By Jon Vine
It’s looking increasingly likely that this season will be Arsene Wenger’s last as Arsenal manager. It’s been an incredibly successful 21 years at the Gunners helm, in which time he has transformed himself from unknown Mr. Bean lookalike, to one of the most renowned and respected managers in the history of the game, and was even tipped to replace Roy Hodgson.
During the second, less-successful decade of Wenger’s tenure, a lot of fans have turned on the manager, pointing the finger of blame solely at him as Arsenal have continually fallen short of expectations. But one thing is for sure, when he finally hangs up those glasses and extra-long winter coat, every single Gunners fan will be sad to see him leave.
But football doesn’t stand still for anyone and plenty of Arsenal fans will be looking forward with great anticipation to see who the board will go for to succeed Wenger as manager. Down the years, managers like Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Roberto Martinez and Ronald Koeman have been linked with the position, but none of the afore mentioned will be in the running. Let’s take a look at a few possible options.
The World Cup winning Germany boss is the favourite with most bookmakers and it’s easy to see why he is viewed as the leading candidate. Low stepped up from his role as assistant when Jurgen Klinsmann left in 2006 and has proven himself as one of the best international managers in the business. He’s always keen to integrate the younger players into his squads and loves to play attacking football, whilst remaining very tactically diverse. However, his record at domestic level doesn’t make pretty reading, with two League triumphs in Austria the highlight of his eight years in club management, before joining the German coaching team. Whether this will count against him is yet to be seen, but I have a feeling it won’t be viewed upon kindly.
He may have only just succeeded Guardiola with German giants Bayern Munich, but if anything does go wrong during his first season in Bavaria, then he would bring a very impressive CV to the table.
The 57 year old is a three-time Champions League winner and has won domestic titles in three different countries, including the Premier League during his brief spell across London at Stamford Bridge. Ancelotti is used to managing big names and big egos. He’s exceptionally good at building an attacking team around a high quality, technical midfield unit and he would certainly get that here at Arsenal. If he is available when the time comes, then he could be a highly appealing prospect.
It’s unlikely that the board would go for someone with such little managerial experience, but Patrick could prove to be an exceptional circumstance. He will go down in history as one of the most inspirational and influential captains in Arsenal history, having lead the side to three League titles and four FA Cup triumphs during his nine years with Arsenal. Vieira knows the club inside-out and will instantly have the confidence of the Emirates faithful on his side. He’s a very imposing figure with a big reputation which would certainly come in useful when commanding the dressing room.
But as we all know, the best players don’t always make the best managers. He’s had a decent start to his managerial career in New York, but will probably have to return to Europe to cut his teeth in a top division, before he gets the opportunity to go for his dream job.
Frank De Boer
De Boers potential appointment would be a comfortable choice for the Arsenal board, as he is probably the closest thing to a like-for-like change they could find. A product of the Ajax academy, he has carried their “total football” philosophy with him throughout his glittering career, which saw him play almost 150 times for Barcelona and become the Netherlands most capped outfield player.
He’s been in charge of his beloved Ajax since 2010 and during those six years he has been linked with most of the major jobs in club football. His attacking philosophy with a strong technical base would certainly please Arsenal fans, and maybe his experiences as a player would give him an added edge over the other contenders.
You could make a case for all the managers mentioned above to be considered, but I’ve left Simeone until last because I think he is the outstanding candidate for the position.
The job he has done at Atletico Madrid has been nothing short of phenomenal. Just to be competitive against Barcelona and Real Madrid is one thing, but he has bettered both of those footballing superpowers on multiple occasions. He guided Atletico to their first League title in 18 years in 2014, drawing 1-1 at the Nou Camp on the final day of the season, to pip the Catalan giants to the finishing post.
Simone has also been able to transfer that La Liga success to the European stage, leading Atletico to two Champions League finals in the past three seasons. Sadly, he lost out on both occasions to Atletico’s Madrid rivals, but he masterminded aggregate wins over Barcelona on both of those successful runs to the final.
One factor that could stand against him is the style of football his Atletico side chose to employ. Arsene Wenger has instilled an identity within the club that attractive, passing based football is the way the game should be played. Simone on the other hand, is perfectly fine sacrificing style if it means he can get the right result. His Atletico team have become the most efficient defensive club side in the world, consistently boasting the best defensive records in both La Liga and the Champions League during his reign.
I think it would be a refreshing change to see a manager like Simone get the top job at Arsenal. He would bring a level of passion and intensity to the job, as well as a proven track record for winning big matches and big trophies. Succeeding the greatest manager in a clubs history is a thankless, unenviable task. Just ask David Moyes and Louis van Gaal. But Diego Simone has all the qualities needed to transform Arsenal from perceived fourth place specialists, to one of the most feared teams in Europe once again.