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May 2021

Group 2 of our potential manager list: Dragan Stojkovic, Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp

This is the third in our occasional series about the next manager at Arsenal.  The first two articles were…

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

The task facing the next manager: tactics, referees and candidates review

Now we move on to Group 2 of our potential manager list: Dragan Stojkovic, Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp

By Josif

1.Who would want to come to Arsenal in this toxic atmosphere?

Dragan Stojkovic Piksi has a lot of experience with the toxic atmosphere. He had been a president of Football Association of Serbia and Montenegro for a while.
If you think that’s nothing special, I will remind you that Branko Bulatovic, secretary of the FA, was murdered on the street in 2004 and that the murderer who had shot him in the back of the head twelve years ago hasn’t been found yet.
There was a report in 2008 that Bulatovic was murdered because he had wanted to end the match-fixing practice in Serbia and Montenegro. Zvezdan Terzic’s case for embezzlement and fraud has been going on since 2011. It would have started much earlier if Terzic hadn’t been running away from the justice for a few years.
Apparently, Terzic had benefited from a few transfers his club OFK Beograd made (including Branislav Ivanovic’s sale to Lokomotiv Moskva). Terzic was also accused by other clubs that he had forced young talents to join OFK Beograd or he would block those players from featuring for U21 team. Terzic is now the general director at FK Crvena Zvezda (Red Star).
Oh, did I mention that Stojkovic had a grenade thrown at his house for a non-football incident?
Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry each have a statue in front of the Emirates. One of rare stress-free debates among Arsenal fans is which one of them is the best Arsenal player ever. That should buy them some time before “fans” turn against them if, say, Henry’s spell becomes a Garynevillesque one (“a Garynevillesque spell” involves a former player-turn-pundit who fails to deliver as a manager) or if Bergkamp takes time to find his feet in a new role on the bench.
True, George Graham had been an Arsenal great even before he took over at Arsenal and eventually won two league titles but let’s not forget this is a “Fast and Furious” era where everyone are furious if they don’t get it fast.  Which means, under the criteria of today’s football fans, Graham wouldn’t have been tolerated on the bench for four years without a league title.
And, what is there to say about the captain of The Invincibles that hadn’t been said yet? Maybe that Patrick Vieira was one of only two Arsenal players – the other one was Bergkamp – that had participated in all trophies under Arsene Wenger before we won FA Cup in 2014?
Unlike Dennis and Thierry, Paddy has some managerial experience in Manchester City’s New York City. He knows how to swim in a toxic atmosphere even when he is responsible for it – he made some stupid statements before our double-winning campaign in 2001-02 but eventually became the captain of the best Arsenal team ever.
2.How will the new manager cope with the opening sleeve story that the media will create?
Stojkovic’s English could be a problem as I’m not aware if he is good at it. He would probably be met with a similar questions as Wenger was. Hell, I can even imagine a headline: “Dr(agan) Who?” It’s one thing to work in Japan and China and completely another to work in Great Britain. Maybe he would ask for advice a certain man who rates him highly and has worked in both Japan and England?
Bergkamp, Henry and Vieira would be more prepared to take on with the English journalists. Each one of them had to deal with them and that experience should make them strong enough to go through that challenge unscathed. However, there is one big difference: this time, they would be the first line of defence from the media.
Bergkamp and Vieira could expect digging their red card incidents from the past if we would got a poor disciplinary record. In fact, it’s easy to imagine Jack Wilshere getting a red card for hitting Danny Drinkwater’s studs with his knee and the media bringing out a video of Bergkamp stamping on Sinisa Mihajlovic at World Cup 1998 match between Holland and Yugoslavia, or Vieira’s incident with the same player during Champions League game against Lazio in order to prove that Arsenal are, have been and always will be the dirtiest team ever.
3.What does the new man have to do in his first year at Arsenal?
As I have written while assessing the Group 1 of candidates, our next manager will be expected to win the league in his first season.
That means a lot of pressure on a manager without a managerial experience in the top club, especially in the competition of Klopp, who will have his system established at Liverpool by that time; Mourinho, who is likely to have Manchester United’s hundreds of millions on his disposal; Guardiola, who will have Manchester City’s owners’ billions on his disposal, and Antonio Conte, who is likely to have Abramovich’s wallet for shopping and that’s one really big wallet.

4.Will the new man be subjected to the last match being everything analysis?

That’s where Stojkovic’s appointment would be a problem. Can you imagine what would happen if his first match ends as a goal-less draw? Or a defeat based on his naive perception of the English refereeing as the honest one? He would be crucified before you could say “Piers Morgan”. Headlines like “Dragan Who becomes Arsene Two”, “Stallkovic won’t make any progress with Arsenal” etc etc would pop out after every poor result.

