the coaching staff, management, medical team or anyone else who needs to make decisions based on that data.

“Honestly, that platform deals with so much data and information. Every club has access to all these numbers now, via GPS tracking and so on, but it's about having a great team working on it who can cut through it all and make the right decisions, based on the data.

“Then it’s presented to the manager to have the final say, which is hopefully informed by the numbers. They (the platforms) are both unique to us at Arsenal, and I was able to combine my experience from my days as a scout, with my knowledge of tech and development.

"I’m part of the IT department, so I’m technically based at Highbury House, but I also work closely with the guys at Colney, and am usually there a couple of times a week.

"I work across the departments, which is great, because there is input from the medical team, recruitment, sports science, Edu as well of course."

Karbassiyoon said the game is very different to the one he knew when he and Edu were players and team-mates 20 years ago.

“There is a lot of data in sport now, but football will always have that charm of being unpredictable as well," he said. "I still love the fact that you need that element of traditional scouting as well, and going to watch the players up close.

“What the analysis and numbers do is help you narrow down what players to go and watch, and how to identify them in the first place, but I believe that a lot of what happens in football is difficult to quantify.

“You need to have that balance between more traditional scouting methods and all the data we have at our disposal as well. I’m halfway between the two camps.”

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