Arsenal FC have had quite a few great managers but Mr Arsene Wenger will have a special place in the history of the club regardless of when he is going to wave goodbye to all Arsenal fans at the Emirates. He has been our manager for almost 20 years which means that he has been in charge for 15% of Arsenal history. Just a brief look at his trophies – 23% of our league titles (almost one quarter) and 50% of our FA Cup trophies have been won by Arsene Wenger – proves that his reign has been more than successful.
There is one limitation for the human beings that will probably never be exceeded – time. Arsene Wenger is 67 and there are very few managers in the top European clubs around that age group. Carlo Ancelotti is 56, Jose Mourinho is 53, Pep Guardiola, Luis Enrique and Diego Pablo Simeone are 46 each, Laurent Blanc is 51. It’s a question of time when Mr Wenger will call it a day. His current contract expires in 2017.
It’s difficult to write about who can replace the best Arsenal manager of all times. However, on March 17th Tony wrote an interesting article about “10 questions that are not being answered in relation to the future of Arsenal FC”. He makes quite a few valid points but what is even more important, Tony gave us a good frame to write about the subject of potential Mr Wenger’s heir.
I have put names of Roberto Martinez, Dragan Stojkovic, Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Ronald Koeman, Jose Mourinho, Joachim Löw, Diego Pablo Simeone, Laurent Blanc, Thomas Tuchel, Frank de Boer and Roberto Mancini in the mix. I have divided my analysis in three parts – the first one will be about Martinez, Koeman, Mourinho and Mancini as the managers that have/had been working in England, Stojkovic, Bergkamp, Henry and Vieira as Wenger’s former players will make Group 2. The third group will consist of Löw, Simeone, Blanc, Tuchel and De Boer – managers who haven’t either played for Wenger or managed in England.
Group 1: Roberto Martinez, Ronald Koeman, Jose Mourinho and Roberto Mancini
1.Who would want to come to Arsenal in this toxic atmosphere?
It’s difficult to say whether Roberto Martinez can be called a successful manager. He has overseen Swansea promotion to Championship but lost the play-off against Blackpool; he has won the only trophy in the history of Wigan three days before being relegated to Championship; he has turned Everton from a difficult to break and even more difficult to watch into an attractive team where young talents develop into excellent players (John Stones, Ross Barkley, Romelu Lukaku, Gerard Deulofeu) but he has been struggling to find consistency.
Everton fans haven’t been happy and it seems to me that there is some toxic atmosphere at Goodison Park as well. What else could be the reason for such discrepancy between Everton’s home record W4 D4 L9 and their away record (W5 D8 L2) this season? Oh, and remember how some Arsenal “fans” want Arsenal to lose because they think it will end Wenger’s reign? Well Everton “fans” have been taking notes.
Ronald Koeman has some experience working in the toxic atmosphere. He won the Copa del Rey with Valencia, first in nine years only to get sacked four DAYS later after his own player had compared the dressing room atmosphere with a funeral
. It’s not like he doesn’t have experience with fans of his own club who want him to leave despite winning trophies.
Jose Mourinho is a one-man toxic atmosphere. He doesn’t feel right if he doesn’t work in a toxic atmosphere. He reminds me of my mother’s uncle who once entered the bar and found it too quiet so he broke the chimney of the furnace and hit the closest guy sitting next to the furnace in order to create some noise.
That’s why Mourinho had managed to spend three years in Real Mad which is quite a feat under Florentino Perez. But, here is a caveat: at the end of the day, Real Mad got sick of him. At Chelsea, his own players got sick of him. Oh, and my mother’s uncle? He was beaten up so badly that he couldn’t walk for a month. What goes around, comes around.
Roberto Mancini knows Premier League very well. He also knows a few things about toxic atmosphere as he received death threats after sales of Manuel Rui Costa and Francesco Toldo while working at Fiorentina. Galatasaray “fans” had brought banners to the stadium calling for Mancini’s sacking a few months before his departure.
2.How will the new manager cope with the opening sleeve story that the media will create?
All four managers have experience with the English media. They all know or should know by now that if you write down a recipe for a mushroom cream soup written by the English media, it’s very likely you will end up eating a tasteless mushroom pie.