Each one of Henry, Bergkamp and Vieira, however, would probably have a grace period at the beginning but not beyond second half of September. Arsenal Football Club would be criticized for failing to sign any of Jürgen Klopp, Carlo Ancelotti, Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho or, hell, all four of them at once when they had been available. Yes, it would be Wenger’s fault at start.

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?

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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.

All four were great players and that is a bit of advantage they would have over any player under their command.
It’s been easier for Zinedine Zidane to stamp his authority on, say, Cristiano Ronaldo than it had been for Rafa Benitez. There was a story how  Johann Cruyff once settled a dispute between Romario and Hristo Stoitchkov about who was the boss in Barcelona by beating them in the cross-bar challenge. Romario and Stoitchkov were both difficult characters and world-class players but Cruyff managed to deal with them.
Can you imagine a single player out there questioning, say, Bergkamp’s or Stojkovic’s technique? (Most of Arsenal fans know about Bergkamp’s technique but take a look at this Stojkovic’s goal as a player or this one from the dugout (that eventually earned him a red card!) and you will understand why Arsene Wenger said he would like to see Stojkovic as his heir.)
Players like Alexis Sánchez, Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck would benefit a lot from watching Henry’s shooting skills, his composure and finishing that was second to none. Perhaps we wouldn’t have to spend big for a world-class striker if Henry gives some tips to Danny on how to enrich his strength, dribbling and pace with finishing and composure.
Robin van Persie once told a story about how Bergkamp’s approach to training turned him from a Robin van Persie-promising-yet-problematic-player to a Robin van Persie-world-class-player. What would Vieira’s tactical and positional advices do for Aaron Ramsey and Mohammed Elneny, players with endless stamina? Would Jack Wilshere and Francis Coquelin become the complete midfielders after working with Vieira? (And I haven’t mentioned Bielik, Zelalem, Crowley…)
Stojkovic could also help us to solve the problems in our central defence. Branislav Ivanovic and Nemanja Vidic are both Serbs who had made their first steps in Serbian/Yugoslav league.
Matija Nastasic (Serbian) and Stefan Savic (Montenegrin) had played for Manchester City and now play for Schalke and Atletico Madrid respectively. Perhaps some talented Serbian central defender (Serbia are the reigning world champions in U20 category) would pick Arsenal as his next destination due to Stojkovic’s appeal.
Stojkovic is The Star of Red Star (Zvezdina zvezda), a member of exclusive club that has one former Arsenal player in it (Vladimir Petrovic aka Pizon aka The Pidgeon), which means talented players from Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) would love to work with him.
I reckon it would be interesting what Henry would do. Would he be allowed by The Board to put the money where his mouth were in 2015? Remember, he said Arsenal would need a world-class goalkeeper, a world-class central defender, a world-class defensive midfielder and a world-class striker to win the league.

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.


16 comments to Group 2 of our potential manager list: Dragan Stojkovic, Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp

  • Polo

    Well done Josif, excellent article.

  • The way Arsene Wenger is acting at the minute giving the the players friday & then monday off l think he either knows next season will be his last or he has given up all hope already.
    l mean when he first came to Arsenal we all thought he was the best thing since sliced bread,but now most of the supporters & even the players are losing heart with Le Prof, unless he guts that team and does the unthinkable & spends millions on rebuilding the club we are going to end up no where!!!!!!

  • The way Arsene Wenger is acting at the minute giving the the players friday & then monday off l think he either knows next season will be his last or he has given up all hope already.
    l mean when he first came to Arsenal we all thought he was the best thing since sliced bread,but now most of the supporters & even the players are losing heart with Le Prof, unless he guts that team and does the unthinkable & spends millions on rebuilding the club we are going to end up no where!!!!!!

  • walter

    He maybe is trying to do a Leicester? The seem to train one day less than the rest and are the fittest team of them all…

  • walter

    Excellent article Josif.

  • Dazza64


    Without the knowing the training plan speculating on the merits of giivng the players Friday & Monday off is irrelevant, regardless of manager and league position.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    One thing is certain, the Boss will not on his own accord leave Arsenal after this current season has ended. Moreso if Arsenal qualify for next season Ucl.

    Qualiying for the Ucl has always been the gimmick the Boss has been employing as a tactics to remain at Arsenal for the last 12 BPL & Ucl titlesless years.

    Arsenal won 2 back to back FA Cup in the last 2 seasons. But we are soon back to square 1 again this season to where we were before those 2 FA Cup wins.

