Arsene Wenger, the man who has been at Arsenal’s helm since 1996, has announced he’s stepping down. Since his appointment, Arsene Wenger has managed over 800 Premier League games and has seen multiple successes. However, since achieving that FA Cup victory in 2006, the Frenchman never won the league again and 12 years later will leave the club out of a Champions League spot for the second season running. With plans to stay on until the end of the current season, hoping to win his first and only European trophy in the Europa League too, what state does Wenger leave the club in?
Having built a philosophy which involved playing possession-based fast attacking football, Wenger bought players who were able to spot a pass, play with the men around them and form partnerships all over the field. It’s this kind of football which had brought so much success in the early stages of his career and will certainly account for the reason behind achieving the unbeaten season. This style of play is synonymous with the Gunners and will need to remain no matter who the coach is, in order to keep the heart of the club.
Fellow Premier League manager Mark Hughes explained, “He came with different ideas on how the game should be played & moved the goalposts for everyone else. He has been a huge influence on the game in this country and deserves his place in history. At the outset, he was ahead of everyone & we had to catch up.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp had this to say. “He’s had a fantastic career, an outstanding personality & very successful. Maybe in the last few months, not everyone was happy, but he was the dominating guy in the mid-90s & 2000s. He was always a big role model & it will be different without him.”
We’ve seen an example of a club’s deterioration when the style was changed in Manchester United and even more so now under Jose Mourinho. Many Arsenal fans would want success for the club but not at the expense of sacrificing the style the club is renowned for. It will mainly be up to the new manager how he approaches the game but this certainly will be an interesting topic, considering how many of the current players are designed to naturally suit this philosophy.
Now it will be particularly interesting to see how the squad will react to this departure, and whether or not they will be enticed to stay, given that this philosophy may indeed change.
With a career spanning 22 years, it’s no wonder Wenger is assimilated with the club and many new players often mention this when signing a deal. In fact, one of the superstars of the side, Mesut Ozil, stated Wenger was a big reason why he chose to come to the Gunners. “It will be great for my own personal development as a player and I am particularly looking forward to working with Arsene Wenger,” the German international stated. Furthermore, after re-signing for the club in January, Ozil praised his manager’s gentlemanly attitude as being a part of the reason he chose to stay. “He’s the most gentlemanly coach I’ve ever played under.”
Even veteran defender Per Mertesacker mentions how much his coach influenced him. “It is quite emotional. He has been so supportive to me. How he went through tough times has taught me a lot about his character and how to trust people and get them in the right places to be successful. One major reason why I’m here is because of him.”
Wenger was the main reason for many players to move to join Arsenal
Safe to say, Wenger certainly had an influence in enticing players to join Arsenal and with his departure, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a few players leave. One midfielder who has only ever known Arsene Wenger as being the Arsenal manager is Jack Wilshere. With his contract coming to an end in two months’ time, it will be intriguing to know if the Englishman will stay, especially when he described Wenger as a “father figure” (Instagram). More so, and perhaps more importantly, Aaron Ramsey’s contract is set to expire too and if Arsene wants to leave his successor in the best possible position, he’ll do well to keep the Welshman at the Emirates.
There are a few players who may not warrant to be in an Arsenal shirt and your do feel that one particular trait of Wenger was to keep his players happy, no matter what. So with the new manager coming in, whoever they may be, will they bring a streak of ruthlessness otherwise unknown to this squad. It is glaringly obvious Arsene Wenger struggled to bring in many world-class additions to his defence and players such as Shkodran Mustafi, Calum Chambers and Sead Kolasinac are struggling to make the cut. Even defensive midfielder Granit Xhaka has had a troubled start to his career at the Emirates and with an attack involving Ramsey, Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the players behind them are significantly weaker. The big question is, who will come in and fix this?
The major candidates for the prestigious role are:
The dominant Juventus manager is a prime candidate for the role as he brings with him a series of success from Italy and was heavily linked with the position last year.
His defensive approach to the game is considered one of the best in the world and he will certainly ring around the changes at the Emirates. Arsenal fans aren’t used to a sturdy defence and could be in for a treat with Allegri as the number one man, but will the attacking football be sacrificed? Juventus aren’t known for their free-flowing attacking play and it could potentially hinder the progress of Lacazette and Aubameyang as a defensive style is adopted.
The former Dortmund coach may be young but is considered a long-term candidate as he has a style that helps build attacks from deep and focus on counter attacking play, one style which Arsenal have been better at over recent years. Having been the successor to Jurgen Klopp, who was a consideration himself before moving to Liverpool, the German may well be poised for this role.
Perhaps a surprise prospect but the idea of having a manager who almost led Liverpool to their first title in decades, whilst also achieving an unbeaten season at Celtic isn’t a bad one. In fact, with his experience, Rodgers could be seen as an ideal opportunity to get the best out of the attacking players. He probably is not the fan’s choice for the role but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the board opt for someone who is young, ambitious and handled big characters in the game. However, his lack of European success is a major flaw and could hold him back.
The manager who would be a fan’s choice is none other than Mikel Arteta, the former Everton and Arsenal star who is now under the wing of Pep Guardiola, having helped Manchester City win the title this season. Even though he is very raw to the game, there is no doubt Arteta will have picked up on some valuable experience and skills taught by one of the best coaches in the world. With his time at Arsenal a precious one, fans would love to see the Spaniard at the helm but his lack of experience at any major coaching role will be a hindrance, especially when considering the number of major personalities there are in the Arsenal squad.
By far, the manager with the most accolades and an extensive CV is none other than Carlo Ancelotti, a man who is on the hunt for a job since leaving Real Madrid. Even though he didn’t have a lot of domestic success there, he still has a highly impressive record, winning titles in Italy, Germany, France, England and the Champions League with Madrid and twice with AC Milan.
He’ll be relatively easy to acquire given no other club has to be involved but his age will mean he wouldn’t be a long-term option and Arsenal will not want to change how managers are appointed by making constant changes upstairs.
Even with the appointment of any of these managers, the priority will be to keep Arsenal’s style of play and philosophy as much as possible, in order to retain the love of the fans who adored Arsenal because of these values. Many fans have only ever seen Wenger as the manager at the club so will be nervous about losing what they adored about the club. The idea should be to work with the team at their disposal and make gradual changes which will help keep Arsenal as one of Europe’s biggest clubs.
Of course, no other manager will ever emulate Wenger’s 22-year reign, and perhaps no other manager will ever win as many trophies as the Frenchman at one club, but they will certainly win over fans if they can consistently challenge for silverware.
Arsene Wenger’s departure may be long overdue but he certainly will be leaving big shoes to fill.