This summer, Arsenal face a challenge unlike almost any club will ever have to face. Yes, many clubs search for and hire a new manager, some multiple times a season. But this, as many Arsenal fans know, is different. The next Arsenal manager is going to be a turning point in the clubs history, for better or for worse. Much like when United had to move on from Fergie, this is the end of an era, this is the end of a dynasty, an empire. Even though, I think deep in the hearts of most Arsenal fans we know, Arsene’s best days are behind him. Summed up quite aptly by reddit user u/thierryornery: “You’re still our grandpa and we’ll always love you, you’re just not allowed to drive the car anymore.”
It’s a funny thought, but there’s an enormous amount of truth to it. For so many fans, including myself, Arsenal led by Arsene Wenger is the only Arsenal we’ve ever known. For me, so many things that drew me to the club, were due to Arsene, even though I had no idea at the time. As much as any other fan, I desperately want to be a force not only in England, but I want to strike fear in the hearts of the opponents around the world when they see our boys in red and white, like we did in the days of Henry, Bergkamp, Pires, Vieira and co. However, I think it’s just as important that we don’t sell our own identity to achieve that again.
The first value that really resonates with me, is free flowing, beautiful, attacking football. It’s the first, and most important quality that drew me to Arsenal. When Arsenal are at their best, we don’t just score goals. We create art. Wilshere vs Norwich. Giroud vs Palace. Rosicky vs Sunderland. In my biased opinion, I don’t think there’s many clubs in the world that create art like that, even though it’s not happening as often as we would like anymore. We need to accept as fans that although winning trophies is what we dream of, and is the ultimate ambition of any top club, it just wouldn’t feel right if we won it by nicking a goal or two and parking the bus every game. Ask United fans how much they love Mourinho’s style. Let’s be better than that. Luckily, Gazidis made it quite clear that he has a similar stance. Said Gazidis in his press conference after the announcement that Wenger would be stepping down: “It’s important to me that we continue the football values that Arsene has instilled in the club, I want to see someone who can continue that for our fans and our fans want to see that, someone who will continue to play exciting, progressive football that gets people interested and excited in the games we play.” To me, there are some candidates out there with a fantastic track record, but maybe don’t check this box as well as others.
Another value is, simply stated, class. Although this aspect might not go far in terms of satisfying the fans overall happiness with the club, I love hearing when our club does things that show that they care about being charitable as much as being profitable. Obviously, profits are not a bad thing. Profit is objectively good to the state of the club. Profits get reinvested, and allow us to become bigger and better. But, at the end of the day, I love it when the club shows it’s full belief and understanding that there’s more to life than just the on-pitch product. I am proud that we try to win by having the best cohesive football team and cultivating our talent, rather than getting comfy with an oil tycoon. I love that the club cares about the fans, when they do things like subsidizing tickets for the away match against Atletico Madrid, after they spiked the ticket prices for our fans. I love that we are an inclusive club; the club shows open support for Gooners from all over the world, from every walk of life, every religion, race, and background. Let’s keep the values and status Wenger has helped build us to.
The last, is the value of investing in our own young players, and building our own talent as well as buying top talents. As Gazidis said, “Our academy teams are doing extremely well. Under the radar we’ve got a lot of players coming through into our first team. Not just ones that you already know about, but the next generation as well. So that value of giving youth a chance is also very important to the football club.” Obviously, there should be a balance, and it’s tremendously exciting when we see top European talent put on the cannon for the first time, but you have to admit that there’s just something about seeing the London kid who has been a Gunner his entire life, step onto the Emirates pitch for the first time in for his own club, and his own fans. Those are some of the moments we live for in sports. Wenger has not only put blood, sweat and tears into the youth system, but he gives them opportunity. It should be fresh in our minds, when just Sunday we saw Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Reiss Nelson, Konstantinos Mavropanos, and Joe Willock all take the pitch against Manchester United.
