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June 2021

All hail Arsenal’s next manager.

By Tony Attwood

Back at the start of this season a few of us involved in Untold Arsenal raised eyebrows at one particular transfer:  Mario Balotelli to Nice.  And this for two reasons.

One was because Balotelli had had such a troubled time at Liverpool, after having been such a quality forward (not to say penalty taker) in the past.   The other was because our correspondent Chris Merkel, who feeds a huge amount of information to Untold about football in Switzerland, France and Germany, happens to know the Nice manager Lucien Favre.

Now Chris, who lives in Switzerland, has said to us that Lucien Favre is the closest thing to Arsene Wenger that he can think of.   Lucien is 59 years old and played for Servette (among other teams) and was described (at least in an internal Untold memo, if nowhere else) as the “Swiss Maradonna”.   Favre also managed Servette, as well as with FC Zurich.  He has also worked with Hertha Berlin and Borussia Mönchengladbach.   His Wiki entry calls him a “smart tactician and perfectionist” which might remind you of someone.

As our man in that part of Europe says, “He’s got that extra thing for making boys into men, and turning men back into kids who enjoy their football.  He can be tough, yet he can be very flexible without reneging on his beliefs.  And if you knew how he went about scouting for talent early in his career…”

Well we got some insights on Untold from Arsenal scout Danny Karbassiyoon in the articles he kindly wrote for us, so we’ve got some idea.

Our assessment within Untold is that Lucien Favre would be the perfect replacement for Arsene Wenger were it not for one thing.   As our man put it “the problem is the damn toxic attitude we face all over the media.”  And this from a football supporter in Switzerland listening to commentators in his own country, in Germany and in France, not in England.

But we still think this is the man – if Arsenal are acting now.  If Mr Wenger stays for two more years then maybe not, we’ll have to see where Lucien has got to by then.

For the moment of course he is focused on Nice who are third in the French League.

# Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 34 26 5 3 95 29 +66 83
2 35 25 5 5 72 26 +46 80
3   35 22 11 2 59 29 +30 77
4 34 18 3 13 68 42 +26 57
5 35 15 11 9 49 39 +10 56


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Not surprisingly others have noticed as well.  Get French Football News ran quite a piece on Nice and their manager a while back, and Arsenal very obviously have a contact with the club – David Ospina came from there in 2014.  And Squwaka ran the headline “Lucien Favre should replace Arsene Wenger at Arsenal this summer” in January.

Nice have not been without problems this season despite doing very well on the pitch for such a small club.  A year ago the top scorers, Hatem Ben Arfa and Valère Germain, along with the club captain Nampalys Mendy and the coach, all left the club.

Then both Wylan Cyprien and Alassane Pléa (who at the time was the leading scorer) suffered season ending injuries and Paul Baysse, Ricardo Pereira, Valentin Eysseric, Younès Belhanda and Mario Balotelli have all been out injured.  Which means that when the media finally pick up on the issue of Lucien Favre possibly coming to Arsenal that is what they will focus on, while going back to all their wild stories about Arsenal’s injury level.  I just thought I should warn you.

GFFN commented that “Nice’s form seems a minor miracle.   Much of the credit has to go to Lucien Favre, who has used an ingenious variety of tactics to manage these absences. The team started the season playing a 4-3-3 before moving to three at the back. More recently, in the absence of Cyprien, they have moved to a 4-2-3-1. Pereira, brought in as a right-back, has been used as an orthodox winger, which has allowed Seri to push further forwards. A defensive midfielder upon his arrival, the Ivorian has been a revelation this season in a more attacking role, with 10 assists and six goals.”

Exactly the sort of flexibility that some commentators perceive Mr Wenger not to have (wrongly perceive I think, but we’ll let that go for now).

So how is it being done?  In two ways.  One is that the club is financed by Chinese backers, which might make you wonder about whether in writing favourably about Lucien Favre we have abandoned our long running support for a vigorous FFP implementation across Europe.

Certainly Chinese money has helped attract and pay the salaries of Balotelli, Dante and Belhanda.  But now think back to Vieira to Arsenal for £3.5m.   Or remember Clichy plucked out of the French third division. Nice paid a total of under €6m for Seri, Le Marchand, Pléa, Souquet, Baysse and Dalbert all together.  Not each.  In total.  That is how it is done.

So such a manager might not be the person to satisfy those who start getting very excited at multiple zeros being added to transfer fees discussed by Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea.

But Nice also has a director of scouting, Serge Recordier, who specialises in the old Wengerian approach, and indeed the club has built a new youth academy centre in recent years.  It certainly sounds viable to me.

Local football teaches us all that the sun will come up again

What changes do we really need at Arsenal?

Gordon Bremner: a tremendous talent whose career was lost to the war

Does Arsenal have owners who care about the club? And if not, why do they so dislike our last great benefactor?


14 comments to All hail Arsenal’s next manager.

  • gouresh

    Are you actually advocating the change in the manager? Need to check if the sun rose from the West this morning. ?? Anyway, does anyone know why my comments are not registered when typing from a computer? I can only use the phone and its a real pain in the bumb.

  • Leon

    Have you accepted the inevitable and started looking for realistic Wenger replacements?
    This fella (although a little left field, like Arsene was) looks a very good fit.
    Whoever is in position next season has a massive task to get even a decent PL squad together.

