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Meet the Runners and Riders in the race to replace Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger

It’s coming to the time of the season when Arsene Wenger must make the decision on his contract renewal. At any other club, the Frenchman’s future would be out of his hands but this is Arsenal and this is Wenger.

The board of directors – and more importantly, majority shareholder Stan Kroenke – are content with the annual top four finish and financial conservatism that the Frenchman brings. With the umbrella of attractive football protecting him, the majority of supporters are content, or not so unhappy that they want change.

There is an air of ambivalence at times around the Emirates which is the opposite of the febrile atmosphere of the club’s fanbase on social media.

Change is inevitable though. There’s only so long that the Wenger era can continue and the club is faced with the prospect of a seismic change in its operation.

Manchester United made the mistake of appointing David Moyes, a ‘Sir Alex Ferguson lite’ if ever there was one when their legendary manager finally called it a day. Arsenal would do well to heed those lessons.

It seems they are unlikely to. The financial plan which underpins the club isn’t going to change. Kroenke isn’t going to invest directly in the club and he’s unlikely to sell. Increasing the value of his shareholding is pivotal to his vision of Arsenal and at times, that is a direct contradiction of the supporters’ desire for Premier League and Champions League success.

If Wenger decides to end his tenure at the Emirates, who will replace him? We look at the main candidates.

The rank outsider: Steve Bould

The only internal candidate, Bould is as close to an Arsenal man as there is on the coaching staff. A title winner as a player under George Graham and Arsene Wenger, Bould sits patiently on the touchline, conducting his work on the training ground.

He is seen by some as a throwback and without any managerial experience, there is a huge risk involved in his appointment. Is that overcome by his apprenticeship under Wenger?

There is certainly a continuity element in appointing him and few can argue that he knows the club inside out. But is that enough to motivate the calibre of player that Arsenal need to attract and retain if they are to win the Premier League or in Europe?

The reality is no. Bould is the outsider in this race. Not entirely ruled out but his appointment would be the equivalent of Leicester City winning the Premier League title!

The Klopp effect: Thomas Tuchel

Managing Dortmund brings a romantic touch with it. Jürgen Klopp, for so long the favoured successor in the fanbase, has blotted his copybook by joining Liverpool but his successor, Thomas Tuchel, is rated as highly.

Working within budgetary constraints at Mainz is a sound footing for Arsenal, while his time at Dortmund underlines his adherence to the footballing principles Wenger has instilled at Arsenal.

Astute moves in the transfer market are part of the collaborative approach at Dortmund and overhauling Arsenal in that direction works with the likes of Tuchel, who see it as the ‘norm’ rather than an alien concept.

Runners-up last year and fourth again this, he understands the financial and supporter demands of Champions League football. Major minus is the lack of silverware but he’s a popular choice.

The media’s choice: Eddie Howe

The Bournemouth boss’ CV is based on the relative success of keeping Bournemouth and their style of play. Popular with the media because of his willingness to talk football and being English, Howe has no big club experience.

This, as well as never managing or playing in European football, undermines him at this stage of his career. Perhaps he could be an Arsenal boss in the future, if he hasn’t ruined his reputation by taking on the England job!

Europe’s bright young thing: Unai Emery

The Spaniard’s star is on the wane. PSG routinely ran away with the French title but are struggling in the post-Zlatan era. It underlines how much of an influence he was on PSG and how much they relied on his goals.

However, three Europa League triumphs with Sevilla and taking perpetual crisis-riven club Valencia into the Champions League, were phenomenal achievements. More importantly, his sides played with a high-tempo which suits English football.

Anyone who can get Valencia into the top four with their lack of funds and work with Sevilla in their business model, can work at Arsenal. Perhaps he could bring Monchi, the Andalusian club’s feted director of football, with him?

The man to keep Alexis at Arsenal: Jorge Sampaoli

Copa America winner, Sevilla in second place in La Liga, Sampaoli could keep Alexis at Arsenal through their past association.

A renowned tactician, the Argentine is a keen student of the game and is noted for probing the weakness of opponents. This is a regular complaint about Wenger, whose sides are, it’s claimed, routinely frustrated by well-organised opposition.

Recently crowned La Liga Manager of the Month in only his second month in the job, Sampaoli won three titles in Chile and the Copa Sudamericana so has silverware to bolster his reputation but his unfancied adopted country to the final and winning ranks as one of the best achievements of his career.

The one everyone wants to appoint: Diego Simeone

Maniacal on the touchline, a bundle of energy, the Argentine is the popular choice.

Many see the parallels between Arsenal and Atletico as a reason to hire Simeone. Taking Atleti to two Champions League finals underlines his credentials, as well as a solid defensive unit which underpins their regular top four finishes. A return to the days of “one-nil to the Arsenal” won’t be far away.

He’s won the Europa League and European Super Cup, as well as the Copa del Rey and of course, La Liga.

The fly in the ointment? Both Simeone and his son Giovanni, a pro at Genoa, have made recent noises that his next move would be to Serie A. Which is handy because it looks like the Juventus job is going to be available at the end of the season…

The more successful successor: Max Allegri

Can the English-speaking Allegri be the next Arsenal manager?

Speculation at the weekend says it’s very likely he will leave the perennial Italian champions at the end of the season. Looking around, Arsenal are the only club of a similar stature which offers a reasonable prospect of success.

His credentials are impeccable: the Scudetto with Milan and two with Juventus, top three finishes in each of his full seasons in the San Siro, as well as two Coppa Italia and Supercoppa wins.

He routinely takes his sides to the Round of Sixteen and beyond in the Champions League and has a CV which would impress Alexis and Mesut Ozil, Arsenal’s current contract rebels.

Would appease both the pro- and anti- Wenger camps.

Coming in from the left field: Luis Enrique

He’s won everything there is as a manager at home and abroad, but finishing outside of the top two in Spain’s two-horse race might be a signal that his time at the Camp Nou is up.

There’s been plenty of media speculation that he will be on his way following a harder than expected run during their double-winning 2015/16. In the Catalan capital, a failure to retain the Champions League cut deeper as bitter rivals Real Madrid claimed the prize.

At its’ heart, Enrique’s brand of football isn’t much different from Wenger’s which will keep the Arsenal faithful happy. If he can work through the political mire at Barcelona, keeping a split fanbase in check is child’s play.

 

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