Now that we’ve had a heart-felt talk about Wenger, let’s finally get to why we’re here. Gazidis said in his presser: “You don’t find a replacement for Arsene Wenger, you find a new path forward.” So what is the path forward going to be, and who is going to be blazing that new path? Well, Gazidis thinks “we need to be open minded, and also brave in the decision, and we need to be bold in the appointment and get the person that we believe is the right person.” Because of our club size and status in the present day, it probably won’t be as bold as hiring a no name French manager from the Japanese league, like we did last time. But, maybe that’s a hint that we won’t go with the obvious favorites. Without further ado, let’s hear from our hopeful bachelors, shall we?
Luis Enrique, Spain (Nationality), Last Managed Barcelona
The Good: As a player, Enrique was versatile, consistent, energetic, hard working, and had a team first mentality. Those are all things that some of our current players could stand to gain. His versatility as a player speaks for his multi-faceted knowledge of the game, and that’s exactly what we need. We need someone that can take over, and help us improve in every aspect of the game. In 2014-15 with Barcelona, Enrique’s first season with Barca, they won the treble while scoring the second most goals in La Liga and allowing the fewest. The next year, they won the league and Copa double, while scoring the most goals and allowing the second fewest in La Liga. It’s clear that those teams were some of the most dominant the world had ever seen.
The Bad: Outside of managing Barcelona, Enrique did not have near the success he achieved with the Catalonian side. There is legitimate concern whether Enrique could produce similar results if he is forced to make more with less, and be efficient financially and as a manager.
The Spin: Arsenal have a world class attack that Enrique surely could have fun with. With a decent transfer budget to sure up the defense, I would be excited to see where he could take the team. He plays a brand of football the fans could get behind, and I think he checks enough boxes that he could safely be considered a good signing.
Massimiliano Allegri, Italy, Current Juventus Manager
The Good: If you are of the opinion that Allegri does not have the track record or proven ability to make Arsenal a powerhouse again, I would simply immediately know that you have no idea what you are talking about. It has come out that Allegri has acknowledged the Arsenal job, “I made the decision a year ago,” regarding his contract which goes to 2020. I’m going to entertain the idea, because they are in a historic title race in Serie A with Napoli, so he could be shrugging off the media in order to focus on what is obviously more important on his mind. In case you don’t own a TV, Juventus have won Serie A 6 years in a row, and are currently in pole position to win a 7th. They have also been in the Champions League final 2 of the last 3 years, known for their frightening defense often referred to as the Juventus wall. He is incredibly versatile tactically, being able to bend and tweak his systems to get the most out of his lineups.
The Bad: Allegri has done a decent job of bringing up his own talent, although not a huge priority. He is known to have a slower style of build up play, which maybe Arsenal fans wouldn’t desire the most.
The Spin: If Arsenal somehow land Allegri, there might justifiably be a large batch of babies born in North London around 9 months after his appointment.
Joachim Loew, Germany, Current German National Team Manager
The Good: Although he never was in elite company in his playing career, he has already achieved one of the highest honors in football when he won the 2014 World Cup as the Manager for the Germans. He does have a track record of being able to overachieve, (which is a positive considering Arsenal’s net spend compared to the rest of the top 6) when he was able to take one of the first clubs he managed, Stuttgart, to the DFB-Pokal (German Domestic Cup) semi final back in the late 90’s, where he lost to a decent sized club called Bayern Munich, you may have heard of them. He is noted for his attacking brand of football, and also has a large emphasis on cultivating youth, as exemplified when Germany fielded the second youngest team of the 2010 World Cup, and Germany’s youngest team since 1934. In the 2010 World Cup, Germany lost to the would-be champion Spain in the semi-final before defeating Uruguay for 3rd place. The dominance of the German national team ever since has been very clear.
The Bad: It may seem silly, but come on, have you ever seen a man reach his hands down his pants (frontside and backside) and have a sniff on international television like Low does? Someone should seriously see if there is a contractual incentive to get a whiff of his own loins during a game. Just google “Joachim Low gif” and have a laugh. It’s really bad. We are already the meme team. Do we really want the biggest meme manager available? On the other hand, maybe this makes him a perfect fit…
The Spin: Low’s brand and managerial track record make him an extremely solid candidate for the next Arsenal manager. Maybe if we got him through some of those HR videos that Toby from Dunder Mifflin has to show him “Where’s the line?” I don’t know about you but I’d be down to get a kickstarter going for some of those Kleenex travel packs for him to put in his back pocket while he’s managing to mitigate the meme potential.