  • ClockEndRider

    Very interesting piece indeed, not least that the external perception of our treatment in the British media chimes in so closely with so many of our own views. Many thanks Tony.

  • Hunter13

    can we stop this nonsense with new managers and the likes?

    all we need is one thing…sorry two

    a playmaker and some ruthless fixer to sort out media and refs.

    i dont need to explain that if wenger an dplayers are left on their own to do their job they will triump. everyone knows that. even our enemies. and what do they do? they foul us and ignore our complaints and they assault us in media unfairly. Then we demand from team and manager to be supermen…any manager/players.

    so NO. away with your manager talk…. bring figures at backscene level who will ensure arsenal does not get fucked with on /off pitch.

    bring someone like kenyon for example ..or even dein …see if the refs troll us like theyve done with xhaka when they know theyll be officiating in siberian league next…. grab a few journos from the neck….change the hateful agenda

  • Polo

    Reme Garde summed it up perfectly in an interview.

    ‘Garde went back to his former hunting ground to watch an Arsenal match and reflected on the difficult situation around his old boss, Wenger. “He is an unbelievable guy. It is difficult for me to imagine the end. I don’t know when that will be. I can say only he inspired me, the way I manage, the way I behave in life as well. I am sad to read the criticism of him and the bad words, because he committed the last 20 years to the club he loves so much.”

    ‘The vast majority of critics will never quite understand the life of a manager. “It’s a job that if you have not experienced it, it is very hard to understand. The problems are coming from different angles, coming everywhere. But it is because it is difficult that we love to do it. When you win a game, when you win a trophy, when you see young players come to the first team that you might have given a little bit of help to, it’s a very good feeling. You are always suffering for these short periods of happiness.”

  • Tony Attwood

    My piece this morning was basically written from the perspective that I believe that Mr Wenger will cease to be manager either this summer or in two years time. Not that I advocate change.

  • Mandy Dodd

    is it possible Wenger is for some reason the refs treat us as they do…..cannot think why, but i do sometimes wonder if we would get it better under another manager, or not as the case may be. But, I wish the club would do more about the refs

    Looking up Favre/Nice, came across this, in the spirit of putting 2 and 2 together and getting 15
    None of us has any idea what will happen with Wenger in the near future, if he really is going, dont think the media would get even a sniff of it. If he is staying, i cannot for the life of me think why they havent announced unless some level of cowardice unbecoming of Arsenal FC is involved. Or maybe, they just dont know, which means by definition nobody else does either. I personally fear he may be going, but whatever and whenever, Favre looks an interesting manager….would be very Arsenal to use smoke and mirrors and rumours to defect from a preferred candidate.

  • Pat

    Dangerous article, Tony. An invitation to the Wenger out brigade. Luckily the faithful waded in thereafter.

  • Zuruvi

    The problem is not Wenger’s coaching ability. The problem is the quality of players we have in the squad.

    Wenger (or whoever comes in after him if he leaves) will have to buy at least 4 quality players to improve the defense, the midfield and the central striker positions (and possibly a winger too).
    Arsenal needs to get rid of at least 5 of the squad members (maybe even 8 players who are NOT good enough for a top, top club like the Gunners).

  • Zuruvi

    Wenger is a top manager. I think he still can bring Arsenal back to the very top if he stays.
    Just a few big talent players added to the squad and Wenger will once again prove he is the best manager in the Premiership.

  • ClockEndRider

    Zuruvi, I have to disagree. With the exception of Walcott who is clearly an athlete trapped in a footballers life, the squad is one of the strongest we’ve had in a long long time. Nearly all internationals and key players for their countries at that. The problem is that they’re not playing for the manager, for whatever reason.

  • Mandy Dodd

    I think the players are decent, but unsettled by the managers situation….and in one or two cases, perhaps their own contracts.
    Added to the fact we have not had our best player, and technical leader since Oct…..causing huge problems in MF.
    I still fear Wenger is going, if he was staying , hasn’t it been announced, which would have stopped this instability?

  • Zuruvi

    Thanks Mandy and Clockend for response to my post.

    Being an international doesn’t in itself mean you are a good enough player for Arsenal.
    Welbeck and Walcott are internationals but many people think they are good players and not great players.
    Bellerin is NOT an international but he is a very good defender.

    I think the real judgement of whether our squad is good enough is:
    (1). How many of the current squad can fit in the Invincibles team?
    (2). How many of the current squad can command a place in the Spuds team? It hurts to even ask or admit that Spuds have better players us. It hurts real bad.

    I will mention players who are not good enough for Arsenal but are in our squad: Gabriel, Gibbs, carl Jenkinson, Welbeck, Sanogo, Lucas Perez, Debuchy, Ospina, Elneny, Walcott, Ramsey.

    I think many will agree with the above list of 11 players. Some might argue that 2 or 3 of the above are good players.

    In fact, I think all 11 are good players but they are JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH to take Arsenal back to the top.
    Some may even add Giroud and Cech to the above list of good but not great players.

    Mandy, I don’t think the players have stopped playing for Wenger. Wenger has NOT lost the dressing-room. The players are doing their best. Their best is just not good enough.
    Wenger is a very good manager but he has a squad filled with too many average players.

  • Sammy The Snake

    Tony, Do you know something we don’t?!