We have been running an occasional series about the task facing the next manager of Arsenal, whenever he might take over.
First we looked at the overall problem and presented the first group of candidates:
This was continued in the second article which continued thinking of those four managers and brought in…
Next we turned to another group of possible managers
And now today we have the fourth article in which we look another set of candidates:
Group 3: Joachim Löw, Diego Pablo Simeone, Thomas Tuchel, Frank de Boer, Laurent Blanc
1.Who would want to come to Arsenal in this toxic atmosphere?
Joachim Löw hadn’t had the easiest task to return Germany to the very top. In fact, Germany had gone through a rough decade between 1996 and 2006 despite reaching World Cup Final 2002 (mostly thanks to the most unbelievable luck with the draw). They hadn’t beaten a single European team at the international tournaments for a decade – between goals of two Olivers (Bierhoff’s golden goal against Czech Republic in EURO 96 Final and Neuville’s injury-time winner against Poland).
Defeats against combined teams of Portugal (EURO 2000) and Czech Republic (EURO 2004) particularly stood out us a new low (no pun intended) for the German national team. Löw was only the assistant manager for Jürgen Klinsmann at World Cup 2006 but Phillip Lahm, the German captain, didn’t see it that way. In fact, he wrote a book in which he blasted Klinsmann as a complete ignorant and praised Löw for his work with every single player suggesting it was Löw who did Klinsmann’s homework.
Löw wasn’t softened with those kind words and publicly stated his discontent with Lahm’s book. That proves he can both work in a toxic atmosphere and be a gentleman. Löw had lost EURO 2008 Final, World Cup 2010 semifinal to Spain and EURO 2012 semifinal to Italy before his Germany won fourth World Cup. During that journey Löw’s Germany won the hearts of many neutrals with their attacking and exciting football led by Thomas Müller and Mesut Özil.
When Diego Simeone took over at Atletico Madrid in December 2011, they had already gone out of Copa del Rey to the third-tier side Albacete and were hanging four points above the relegation zone (W5 D4 L7). They were still alive in Europa League though but for a team who had spent big on Radamel Falcao their league position was quite poor.
Atletico fans had had memories of relegation that were more fresh than the ones about the league title so they knew relegation can happen even when you have one of the best scorers in the league (when Atletico were relegated in 1999-2000, their striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink ended joint second in the score-charts). Up to the end of the season Simeone won ten, drew seven and lost five games and brought Atletico two points off the Champions League place. Atletico won Europa League though and they have been on the rise ever since even if players like Falcao, Diego Costa, Miranda and Arda Turan have been sold in the last few years.
Simeone knows how to work in a toxic atmosphere as a player as well – he played for Lazio in 2001-02 when their fans were cheering for their club to lose the final match of the season against Inter Milan. It wasn’t only because Lazio’s victory could have helped their bitterest rivals, it was also because Lazio’s defeat would have punished the underachieving players by forcing them to cut their holidays due to participation in Intertoto Cup.
Despite their fans’ wishes, Lazio won 4:2 and Simeone scored a goal for 3:2 against his old club. He wasn’t happy with it, his head-shake said more than a thousand words but he was a total professional as a player regardless of what his or the opponents’ fans think of him. Here is a caveat though: Simeone has been a legend of Atletico Madrid since his playing days as he played a huge role in the team that won the league in 1995-96. He wouldn’t have that sort of shield at Arsenal in case of a slow start.
Thomas Tuchel could end up with a restraining order on Jürgen Klopp’s demand as he has been following his footsteps for a while. Firstly he took over at Mainz and now he has been doing remarkable job with Borussia Dortmund. Perhaps this part about Tuchel is redundant then as he is likely to succeed Klopp at Liverpool!!! one day?
Anyway, Tuchel took over at Borussia after a very disappointing season that was the last one in the career of one of the most successful Borussia Dortmund managers ever (Ottmar Hitzfeld is still No. 1 of all times). He reinvigorated the squad that had struggled in 2014-15 and played a really exciting football making Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang one of the most wanted strikers in the world.
Of course, it’s one thing to work at Dortmund where you have fantastic and creative home support and completely another to work at Arsenal where sometimes – at least that’s my arm-chair impression – a quote from Sir Edmund Blackadder springs to mind: “I’ve been at autopsies with more party atmosphere”. I can even picture white A4 papers with a six-year-old kid “Tuchel go to hell” handwritten sign.