Mikel Arteta, Spain, Current Manchester City Assistant Manager
The Good: The former Captain needs no introduction to the Arsenal faithful. He was a leader of men and a pivotal player on the pitch, earning 110 caps for the Gunners. There is no question he checks every box for the values we have at the club, so for that reason, he would be a perfect fit in terms of what we are looking for stylistically in a manager. The question is, does he have what it takes to manage one of the biggest clubs in the world, in a time where the trajectory of all the top English sides is straight up? I don’t know, but I’ll make a case for him. There is no question in my mind, that Pep is already one of the greatest managers of all time. Arteta has had 2 valuable years as an Assistant Manager at Manchester City presumably soaking up as much knowledge as he can from a world class manager. Every day, he sees the example that Guardiola sets in his preparation, his tactics, how he manages and interacts with the players, and how he makes adjustments on the fly on matchday. All that is great, but how can we know for sure that he’s ready to take over himself? Said Guardiola regarding Arteta when asked about the possibility of Mikel becoming the manager of Arsenal next season, “I’m not the right guy to talk about that because my opinion of Mikel is overwhelming,” Guardiola said. “He deserves the best. We are so comfortable working with him, he is one of the reasons for our success this season…” “…There are many names for the next Arsenal manager. I don’t know what their plans are but I know Mikel very well and he deserves all he wants.” Clearly, Pep has high regards for Mikel’s ability in a managerial role.
The Bad: Mikel literally has no experience managing a team outside of his time as Assistant Manager at Man City. I myself question just how ready Mikel could be only a few years removed from being one of the men on the pitch. If riding in the passenger seat was enough to learn how to drive, you wouldn’t have to take a license test. There is absolutely a risk factor in hiring Arteta as the next manager considering the fact that there is zero empirical evidence of him managing a team himself, however there is a lot to be excited about with the idea of him becoming the new gaffer.
The Spin: Best case scenario: we hire a man who loves the club, has studied under one of the best managers in the world, student becomes the master and takes Arsenal back to glory all while operating under the framework that Wenger has set. Worst case scenario: Arteta has not nearly enough experience to take over one of the top clubs in the world, the pressure is too great, he collapses and Arsenal swim in the table with Bournemouth and Watford. Maybe the biggest range of possible outcomes of any candidate in my opinion. If he was appointed, I would be very excited, but also incredibly nervous. Maybe a safer route, would be to hire a more mercenary type manager with Arteta as the assistant, or primary manager at a smaller club, where he could then take over for Arsenal in a few years time.
Brendan Rodgers, Northern Ireland, Current Celtic Manager
The Good: Rodgers had a knee condition that forced his playing career to come to an end at the young age of 20, immediately thereafter assuming a coaching position. There is no lack of time spent coaching for this candidate. Rodgers plays a possession based, flowing, passing game with aggressive pressing defensively, both things I can get behind. He led Liverpool to that unforgettable title challenge in 13-14, that ended with them losing the hold of the premier league in just the final matches of the season. As heartbreaking as the season was for the Reds, it was one of Liverpool’s best in recent memory. Since then, he has went on to manage the Scottish club Celtic, where he has taken the club to unbelievable heights, including a 69 match unbeaten run.
The Bad: Overall in England, Rodgers has had pretty mixed results. He was forgettable with Watford and Reading, did well with Swansea, had one good year with Liverpool before dropping off starkly. His Scottish success should surely be taken with a grain of salt, as the amount of resources Celtic has versus everyone else in the league is wildly unbalanced. For every strength Rodgers has, there is a legitimate counterpoint or concern to be made.
The Spin: If Rodgers was hired, although I wouldn’t feel like all hope is lost, I can’t lie, I feel like it would be really settling compared to some of the other managers we have a shot at landing. He has definite upside, but I think a club of our caliber really should be aiming a little higher than a manager whose main success has come from Scotland.