3.What does the new man have to do in his first year at Arsenal?
In 1995-96, Bruce Rioch’s Arsenal ended up fifth due to Aston Villa’s superior goal-difference. Arsene Wenger came close to qualify for Champions League in his first season but his Arsenal ended up third due to Newcastle’s superior goal-difference. Wenger’s heir will be expected to win the league in his first season as the goal-posts have been moved after back-to-back FA Cup victories in 2014 and 2015.
Martinez won League One with Swansea in his first full season, Mourinho won La Primeira with Porto in his first season in the three-horse league, Premier League in his first season with Chelsea when nobody else spent money but them and Serie A with Inter in his first season when Juventus were still digging their way up after Calciopoli.
However, it took him two years to win the league with Real Mad and Chelsea (second term) when he actually had some competition for the title. Mancini has never won the league in his first season – it took him two years to win both Serie A and Premier League with Inter and Manchester City respectively, with a note that his title with Inter wasn’t won on the pitch. Koeman won Eredivise in his first incomplete season with Ajax (took over in December) and repeated the feat with PSV Eindhoven.
4.Will the new man be subjected to the last match being everything analysis?
Absolutely. Martinez went from hero to zero in a week – after Everton had beaten Chelsea to reach FA Cup semifinal, they lost to Arsenal in the league. Same goes for Mourinho who was sacked seven months after winning the league with three games to spare and mocked by some Chelsea “fans” even if he has won three out of five their league titles. Mancini was sacked less than a year after winning the first league title for Manchester City in 44 years. Koeman, as I’ve already written, was sacked four days after winning the cup with Valencia.
5.Whoever comes in will be incredibly lucky having Awobi, Bellerin, Coquelin, Elneny, coming up. But apparently this is a side without leaders. Where will he find them immediately?
6.There was a call for attacking reinforcements which (again according to the Telegraph) should have been bought in January. But where to do you find them?
7.We also have a soft centre, according to many reporters and the aaa. So again who could we get who would want to come here?
I decided to merge these three questions as I think their answers are connected.
Zlatan Ibrahimović’s contract runs out this summer and he has already announced his desire to play in Premier League. That’s the only big league he hasn’t won. He is a real leader and a top striker despite of his age. And, he is free which means his transfer would be all about his wage.
Yes, he will be 35 in October but, according to Transfermarkt, he has been involved in over a goal per game in Ligue 1 over his four seasons at PSG. He has scored 30 goals in the league with Alexandre Lacazette standing at the second place with…16 goals. In case you are worried about his age and lack of pace, I will remind you that Dennis Bergkamp was integral part of The Invincibles at the same age. With players like Alexis, Özil, Bellerin, Cazorla, Ramsey etc etc Ibrahimović would easily add another trophy to his massive collection.
Romelu Lukaku is young, powerful, strong and effective. He has scored 18 goals and created six more. Martinez has helped him to add consistency to his game so Martinez could have an upper hand to attract Lukaku to Arsenal. However, Lukaku himself has told he would be ready to work with Mourinho again even if Mourinho didn’t trust him at Chelsea while Koeman and Mancini are yet to work with him.
That’s just two possibilities.
Speaking of our soft centre, when it comes to our midfield, it seems we have found a solution in the shape of Mohammed Elneny. He has a football brain that is second to none in our team. If Mesut is a poetry in motion, Mohammed is a football navigator who calculates the distance between himself and the player to whom he wants to pass the ball.
Mats Hummels is a reigning world champion with Germany and has won two league titles with Borussia Dortmund. His signing would be a Campbell-esque one. Which leads us to the next point…
But no, I shall leave that for the next article.
Untold Arsenal has published five books on Arsenal – all are available as paperback and three are now available on Kindle. The books are
- The Arsenal Yankee by Danny Karbassiyoon with a foreword by Arsene Wenger.
- Arsenal: the long sleep 1953 – 1970; a view from the terrace. By John Sowman with an introduction by Bob Wilson.
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football. By Tony Attwood, Andy Kelly and Mark Andrews.
- Making the Arsenal: a novel by Tony Attwood.
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal by Mark Andrews.
You can find details of all five on our new Arsenal Books page