Frank de Boer has been doing well with Ajax in Eredivisie but for Ajax, the five time European champions, the only benchmark is Europe. De Boer has failed to deliver a significant European result even if one could argue that his record would have been better if Ajax hadn’t been robbed by the referees in 2011-12 Champions League Group Stage.
I reckon it’s easier to deal with a toxic atmosphere at Ajax – a league title in two-three years is a given and fans have already been used to the club policy of nurturing and polishing young talents before shipping them to richer clubs, especially after The Bosman Ruling that no club in the world has been stricken with more than Ajax. De Boer, however, can’t promise a title at Arsenal in three-years time due to strength of the rivals. Also, Eredivisie has been well-known as a high-scoring league for years. At Arsenal, De Boer would have to deal with number of opponents parking the bus or just sitting deep waiting for a break.
Laurent Blanc did a solid job with France following the South-African fiasco in 2010. He led France to EURO 2012 quarterfinals and managed to stay in the saddle despite a lot of controversies his remarks about the ratio of black and white players in the youth categories had drawn. He has done well at PSG by winning three league titles in a row but he hasn’t been able to progress past quarterfinals in Champions League. If he had reached quarterfinals three times in a row with Arsenal, the English media would rename that round to Quarterarsenals.
2.How will the new manager cope with the opening sleeze story that the media will create?
Löw has already been subjected to some journalists’ garbage regarding his sexuality but he managed to deal with it. Of course, there could be a disturbing picture or two of his nose-pickings in order to discredit him.
Simeone would be a different thing. After David Beckham’s red card at World Cup 1998, Simeone was pictured as a villain. If he takes over at Arsenal, he can expect the same thing to happen again.
Tuchel would probably have to deal with comparisons with Klopp, especially before the games against Liverpool!!! and would be reminded of Liverpool!!!’s great Europa League come-back against Borussia Dortmund. In case he doesn’t have a decent start with Arsenal, that game would be announced as “Klopp vs Flopp”.
De Boer could expect questions about his ability to punch above his weight, about two missed penalties in EURO 2000 semifinal defeat against Italy and about the nandrolone-ban from 2001 that he appealed with a partial success.
Blanc… Oh, Blanc! Can you imagine how many puns would English journalists create out of his last name. Firstly, they would keep reminding him about his comment on the racial representation in the French youth teams. Then, they would connect his last name (“Blanc” means “white”) with his comment. Finally, whenever Arsenal fail to score, the headline “Arsenal fire Blanc” would pop out at so many internet web-sites that Blanc could pay his own wages by claiming his copyright on it. And, before we play West Ham United, he would be asked about how Slaven Bilić forced him to miss World Cup Final against Brazil.
3.What does the new man have to do in his first year at Arsenal?
As I have written while assessing the Group 1 and 2 of candidates, our next manager will be expected to win the league in his first season. That would be a lot of pressure on people who don’t have managerial experience in England.
Löw didn’t build the German empire over night. It took him a while before Germany were ready to conquer the world. Can he expect patience from the Arsenal fans? Say, three seasons without winning the league (EURO 2008, World Cup 2010, EURO 2012) before a big triumph (World Cup 2014)?
Simeone won Europa League after just six months at Atletico but he hadn’t won the league before his second full season at Atletico.
Tuchel has a very remote chance of winning Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund as Bayern München are five points clear with two matches to go.
De Boer had managed to win four consecutive league titles in just three-and-half years with Ajax (he has been at helm since December 2010) before PSV broke his sequence last season but there is a good chance he could make it five in five-and-half years as Ajax and PSV are involved in head-to-head battle for Eredivisie title.
Blanc won Ligue 1 with Bordeaux in his second season at helm and with PSG in his first but I think Untold Arsenal’s management team would claim the title with Qatari billions at PSG.
4.Will the new man be subjected to the last match being everything analysis?
“Arsenal reach a new Löw” (after a surprising defeat), “David Beckham is smiling” (after Simeone’s defeat at Old Trafford), “Journey Tuchel continues for Arsenal” (after a bad streak), “Let’s be Frank, it’s not working” (after Arsenal fail to make a strong title challenge), “Point Blanc” (after a disappointing draw at home with a relegation-battling team). Each one of them would be going through a rough time.
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.