Leonardo Jardim, Portugal, Current AS Monaco Manager
The Good: Although Jardim does not have much experience at any of the world’s biggest clubs, his success in his managerial career has been nothing short of exceptional. He has done well at multiple Portuguese clubs, as well as Greek side Olympiakos, before settling at his current position at AS Monaco in the French Ligue 1. Since his arrival, Monaco have pumped out some of the top young players in recent history, including the likes of James Rodriguez, Anthony Martial, Kylian Mbappe, Thomas Lemar, Bernardo Silva, and more. He led Monaco to a historic 16-17 season, where they won their first title in 17 years, unseating French giant Paris Saint-Germain who were the champions 4 years running. Monaco’s flowing, high octane, attacking football was truly a marvel for the whole world to watch that year. Seriously, they were on par with Barcelona’s goal numbers that season, exemplified when they were both the first team reach 100 goals that season, achieving it on the same day. In that historic season, they scored 24 more goals than the next closest (PSG) and finished second in goals allowed by only 4 more than PSG.
The Bad: If I had to think about something bad to say, maybe it’s the fact that his success came in the French league, which is clearly a tier below the other top leagues in Europe. He doesn’t have experience at a club the size of Arsenal, and surely the competition would be fiercer in England, and the pressure to win every game would be unlike anything he’s probably faced.
The Spin: Although there might be a little more risk associated with Jardim than someone like Enrique or Allegri, I have no question that he would be able to make Arsenal one of the most fun to watch teams in the world. I would love to see him nurture our already prosperous youth academy, and see just how amazing he could make the likes of Reiss Nelson, AMN, Nketiah, and others. I’m not sure if we would legitimately contend in the Prem and Champions League right away, considering his style is to spot young talent and grow it into a beastly young team. However, I have no question in my mind that this would be a fantastic hire that I would be giddy for.
Carlo Ancelotti, Italy, Last Managed: Bayern Munich
The Good: There’s really no arguing that Ancelotti has gotten results. He is the only manager to have won the Champions League Final three times and reached four finals. He is undoubtedly, one of the most decorated managers of all time. Unlike some managers on this list, he always left the club in a position of strength. In his last full season with every major team he managed, he finished 2nd (Juventus), 3rd (AC Milan), 2nd (Chelsea), 1st (PSG), 2nd (Real Madrid), and 1st (Bayern Munich). It is extremely impressive that at no point in his managerial career did he ever get sacked for leading his team completely off the rails. He is the 5th best Premier League manager of all time by win percentage, and in my opinion it is worth noting that one of his favorite formations to use is the 4-4-2, which is perhaps an easy way to use Lacazette and Aubameyang effectively in a system together. Early in his career, he was criticized for his unwillingness to adapt tactically and use something other than his 4-4-2, but since then, he has received much praise for his tactical adaptability and prowess, in moves including moving Pirlo from an attacking midfielder to a deep lying playmaker at Milan, and his ability to manipulate formations and player roles to get the most out of his team.
The Bad: As great of a manager as Ancelotti is, I just don’t know that he was ever a cemented part of his club’s culture. Especially towards the end of his career, his stints with each club seemed to get increasingly more short. He could certainly help us win right away, but I can’t see us ever having an Ancelotti statue outside the Emirates.
The Spin: Ancelotti’s record speaks for itself, he has been a fantastic manager at every single club he’s represented. However, it seems as though he is more of a mercenary-type of manager, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I would expect that if we go with Ancelotti it will be because we are planning on cultivating one of our own to take over as manager a few years down the road.
Patrick Vieira, France, Current New York City FC Manager
The Good: What a man. What a player. What a legend. A name that will forever be near and dear to the hearts of so many, how could you not get chills from seeing him on our touchline for the first time? Much like Arteta, he knows the club inside and out, and I would presume it would be a very easy transition for the fans into the new regime. However, unlike Arteta, Vieira does have some of his own managerial experience under his belt. For those who don’t follow MLS at all, Vieira was able to take New York City FC to 4th place in the MLS in his first season and their first playoff berth (in the MLS you don’t win the league by achieving the most points, you have to win the knockout tournament played by the top teams at the end of the season) where they would lose to Toronto FC in the semi final. The year before Vieira took over, NYCFC were 17th in the MLS standings, and under him they finished 4th and 2nd last year. As of May 1st 2018, NYCFC sit on top of the MLS table with a record of 6 wins, 2 draws, and 1 loss. There are some structural differences to the MLS that pose additional challenges to managers, including a cap on total player salary (apart from three designated players each team can select, aka the David Beckham rule), and the American style rookie draft, where the worst teams from the previous year have the first pick at the most promising young players entering the MLS. Even with said challenges, Vieira has been absolutely killing it in America.
