Arsene Wenger is a divisive figure amongst fans; the pro Wenger and Anti Wenger sides of the fence are pretty equally matched. I sit somewhere in the middle of this debate. Whether Arsene will be given the chance to transform Arsenal into genuine title contenders again is doubtful, but even if he is, at 65 years of age he surely has only a few years left to do it. The prospect of replacing him isn’t quite as daunting as the task of replacing Ferguson at Manchester United, but the Frenchman has built an impressive legacy throughout his tenure. The question is – who has the potential to replace him? The Arsenal board need to choose wisely; they don’t want a David Moyes situation on their hands.
The wishful thinking candidates
The chance of securing the services of the most coveted manager in world football is as likely as Mathieu Flamini passing the ball forwards, but we can always hope. Guardiola has previously mentioned his admiration for the Premier League; the passionate supporters and high-tempo football are an intriguing mix for the former Barcelona boss. He has also praised Arsenal for the style of play they produce, as well as the structure of the club, so maybe the dreams of Gunners supporters isn’t too outlandish. There are a few reservations to be had, however. Guardiola has only ever managed truly world-class teams; his Bayern and Barca sides are some of the best football has seen over the past 20 years – so the prospect of coaching Yaya Sanogo might not seem too appealing. The North London side also lack the financial muscle of a Manchester City for example, which could be a factor should Pep decide his future lies in England. If Guardiola wants a challenge though, The Emirates might just be the place for him.
The Argentine has been somewhat of a revelation for the lesser known Madrid team. Atletico had been on the outskirts of breaking the big two monopoly in Spain, until Simeone added a deep intensity to their already stellar attack, creating a formidable formula which propelled them to La Liga champions. There are no doubts regarding Simeone’s ability, the only question is – why would Simeone want to leave? He has a chance to build a legacy at a club which he adores him, similar to that of Ferguson at Man United or even Wenger at Arsenal. The only glimmer of hope would be the increasingly short lifespan for a football manager; maybe Simeone will grow frustrated at Atletico, or they will grow frustrated with him.
Some people think the former Argentina international would be a better option than Guardiola; Atletico have a stature similar to Arsenal – Simeone will be used to that standard of player. I feel Guardiola may become irritated even after a couple of training sessions of watching Ramsey constantly pass the ball out of play.
The Dortmund manager is high on the list of many of the anti Arsene brigade. His electric style of football and charismatic personality has earned him fans all over the globe, let alone in North London. He’s been helped by the conveyor belt of talent Dortmund have reeled out in the past few seasons, but it takes some going to turn the talent into domestic league winners – something Wenger has failed to do for over a decade now. Before this season there would have been very few stains on Klopp’s name, but as they say: the table doesn’t lie. Dortmund’s lowly position in the table is a warning light for any future employer for Klopp; for all Wenger’s flaws, Arsenal have never been in a relegation fight whilst he’s been at the helm. It’s very unlikely of course, that Dortmund will be relegated, or even close to it, but it’s been a costly first half of the season for them nonetheless – several of their best players may leave without Champions League football next season. If Klopp does leave for Arsenal though, there’s an outside chance he’ll bring Marco Reus along with him. Worth a thought.
Much like when Fergie left, Wenger may have some hand in choosing his successor – again similarly to Fergie, Arsene will probably pick a compatriot. Blanc has had a relatively successful, if not spectacular, beginning to his managerial career; winning the league with an unfancied Bordeaux side in his second season undoubtedly put him on the map. Since then his managerial career has resembled the career of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – always seems on the brink of being a world beater but hasn’t quite done it. Though again much like The Ox, time is on his side. Considering Blanc’s inexperience at top level management, his CV would read very well. He’s managed two of the biggest teams in France as well as the national team, doing a decent job with all of them. He has never really stood out though. France produced an average Euro 2012 effort under his guidance, and despite PSG’s millions they’re stumbling to a second or third place finish this season. Although, considering how a team can collapse after a change (Charlton after Curbishley) maybe a reliable, if uninspiring replacement may not be too terrible for Arsenal’s post Wenger period.
Who I’d choose
He’s a lesser known name in world football, but the Roma manager isn’t to be underestimated. His managerial career has gone somewhat under the radar, possibly due to spending the majority of his time managing unfashionable sides to respectable finishes. Despite failing to create hype around his name, the calibre of his achievements is quite impressive. After spending the first part of his career in the lower leagues in France, Garcia got his big break at Lille – after his success there I doubt he’ll be managing outside the top leagues again. In his second season, Garcia led Lille to a Ligue 1 and Coupe De France double, their first win in each competition for 56 and 55 years respectively. His success prompted a move to Italian giants Roma; the fans at first were a little sceptical, however, 10 straight wins to start their season put to bed any doubts. His Roma side have punched above their weight since his arrival, playing some terrific football in the process – he’s even made Gervinho look good.
Before Garcia arrived, Roma were in footballing limbo, never threatening to regain their powerful status. That’s quickly changed. They sit second in Serie A, competed well in a tough Champions League group and made the semi-finals of the cup. Garcia is a man who seems able to elevate teams above their estimated level – hopefully in a few years he’ll be doing the same with Arsenal.