Löw could be a great appeal for German players and a good argument for Mesut Özil to renew his contract with Arsenal. He prefers attacking football, is dedicated to details and believes in young players (Germany 2010 were the second youngest team in the tournament).
He could persuade players such as Marco Reus, Mario Götze, Julian Draxler, Julian Brandt (huge talent from Bayer Leverkusen), Bender twins and/or, why not, Thomas Müller to join Arsenal. With Per Mertesacker still on our board, he could be the guy Löw sees as a leader. Or some other German defender who will follow footsteps of Mats Hummels and become a world-class defender. Given that he prefers attacking football (as his big victories against big international teams prove – England 4:1, Argentina 4:0, Portugal 4:0, Brazil 7:1), I don’t think he would have to add too many new players to our current squad.
Simeone is a different story. He is more of a George Graham than an Arsene Wenger in terms of how football is played. His Atletico produce leaders from the team he had inherited from Gregory Manzano. Just before he took over at Atletico, they had conceded 27 goals in 16 matches. In the remaining 22 matches Atletico conceded just 17.
What he relies on is a top-class goalkeeper (Courtois, Oblak) and a defensive drill of the current crop rather than buying individual quality. His only defensive signing for the title-winning campaign was Toby Alderweireld (now at Tottenham) but he was only a back-up player at Atletico. His defence also has a lot of help from the hard-working midfield with technical skills. When it comes to strikers, his attack relies on a striker who can score over 20 goals per season. Whether he inherites one (Falcao), buys extremely talented one (Antoine Griezmann) or makes one out of an anonymous player (Diego Costa), doesn’t matter.
To translate it to Arsenal-ish, his Arsenal would rely on Petr Čech on goal, drilled-to-maximum back-line where Koscielny/Gabriel/Chambers would emulate Godin, a midfield run by Elneny, Coquelin, Ramsey, Wilshere, and the attack of Alexis and Welbeck. According to Wikipedia, his net-spending in the summer before Atletico won the league was +36 million euros.
Tuchel would have to find a new way of dealing with defensive issues Arsenal have. He has Mats Hummels at Borussia Dortmund, arguably the best central defender in the world, but his Borussia Dortmund have conceded five against Bayern (just like a make-shift Arsenal defence did) and four against Liverpool!!! at Anfield (one worse than Arsenal). However, he would probably do his best to lure one of Borussia Dortmund’s finest attackers to Arsenal – either Reus or Aubameyang.
As I have already written about Bergkamp, de Boer could rely on the knowledge of Ajax magnificent scouting network. Maybe he can find us a player of Alderweireld’s quality for the defence or a new Luis Suarez for the attack. Or, maybe his compatriot Virgil van Dijk from Southampton could make our defence more solid.
Blanc relies on expensive defenders and nobody sane at Arsenal (or anywhere else, in fact) would give him 50 million pounds to buy David Luiz-esque central defender. What I haven’t seen at Blanc’s PSG is a sign of any kind of style in their game. Yes, Zlatan Ibrahimović scores million goals per season but Edinson Cavani looks discontented with playing second fiddle to him and Angel Di Maria – with all his brilliance – will never restore his form from 2013-14.
8.At the same time as this we need tactical flexibility. How is that to be introduced at the same time?
Löw pays a lot of attention to the details. With Özil and Mertesacker he has already worked at the German national team. Given the importance of Özil for both Arsenal and Germany, he should have an easy task to make foundation for his own football.
Simeone believes in tactical and positional drill. He has charismatic and energetic personality who can beat people like Mourinho on their own pitch – literally and metaphorically speaking. He made Atletico team working even if he took it in the middle of the season.
Tuchel didn’t make too many changes to Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund that had been rock-bottom at one point in 2014-15. He simply reinvigorated the current team, cleared the deadwood and added a missing piece or two to the team.
De Boer took over from one of 29847 ex-Tottenham managers Martin Jol in 2010 and turned them into the league champions despite losing Luis Suarez on the last day of the transfer deadline. Ajax have been selling best players for 20 years and replacing them with players who need time to gel but de Boer has managed to keep Ajax on top of the Dutch football nevertheless.
Blanc was an intelligent player who knew how to deal with different scenarios. How would he cope with the fact his team is not the one who has bigger budget than the rest of the league combined? He would have to revert to his Bordeaux days.
9.But supposing just for one second the problem actually lies elsewhere.