The Bad: If I’m being honest, I would equate MLS football to very low Championship football for the top teams, or League One (3rd tier) for the rest. He’s done very well in his time in New York, but he clearly does not have a track record anywhere close to the rest of some of the candidates on this list.
The Spin: Much like Arteta, this would be a ballsy, ballsy move to give Vieira the reigns, although a move I would be fairly excited about. I trust the new look top-brass at Arsenal to be able to accurately assess whether an Arteta or Vieira type would be ready to take over. It should be mentioned that NYCFC is actually a part of the Manchester City football group, meaning I would imagine Man City wouldn’t let him walk without a fight. I view Vieira as the wildcard in this race, and if there ever were a move for Gazidis to stay true to his word and be “bold”, this would definitely qualify.
Diego Simeone, Argentina, Current Atletico Madrid Manager
The Good: Simeone’s recent presence at Atletico Madrid has not only transformed them into one of the powers in La Liga, but also in world football. He led the Spanish side to their first La Liga title in 18 years in the 2013-14 season, and has led them to the Champions League final twice, as well as a Europa League title. Atletico have had some quality attacking play under Simeone, with his attack being headlined by Antoine Griezmann, but the strength of the dominant Simeone teams without a doubt has been the defence. In their title winning season, Atletico allowed just 26 goals in 38 matches, the fewest in La Liga, and this season they currently have allowed just 18 goals in 35 matches. Simeone has proven to be one of the top defensive managers in the world.
The Bad: His coaching philosophy is basically the exact opposite of Wenger’s. Simeone is not only incredibly defensive, but his players waste time, and use every tactic possible to stretch the game and preserve clean sheets. After the Arsenal match, he went on about how marvelous it was for his team to defend for 80 minutes and how it’s one of the best parts about football. Simeone might be the ultimate example of a manager who gets results, but is not the best fit for Arsenal.
The Spin: I strongly believe that we will not select Simeone as our next manager. With other options that could give us just as good of a chance to compete without sacrificing Arsenal’s identity, I really feel like Simeone is not the answer, and based on his clues, I think Gazidis would agree.
Zeljko Buvac, Bosnia, Current Liverpool Assistant Manager
The Good: If you’re reading the headlines and wondering, who the hell is this guy? That makes two of us. Apparently, the headlines in Bosnia are that he is all set to take over, which in tandem with the fact that he has been dismissed from Liverpool for personal reasons, makes it seem like this could be the real deal. Buvac has spent the majority of his managerial career as the assistant manager for Klopp at Mainz, Dortmund, and now Liverpool. Buvac worked with current Arsenal Head of Recruitment Sven Mislintat during his time at Dortmund, meaning the decision to hire Buvac would be an informed one at the very least. Buvac is often dubbed Klopp’s “Brain”, and although Klopp is the man with the charisma, it sounds like Buvac has quietly had a large role with the tactics throughout his entire career assisting Klopp.
The Bad: The track record for Buvac as the sole manager is relatively unknown. The only side he managed was the German 4th tier Neukirchen from 1998-2001. Although there seems to be consensus that he possesses a top footballing brain, why has he been an assistant manager until the age of 56? Is he not a good man manager? After all, tactics is just one part of the equation. Although there is no proof that he wouldn’t make a good manager, there is so much that is unknown.
The Spin: Liverpool and Dortmund both have played some beautiful, attacking football during Buvac’s time at each club. Stylistically, if those are the prototypes we can expect for what football Buvac will want to play, we are doing just fine on that front. However, given how many unknowns there are about him, I just wouldn’t help but feel incredibly anxious to see the on field results he would produce, especially when I feel there are candidates that seem to have similar upside, but far less risk. It has also been rumored that we may attempt to bring him on as a mentor, assistant role to help a younger manager like Arteta or Vieira, which could be a really interesting dynamic. Only time will tell.