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May 2021

The task facing the next manager, what he has to achieve, and how can he do it?

By Josif
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.

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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.

Recent Posts

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


14 comments to The task facing the next manager, what he has to achieve, and how can he do it?

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    Josif, you should remember that the Boss doesn’t sign any player which media is promoting and the Arsenal fans are saying they want him to sign. Even if the player is a proven quality like Ibramovich or Lukaku, still, the Boss won’t sign any of them because they’ve been recommended by the media and the Arsenal fans. Has he ever signed any such player?

    That’s apart, Arsenal are still in this season title race despite Leicester’s dominance on top of the table. Leicester, Spurs and Arsenal are in the home straight race racing to the title trophy table.

    Leicester need to win 3 & 2 games to be sure of winning the title from Spurs and Arsenal who are still challenging them to wrestle the title away from their hands. And that can still happen.

    But Spurs won’t finish above Arsenal in table. Because that’s an abomination. Arsenal are waiting for Leicester to cave-in under the pressure of them nearly to win the title which they are close to winning it. Because of their inexperience of winning the title, Leicester will eventually cave-in under that pressure of nearly there to win it. And Arsenal will capitalise on Leicester’s collapsing under pressure and storm past them in the home straight to the title trophy table and lift the trophy.

  • Ando

    Thoughtfully written article, thanks Josif

  • Rich

    Good read, Josif.

  • Wolfgang

    So Spurs wont finish above Arsenal and Leicester will collapse.These are probably extreme cases.A five point gap can be bridged but not 11 points unless you have the 97-98 team and games in hand.Ranieri is more pragmatic than Wenger and he will go on to win the epl.
    As for the fm according to repots he will go for Kante ,the foxes terrier. I believe we need physically imposing md and not midgets.
    Just read rf threw tantrums when MU lost.He expects the rd to win all the time. If that were case he shd nt retire because winning is like a drug. Unfortunately
    his winning days were over and couldnt be replicated.

  • Menace

    Excellent story Josif. A proper fable for the future. Only thing you have ignored is the hurdle of bent authority. How does the new man/woman make the authority honest?

    Wenger has to coach his team to play on slippery uphill slopes. What makes you think the slope will suddenly mimick Leicesters downhill?

  • Polo

    Good article so far Josif. I think Martinez and Mourinho won’t be Arsenal managers, Martinez is not doing well and Arsenal board won’t risk it, mourinho well not many fans like him and his style of football, it doesn’t fit with the Arsenal philosophy. Koeman well he look settled at Southampton and I don’t think he will move.

    I will see your part 2 and give further comments.

    Again, well done for a writing a good article.

  • Gouresh

    Well put Josif, now on to the next one. thanks

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Nice article , Josif . Still early days for a new man to come in , but at the EUROS , potential targets will probably be identified . Both from among the players and the management.

  • Its a good topic but the overall thrust is too gloomy for my liking. Wenger arrived at Arsenal as something of a punt having had modest success elsewhere and completely revolutionised Arsenal, why couldnt that happen again ? On the more specific I dont know where you sit but I havent been aware of a toxic atmosphere at the ground. My take is more indifference on occasions. I also think managers will be killing each other to get the Arsenal job and why not. They will get massively well paid, job security and relatively modest targets to attain. Its not like Ferguson retiring. I would add thats its all academic as I dont think Wenger is going anywhere any time soon either next season or the season after.

  • Col

    “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.”

    Don’t agree. If the new man looks like he is moving the team in the right direction, so that a title challenge will be forthcoming, that will be enough for most fans. This comment wilfully ignores the antipathy that has built up from a decade of failing to challenge meaningfully, and a lack of obvious progress in the direction of challenging. As has been said a thousand times, putting a run together when there is no pressure on is not quite the same.

    It also ignores the fact that the board would rather sit on pile of money and get 4th every year rather than actually try and win the thing. That won’t change, but it rather affects who is likely to get the job – at the moment, there is no-one better than Wenger at achieving this.

  • Menace

    Col – Your take on the board sitting on a pile of money is so unfair. Arsenal have been trying to win the CL every season but have not had success just like most other clubs in Europe. The fact that Arsenal have been financially successful in attempting to win is not sufficient for anyone on the board in my opinion. Winning is the ultimate success but that has to be done without compromising the financial stability of the club. Arsenal is self funding even though there are a few billionairs as shareholders.

    Wenger has been the greatest manager in terms of balanced growth of a football club. He has grown both the sporting excellence & financial excellence in almost equal measure.

  • Col

    Menace – I hear what you say. Unfortunately the prospects of Arsenal winning the PL title or the CL in the foreseeable future are quite low, to put it mildly. My take on it is the board would like to win either in an ideal world, but don’t see realistically competing for either as a high priority. They have an outside chance, but no more. Yes, that means Arsenal is stable and self-funding but the competitiveness of the team is no greater than it was 10 years ago (and arguably is quite a lot worse). Obviously, partly this is down to other clubs throwing money at the problem, which they (quite reasonably) are not prepared to do. The depressing part for me is that I don’t feel Kroenke really cares (unlike, paradoxically, Usmanov), for him it is no more than an investment – so all this stability etc. actually means is that Kroenke’s net worth increases, so if/when he eventually sells he makes more profit.

    I do think Wenger has done a good job as per the remit he has been given – but that is to keep the board happy rather than the fans. Of course, I may be proved completely wrong, Wenger will buy a world-class replacement for RVP this summer and a midfielder or to upgrade on some that are getting long in the tooth – here’s hoping!

  • Menace

    Col – who decides if it is a goal? who decides if it is a foul? Everything in football depends on a balanced set of officials using the current Laws of the Game. Don’t dream of some brilliant set of footballers winning anything when they can be choked & their legs broken. The truth of any success depends on the FA & their PGMOL being replaced by an annually elected set of officials with requisite FIFA qualifications. These will clear one part the other is the random appointment of officials with an assurance that each official will only officiate each team a maximum of twice a season.

  • Magneto

    @ Josif,

    Arsene’s achievements at Arsenal, and in English football in general, cannot be measured purely in terms of silverware.

    Such an approach would be highly inadequate,
    and would be doing Arsene a great disservice, as he is, and has been, way more than just a
    football manager.

    That’s why attempts to compare him to other managers often miss the point…you would not be comparing like with like.