It’s that time of year again. Arsenal have bowed out of the Champions League, crashed out of the FA Cup, and, despite a 2-0 win over Everton on Saturday, their title hopes are hanging by a thread. Once again, Arsenal fans are split, plenty want Arsene Wenger to stay, but plenty want him to go.
This seemingly happens every year, although the board will never sack their most successful manager, it’ll be up to him to decide to leave. If the Frenchman does decide that it is truly time for him to go this summer, Arsenal need to appoint a dynamic manager to replace him and avoid the situation Manchester United are currently in. There are plenty of names being floated around, some better than others, so we’ll look at two managers Arsenal should look at and three they shouldn’t.
Jorge Sampaoli may not have managed inside of Europe before and not worked in club management since 2012, but the Argentinian manager could turn out to be an appointment that brings the club years of success. A disciple of Marcelo Bielsa, Sampaoli loves for his teams to press high and press hard, something most Premier League teams struggle to cope with. An example of this is actually right on the other side of North London where Spurs are thriving with a high pressing game while being managed by another Bielsa disciple, Mauricio Pochettino.
A Sampaoli appointment would have risks, like the fact that he’s never managed outside of South America or the fact that he needs to improve on his English, something he cited as a reason that Antonio Conte was picked over himself for the Chelsea job. Still, the Argentinian is available after quitting his job with Chile and his appointment could even turn out to atleast rival that of Arsene Wenger.
Verdict – Good Choice
Roberto Martinez has been tipped to replace Arsene Wenger ever since his first season at Everton where they nearly finished above Arsenal and pipped them to Champions League. According to Paddy Power, he is currently the seventh favourite for the job at 16/1. Yet, looking at the state of Martinez’s Everton side since then, you’d struggle to find a reason to replace Wenger with the Spaniard.
He is in some ways too similar to Wenger in that they both prefer to play slow, possession football, and at times prioritize playing good football over winning, but Martinez is worse at it than the current Arsenal manager. While his current side can score, the Spaniards teams tend to leak goals at alarming rates. Despite all the talent in that side, only five teams have conceded more goals than Everton.
Verdict – Bad choice
Thomas Tuchel could do some serious things at Arsenal if he was appointed. The current Borussia Dortmund manager is already one of the world’s leading managers at the age of 42. After Dortmund had a down season last year, Tuchel has revitalized the team and made them a top five team in Europe. One of his main changes was adding much more structure to the midfield after Klopp’s side really struggled to control games and prevent counter attacks (something you can read more about here). Added structure to midfield could be something that Arsenal seriously benefit from.
Alas, after only one year at Borussia Dortmund, Tuchel will be unlikely to leave. While Arsenal may have more financial clout than the German side, Tuchel will likely want to take a shot at the Bundesliga title without Pep Guardiola and try to lead Dortmund through the Champions League, after not qualifying for the competition this season.
Verdict – Good choice
Ex-Players Thierry Henry/Dennis Bergkamp/Patrick Vieira
Okay, these are three managers, but none of them should be considered for Arsenal manager, despite Paddy Power having Bergkamp as joint favourite at 10/1, Vieira as joint third favourite at 12/1, and Henry at sixth favourite at 14/1. These three were all some of the best players to ever grace Arsenal, but there is no correlation between being a good player and being a good manager.
They are all being mentioned because of what they did as players, but their resumes as coaches just aren’t good enough. Henry has only just completed his UEFA A License in the last two weeks, while Bergkamp’s only coaching is as an assistant at Ajax. Vieira has slightly more experience than the other two. He managed Manchester City’s youth team for a few seasons and is now through his first three games as New York City FC manager. However he has made some interesting tactical decisions at NYCFC and currently has them playing Herbert Chapman’s W-M formation from the 1920s (this isn’t a joke, look at their lineup from their 1-0 loss to Orlando City FC below). They may all be legendary Arsenal players, but it is far too early to be considering them as Arsenal managers.
Verdict – Bad choice
One of the names that has been thrown around a lot in this discussion has been current Southampton manager Ronald Koeman. For all the good he’s done at Southampton, there are questions of whether he’d be able to make the step up to a top club like Arsenal. Outside of Southampton, he has had one other job in Europe’s “top five leagues” (La Liga, the Premier League, Ligue 1, Seria A, and the Bundesliga) at Valencia. While he did win the Copa Del Rey, he was sacked before the end of his first season, his team was sitting in a relegation battle when he was sacked, and he had finished bottom of his Champions League group earlier in the season.
From a stylistic point of view, Koeman’s Southampton have played very reactive, cross heavy football, as of February 14th only Crystal Palace and Aston Villa have had a higher percentage of shots into the danger zone from crosses, not something that would fly at Arsenal.
Verdict – Bad choice
Whether or not Arsene Wenger will leave this season is still unknown but if he does leave, Arsenal must get their next managerial appointment spot, or else they could find themselves in a serious downward spiral.