Who will replace the Frenchman? I weigh up a few possible options.
Over the last few years, there have been certain issues that have arisen over and over again. One of them, to the frustration of all Arsenal fans, has been the ever-present ''will he won't he'' saga of every good player we've had (I do not want to dwell on that right now). The other issue that has seemed to walk hand in hand with the baron spell at the club, is the existence of, what seems to be, a split of Arsenal fans - one side wanting Wenger to stay and the other seeming blaming him for our demise, wanting a fresh face at the helm.
Not wanting to unveil my side of the debate at this moment (allowing this discussion to be, seemingly, bias free), I decided to dig further into possible candidates and see which would be best suited to steer the cannon in the best direction when Wenger decides to hang up the body-long rain coat (you know the one).
I have decided to take a number of different views around this, discussing which of them may be shared by the board and, of course, Wenger. Let's be honest, Arsene is going have a huge say in who Arsenal announce as his successor. This being true, I have decided to reach for my French economist glasses and really think who Arsene would trust with his Arsenal family. I feel that there are 3 types of managers that could be employed as the successor, each providing different experiences and skillsets to the job. In my opinion, I feel that the manager trusted with the role will be one of the following,
- World-class and well established leader
- Ex-Arsenal player who has started his managerial career elsewhere
- Promotion from within the club
With these three categories specified, I am going to proceed to elect one manager from each that I feel would be best suited to the job in hand (remember, still thinking with my, methodical, Wenger head on).
The World-Class Appointment - Pep Guardiola
So why would Pep Guardiola, winner of every trophy imaginable in Spain and Europe, swap his Catalonian gardening duties for an office in North London? I know, I know, it's a long shot but stick with me as we assess the facts. There is no hiding the Spaniard's success as a manager, it is there for us all to see and for those who need confirmation, where have you been for the last 4 years?! Guardiola has won 14 trophies during this time at Barcelona (3 La Liga, 3 Supercopa de Espana, 2 Champions League, 2 Copa del Rey, 2 Super Cup and 2 Club World Cup *BREATHE*) and produced, arguably, the best footballing side of a generation, if not, all time.
Ok, Ok, many will point to the world class players at his disposable, the likes of Iniesta, Xavi, Puyol and a small Argentinian fella. Although this is true, he is a magnificent man manager. Debacles in the past with big characters (Eto'o and Imbrahimovic to name a couple) have shown just how strong Guardiola can be in an authoritative role. He is also a keen tactician, changing the dynamic of Barcelona as he switched to the now famous 'tiki-taka' style of football from Rijkaard's more direct play. Dominant possession and a high defensive line has, undoubtedly, contributed to the unbelievable success of Pep's Barcelona.
So where do Arsenal fit into this? It is a tough one because how do you attract a man that has led the best players in the world and won it all? Well, the obvious connection would be the style of football that Wenger has tried to adopt, during his time with the Gunners. An attractive, short, sharp, style of play would surely attract Pep, giving him a challenge abroad with an ideal starting point. Maybe a man who has won it all would relish the challenge of bringing Arsenal through the wilderness of a Champions League spot struggle, focusing on holding Ol' Big Ears aloft in a North London, open-top bus (I'm getting carried away). Long shot? Maybe. The reality is that any club he goes to will be a significant step down from the dizzy heights of the Catalonian club, so why not Arsenal?
The Ex-Player - Remi Garde
Ok, so he isn't the most esteemed of ex-Arsenal players but he is an interesting choice for a number of reasons. Firstly, Wenger always admired Garde as a footballer and was heavily involved in his move to Arsenal, despite not even managing the club at the time. It is believed that Arsene highly recommended Garde to Arsenal and thought that, at the age of 30, he would prove to be adequate cover for Patrick Vieira (who had signed at the same time) and Emmanuel Petit. With there being an obvious affinity for the player, it would be interesting to see if this has followed through to Wenger carrying a liking to Remi the manager.
As far as managing at the top level, Remi Garde has only experienced one campaign with Lyon, taking over from Gerard Houllier last summer. The performances of the French giants have been, somewhat, indifferent this season and this could, possibly, fuel the critics to being against a Garde at the helm. We know Arsene isn't one for short term success/failure, he will look at the whole situation. Remi has had success as a coach and an assistant and Lyon, seeing them win the title on a number of occasions. With the Frenchman occupying a Director of Football role at the club for a short period, this also shows that he is a thinker, some say that you have to be an analyst of the game to possess this role, especially at such a club like Lyon. This will be important for Wenger as I see him looking for a thinker, someone he will want to carry the torch, see out the 'experiment' and strive for footballing superiority.
A lot of other ex-players come to mind when taking this category into consideration (Dennis Bergkamp, Tony Adams ... even Jens Lehmann!) but I feel that the experience Remi already possesses (maybe not at the top level of management but at a coaching/administrative standpoint), coupled with his French heritage, makes him a front-runner amongst the Arsenal players of old.
The Promotion Within - Boro Primorac
"Who?" I hear a lot of you, even Arsenal fans, scream at me with this choice. Not a fan of the limelight, Boro Primorac has been one of Arsene's closest colleagues since the days of Grampus Eight and has become a world renowned, highly regarded coach. Although occupying a managerial position for short spells at Cannes and Valenciennes in France, Boro is lacking any top flight management experience. This being said, an extremely close relationship with Wenger coupled with a unparalleled familiarity with the squad, will be sure to push Boro to the front of any possible candidate list.
The Bosnian centre-back enjoyed an illustrious playing career, captaining his native Yugoslavia on numerous occasions. He started his club career at his hometown club Velez Mostar before securing a move to Hajduk Split. As stressed upon above, Boro would not be the big name that some Arsenal fans crave but how often has Arsene sought out 'hidden gems'. Maybe this could be another.
An intelligent man, fluent in 9 different languages, and a familiar face to the players. It all comes down to whether Arsenal fans want big changes or are happier with the current regime (lets be honest, no major changes would happen with a Boro appointment, he shares a lot of Wenger's visions). I do not think they will be looking for a major change, as mentioned before, Wenger will have a huge say and he is not going to throw away all that he has built and employ a Sam Allardyce or Alex McLeish!
I am not, for one second, trying to say that one of these managers will definitely be the man to take over from Wenger. Take it as food for thought. Using these three categories, you can make your own predictions. Will it be the ex-player, someone the fans crave or just that man being employed from the backroom staff? Like many a time before, rightly or wrongly, I will continue to trust Wenger. When he is ready to hand on the baton to a fresh face, HE will know when the time is right and HE will know the right candidate. IWWT.