ARSENAL MUST LEARN FROM MANAGER MISTAKES
Arsenal Must Learn From Manager Mistakes of Manchester United and Liverpool, They Must Be Bold
Arsenal have probably forgotten what it’s like to appoint a manager. Arsene Wenger’s tenure is coming to an end soon, though, which will force the club to make a decision they have not had to in this millennium. The humiliation suffered at the hands of Bayern Munich only adds to the uncertainty over Wenger’s future as the Gunners’ fan base becomes increasingly irate with the Frenchman. Protests inside and outside the ground make for a sorry, inevitable climax to the career of a man who has changed European football.
It is best for Arsenal that Wenger announces his departure as soon as possible. It will calm the fans and allow for a club icon to have a proper, deserved send-off. The toxic atmosphere around the Emirates at the moment is only making Arsenal’s on-pitch challenges harder, if they are to make it into the top four of the Premier League this season a resolution on Wenger’s future must come in the next week or two.
The lack of managerial appointment experience at Arsenal will make the great changeover treacherous. Unlike many of their Premier League rivals, a change in the dugout is an alien concept to the 2015 FA Cup winners.
They could opt to follow in the footsteps of their bitter rivals Manchester United and hand the recruitment reigns over to Wenger just as United did with Alex Ferguson. Why anyone ever thought this would make sense is bizarre, but it is bound to cross the mind of some at Arsenal. Being good at said job does not mean you are suitable to pick your successor, Arsenal would hopefully not be so foolish.
The reasons for David Moyes’ downfall at Manchester United were varied, but his appointment serves as a stark warning for Arsenal. Although the Gunners are, oddly, in a stronger position than Manchester United were when Moyes was appointed, Arsenal should be wary. Moyes was the safe, almost suspiciously obvious, option for the Manchester United job. Every arrow pointed to him – or so we were told after his appointment – and Ferguson had wanted to see elements of his younger self in the then Everton manager. A desire to bring in a British manager, another Scot even, blurred the pragmatic decision making at Manchester United.
Moyes was never going to imprint his ideas on Manchester United; he was meant to be able to hold the fort temporarily, though. At the time, Manchester United needed a manager self-assured enough to step out of Ferguson’s shadow and revamp an ageing, below par squad. Arsenal do not need such revolution, but they need a manager with enough of an identity and personality to make the role his own post-Wenger.
What do Arsenal want in their successor?
The candidates for the job are widespread and change on an almost weekly basis. Eddie Howe was a frontrunner until Bournemouth’s poor start to 2017, Max Allegri continues to drop hints, while several others are mentioned on a frequent basis. A lot depends on where the Arsenal board see the club going under this manager; do they feel the club needs a complete revamp? Do they want a win-at-all-costs boss to win major silverware immediately? Or are they looking for someone to continue Wenger’s work, treading water in the short-term but building for a long stint at the club?
Arsenal’s attacking, flowing football has been a saving grace throughout Wenger’s final years in the post. The fans and board alike may have to sacrifice some of that if they want a result-driven leader such as Diego Simeone or Allegri.
Given the current competitiveness at the top of the Premier League, however, no manager will guarantee even a top four finish. Arsenal have missed that boat, the open door for a title was in the last couple of seasons, not now with Conte’s Chelsea, Mourinho’s Manchester United, Pochettino’s Spurs and Guardiola’s Manchester City going from strength to strength.
Simeone, should he leave Atletico Madrid, is likely to go to Inter, however, and Allegri leaving Juventus at this juncture is improbable. Ronald Koeman remains in the discussion, but Dutchman is embarking on a project at Everton with significant financial backing and without the pressure that succeeding Wenger would bring.
Style over Substance?
A younger, less experienced manager is the most likely solution for the Gunners, despite the fact that another dynasty like Wenger has built is almost impossible in modern football. Managers are not interested in staying put for a long period and clubs seldom have the patience to ride out the inevitable tough times, but a fresh, inventive manager could drive this Arsenal squad to the next level.
Thomas Tuchel would fit the bill. The German is yet to lift a trophy in his young managerial career, but has brought through some of the world’s best young players and played some wonderful attacking football during his time with Borussia Dortmund. Tuchel is not the man to stiffen Arsenal’s defence or introduce a pragmatic brand of football, he will be as frustrating as Wenger at times, in fact. His team will entertain – as the current Arsenal side often do – and they will play with an intensity that has become too rare at the Emirates.
There are several other managers around Europe who should be considered by Arsenal. While Tuchel can be naïve at times, he represents the type of manager who would make most sense and could balance the desire for attacking football with ingenuity. Monaco’s Leonardo Jardim and Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsmann fit that bracket, too. There is a feeling that this job comes a couple of years too early for the 29-year-old Nagelsmann, though, while Jardim’s Monaco future will likely depend on how many of their starting line-up they are able to retain this summer.
Short of the Elite
The message from the club to justify the barren years was that they would be competing with Real Madrid, Bayern and Barcelona once the financial strain of the stadium move had waned. If this was anything more than an attempt to deflect pressure, Wenger’s successor will be under scrutiny from the start. Arsenal are currently a consistent domestic side, but the Gunners are nowhere to be seen on the European stage, any new manager has a long way to go to reach that vision.
Whether it is the end of this season, next summer or in a couple of years, Arsenal have one of the biggest decisions in their club’s history to make. The path to selecting Wenger’s successor must be perfect, it must centre around the man who can take the club forwards not the closest to a Wenger clone. Liverpool’s post-Benitez slump began with a safety-first managerial appointment and Manchester United set themselves back with an all too simple choice, the Gunners must learn from those mistakes.
Arsenal’s future is bright on and off the pitch, but they must be willing to risk short-term stability for greater club success. Any manager will require time and financial backing (something that should be of little struggle to the club with the seventh largest revenue in Europe) to compete at the pinnacle of English and European football, Arsenal must decide what they value most of all in their uncertain post-Wenger future. Was the consistency of Wenger what they really wanted? Or are the board, like many of the fans, desperate for the club to show some progress towards Premier League and Champions League glory?
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