    Does the Boss carry along the opinions of his constituency which are the Arsenal fans in his decision making on new players recruitment for Arsenal? I’ve not yet seen him do this.

    Has Steve Bould offended anybody so as not to be given the Arsenal manager when the Boss finally called it a day? The Boss won’t leave at the end of this season to make the appoimtment of Steve Bould happens. Bould is not a potential manager like some who h’ve been mentioned for the Job but a proven assistant manager. Manuel Pelegrini w’ll soon be available.

  • Rich

    Good stuff again, Josif

    I’ve enjoyed this series of yours. Tallies with my thoughts that there simply isn’t a compelling case that someone else is likely to do better at the present time. They may do, they might do, it’s possible…but that’s not the same case as they almost certainly will, or they are guaranteed to do so.

    That Stojkovic goal was a big favourite of mine from my Goals of Italia 90 tape I watched hundreds of times as a kid (nothing could beat Baggio’s for me, though!)

    Special world cup for me, my first one. Even went and bought the proper replica match ball for 40 quid ( bout half a year’s pocket money) Well worth it.

    In my mind, the greatest football ever made.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Great read. Dragan S an interesting character, and comes recommended by Wenger himself, and sounds like he is not without his merits.
    Just cannot see Paddy or Thierry but stranger things have happened.
    As for leaders, we have two who stand out, our captains, one always injured, and sadly, seems like he will depart….personally, wish Wenger would find a role for him. The other Per, cannot get a game, though with our nervous defence, maybe it is time to bring him back for the remaining games and let Gabriel continue his development at some other time?
    Who replaces Wenger is an intriguing issue. I hope he takes another three year contract,but not because he is Mr moneyball Beanes hero, not because Stan worships him, not because the board are scared to let him go, not because of his glorious past and trophies recently, not because Untolders rate him, but because he will have genuinely earned the right. Judging by this season, he needs to do a bit more next season, no point having Stans backing if the crowd have turned.
    If we don’t finish strongly, have a good summer….whatever that means and show further improvement in the tough league next season, I fear the debate over the new man may be about something very imminent this time next year.
    But Dragan….definitely an interesting one!

  • Pat

    Hi Josif.

    Did you mean it when you said Arsene Wenger said he would like to see Stojkovic as his heir? If so, when did he say it, and in what context?

  • Menace

    Good article Josif. You have not considered half the world that is available. Think about it.

    Innovation is an amazing equaliser.

  • para

    In reality all we can wish for is that when Arsenal appoint our next manager/coach, whoever he is, that he has the ability to take the team forward. That’s it really.

    We may be shocked at the appointment, we may be pleased at it or it may just leave us cold.

    I for one could not say who i could imagine being our next manager, (getting some strange strange thoughts though) but it appears we still have another season before that happens.

  • Gooner S

    @Para Exactly my thoughts.

    @Josif I’ve enjoyed each one of your posts

  • Col

    “As I have written while assessing the Group 1 of candidates, our next manager will be expected to win the league in his first season.”

    Nonsense. Whilst I agree that expectations are unreasonably high amongst some supporters, the level flak Wenger gets is because Arsenal haven’t won the league for more than a decade (not just 1 year), and don’t look anywhere near doing so in the near future. If people see progress instead of what looks to many like stagnation the new manager will get given the benefit of the doubt, at least for a while, just as Klopp and Pochettino have been. I don’t think the vast majority of Arsenal supporters (pro or anti Wenger) have anything like the sense of entitlement that Man U’s have for example – but don’t forget they arrived at this disturbed psychological state after dominating the league for 20 years under SAF, something Arsenal have never done.

    I think Wenger has been badly let down by a number of his senior players after putting a lot of faith in them, so expect quite a lot of ‘cesc-on-mourinho’ type contrition if Wenger is forced out. Personally, I would like to see Wenger see out his contract, and go out and buy a valedictory striker in the summer who really is Arsenal class (like RVP for MU), and give the title one last real go. I can’t see him wanting to stay beyond next season under any circumstances, given his age.

  • Pat

    It’s ok, Josif, I found the reference to Dragan Stojkovic via Google. It seems to stem from a Serbian publication of 2011. Arsene Wenger said he had the same football philosophy as he has and other complimentary things.

  • Polo

    If fans begin to accept park the bus football and don’t mind watching it then I thought of an idea where a team might never lose and win the games here and there. Put 4 large sumo’s with a minimum waist size of 1.7 metres and height of at least 2 metres and make them stand on the goal line with 1 goal keeper collecting and ball that doesn’t pass the sumo’s, the defense will be impenetrable. Put 3 roaming midfielders to create goal opportunity and 3 strikers to score goals (2 speedsters for counter and 1 tall one for aerials).