Löw prefers clean football and that could be a surprise for him. Then again, I have a feeling that Wenger’s departure would give us a short-term pass by PGMO in the sense that they would suddenly see all those fouls and tackles in the opponents’ penalty box they haven’t been seeing for a decade.
Simeone wouldn’t keep his mouth shut. He would probably got a suspension or two for his aggresive discontent with the referees’ decisions. It could be either his road to heaven or hell.
Tuchel has been working at Borussia Dortmund and he knows how it feels to work at non-Bayern club. He looks like a lad who believes in hard work rather than big words and loud speaking.
In aforementioned game against Real Madrid in Champions League 2011-12 de Boer has seen the glimpse of what Wenger’s Arsenal have been going through for a decade. If my theory about the refereeing improving with Wenger’s departure is not correct, de Boer could see a lot more of the same.
Blanc wasn’t happy with the red card Ibrahimović got against Chelsea in 2014-15. How would he react at Mike Dean’s interpretation of Laws of football game?
10.Why will Arsenal get it right when others with more money can’t?
To repeat it once more: there are no guarantees. There is nobody who can guarantee that change would go well or poorly. Leicester City have won the league with the guy who had never won the league before and who has been appointed last summer after he had lost with Greece to Faroe Islands.
Spuds may are finish above us for the first time in 20+ years with the guy who had been appointed two years ago. Manchester City have won two league titles in the last five seasons with two different managers. Slaven Bilić made a spectacular transformation of West Ham. Ronald Koeman took over at Southampton after they had sold most of their first-team players and lost their manager Mauricio Pochettino to Tottenham but he managed to keep them in top half of the table.
Of course, there are examples of Newcastle United and Manchester United where the changes haven’t gone smoothly.
Conclusions on Group 3 of candidates
PRO: A gentleman, a world champion, a positive-football oriented, a manager who pays attention to details. According to some reports, he was the guy who forced the whole German football to change in order to catch up with Spain in terms of quickness of passing. I recall that the Germans hadn’t been happy with 1.6 seconds as an average time between two passes so they focused on improving the passing in all of their categories in order to reduce the time between two passes below a single second. Löw believes in young talented players and gives them freedom to express themselves.
CONTRA: He has been out of a club management for quite a while.
Diego Pablo Simeone
PRO: Probably the best club manager in the world right now. He makes money for the club and results don’t suffer. He has managed to break Barcelona-Real duopoly without a sugar-daddy behind his back. And, there is a stunning coincidence with George Graham’s path: after Graham had won the league with Arsenal as a player in 1971, our next league title was with Graham as a manager in 1989 (eighteen years later), in the last league match against the title rivals on their soil (Liverpool!!! 2:0).
After Simeone had won the league with Atletico as a player in 1996, their next league title was with Simeone as a manager in 2014 (eighteen years later), in the last league match against the title rivals on their soil (Barcelona 1:1). He has been under attacks for playing a defensive football but his Atletico have scored more league goals than Arsenal this season (60:59).
CONTRA: His football is not exactly eye-catching. One-nil to the Atletico. As I’ve said for Vieira, Simeone was the type of player you like only if he plays for your team. His English language is a mystery. He has been serving suspension for someone from Atletico bench throwing the ball on the pitch when their opponents had a counter-attack.
Frank de Boer
PRO: He prefers attacking football, nurtures young talented players, was a great technical player himself, could bring Dennis as his assistant manager to Arsenal, wins domestic titles with Ajax, respects his contract as his rejection of the Liverpool!!! job proves.
CONTRA: He is yet to make a great European result with Ajax and Eredivisie is at best a three-horse race.
PRO: He comes from the German school of managers which means he is dedicated to hard work and always looking for improvement. He prefers attacking football and is not a cheque-book manager.
CONTRA: He has never been expected to win the league, let alone to win the league in his first season. Klopp’s last season was terrible while Arsenal can still climb up to second place.
PRO: He has worked under great managers (Sir Bobby Robson at Barcelona, Marcello Lippi at Inter Milan) and he has worked under long-time serving managers (Guy Roux at Auxerre, Alex Ferguson at Manchester United) so he could use experience from his playing days. He knows how to win the league as he has shown with Bordeaux and PSG as a manager and with Auxerre and Manchester United as a player.
CONTRA: He hasn’t been able to bring PSG to the very top of European football despite Qatari billions poured in the club. His comments on black and white players make him inappropriate manager for Arsenal Football Club.