Former Arsenal Head of Coach and Player Development gets top Dutch role

Former Arsenal Head of Coach and Player Development, Marcel Lucassen, who resigned from the club as allegations of racist remarks were being investigated, has been appointed Director of Football Development at KNVB, the Dutch governing body of football.

Arsenal's Head of Coach and Player Development Marcel Lucassen (left) and Academy Manager Per Mertesacker Coventry City v Arsenal U21 U 21 - Checkatrade Trophy - Southern Group E - Ricoh Arena Copyright: Nick Potts
Arsenal’s Head of Coach and Player Development Marcel Lucassen (left) and Academy Manager Per Mertesacker Coventry City v Arsenal U21 U 21 – Checkatrade Trophy – Southern Group E – Ricoh Arena Copyright: Nick Potts

The 58-year-old will now be responsible for the Dutch national youth teams, the KNVB Academy, and top youth football.

“In our conversations he showed that he has the most experience, baggage and performance on the pillars that we consider most important,” said Jan Dirk van der Zee, director of amateur football, who was responsible for Lucassen’s appointment.

“Marcel presented a clear vision on the pillars of the national teams, the KNVB Academy and broadsheet football. At the top youth football pillar, it was surprising to hear how much he knew about our organization and connection with the clubs for someone who does not currently work at the KNVB. Because of his competences as a visionary, inspirator and connector, he had already convinced us that he is the right man in this place in the coming years.”

Lucassen arrived at Arsenal in June 2018, tasked with discovering a new generation of stars for the club but just two-and-a-half years later he resigned for ‘family reasons’ as a probe into alleged racists comments at the club was under way.

Ryan Garry, u23 assistant to Steve Bould before he was sacked, reported alleged comments to Per Mertesacker, prompting an investigation by Arsenal’s HR department [S*n link] and a report being filed with the PFA.

Before a conclusion could be reached, and without admitting any wrongdoing, Lucassen resigned in November 2020.

Nuno Morais (Chelsea Reserve, re.) gegen Ryan Garry (Arsenal Reserve) Copyright: imago/Colorsport
Nuno Morais (Chelsea Reserve, re.) gegen Ryan Garry (Arsenal Reserve) Copyright: imago/Colorsport

Garry, who rose through Arsenal’s ranks (but only made one appearance for the first team) returned to the club as a youth coach in 2013 after retiring from playing in 2011 following 83 appearances for Bournemouth.

In an interview with Transfermarkt in November 2019, Lucassen explained: “When I arrived at Arsenal, I firstly wanted to know, what the club stands for in general. The problem was that no coach could answer me that exactly.

“As a result, we collectively developed the ‘Way of Arsenal’, for which philosophy our teams from Under-9s to U23s stand for and also set an example of.”

In another interview with Voetbal International in February 2020, Lucassen explained: “Per Mertesacker started a month after me and asked me on his first day where we stood. They had told me at Arsenal beforehand that we had to build it from scratch.

“I told Mertesacker that this was incorrect. We didn’t start at zero, but at minus two. In the first month, I asked 20 random people within the club what The Arsenal Way was. Everyone was talking about that, but nobody could answer that question. Three people said, ‘The passing game’.

“So, what is that unique philosophy behind it at Arsenal? Nobody could make that concrete. There were all kinds of training plans, but not based on football philosophy, playing method and principles.”

After his appointment, he also told Arsenal fans, “What I’m going to do at Arsenal is to further develop the football philosophy, as I did earlier with Al Nasr and the German Football Association,” he said. “It was time to start working closer to home so that I could see my family in Blitterswijck more often.”

Lucassen previously worked as the Technical Director for the German Football Federation for seven years between 2008 and 2015 in a role similar to the one he seems to have landed with the Dutch Federation. There, he laid the foundations for a “uniform way of playing for the national teams,” an area he seems to specialise in. “Lucassen was also an instructor of the coaches Under 15, Under 17 and Under 19 of the clubs in the Bundesliga and teacher of the UEFA Pro License course,” according to Voetbalrotterdam.

He also worked as Head of Al Nasr Education in Dubai and assistant manager at TSG Hoffenheim.

“We have spoken to several good candidates, our choice emphatically fell on Marcel,” said Eric Gudde, the departing director of professional football of the KNVB. “In our conversations, he showed that he has the most experience, baggage and achievements on the pillars that we consider most important. Due to his competence as a visionary, inspirer and connector, he had already convinced us that he would be the right man in the coming years.”

“Art paved the way, taking good steps with, among others, the national teams, the top youth competitions and the KNVB Academy”, said Lucassen.

“With my vision and ideas I can give a nice follow-up to this.”