Arsenal FC: Frank Rijkaard Is the Perfect Successor for Arsene Wenger

James DudkoFeatured ColumnistFebruary 8, 2012

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 11:  Coach Frank Rijkaard of Barcelona instructs his players during his last La Liga home match between Barcelona and Mallorca at the Camp Nou Stadium on May 11, 2008 in Barcelona, Spain. Rijkaard, who willl be replaced as head coach at the end of this season by Pep Guardiola, lost his last home match 3-2.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

Reports in the Daily Mirror suggesting that Arsene Wenger is a prime candidate to take over the French national team have only added to the volume of speculation regarding the future of the Gunners boss.

Whether Wenger leaves for pastures new or falls victim to underachievement and fan pressure, Dutchman Frank Rijkaard would be the ideal choice to replace him.

Rijkaard has enjoyed an eventful managerial career and endured mixed fortunes along the way. He is best remembered for his hugely successful spell as manger of FC Barcelona. Rijkaard resurrected the Catalan giants and won 160 matches between 2003 and 2008.

He won two La Liga titles and captured the club's second European Cup by defeating Wenger and Arsenal in Paris in 2006. Rijkaard moulded the nucleus of the powerful Barcelona teams that have dominated World football in recent seasons.

The former Ajax and AC Milan midfield general would be a good fit for Arsenal because he possesses the attributes to maintain some of the core values the Gunners have become known for under Wenger. Rijkaard has always insisted that his teams play a free-flowing, attacking style of football built on quick passing and intelligent movement.

This is the exact template Wenger has used to guide Arsenal to unprecedented success during his tenure. Installing the current coach of Saudi Arabia would ensure that the Gunners retain their stylish approach to how the game should be played.

But Rijkaard's experiences in Italy as a player means he can also offer a structural stability that has been sorely lacking in Wenger's most recent teams.

Rijkaard's Barcelona featured plenty of flair and skill in attacking areas. But they also incorporated resourceful and savvy spoilers like Mark van Bommel and Edmilson who allowed the likes of Deco, Ronaldinho and Ludovic Guily the freedom to express themselves.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 08:  Coach Frank Rijkaard of Barcelona kicks the ball during a Barcelona training prior to tomorrows Champions League Quarter Final match against Schalke on April 8, 2008 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

This blend of technique, creativity and compact discipline perfectly epitomised Rijkaard as a player and has defined his best teams as a manager. It is the kind of balance Arsenal have struggled to achieve, the absence of which has been the chief reason the club has not won a trophy since May, 2005.

Given Arsenal's determination to build through youth during Wenger's reign, the club could be encouraged by Rijkaard's willingness to give youngsters a chance.

It was Rijkaard who promoted Victor Valdes, Andres Iniesta and the great Lionel Messi into the Barcelona first team. These players helped form the spine of the current Barcelona team often regarded as the greatest club side in the history of the game.

There is much to recommend Rijkaard to Arsenal. Granted, ill-fated stints with Sparta Rotterdam and Galatasaray do little to commend him. But at the highest levels of the game, he has proven to be a master team builder and consistent winner.

With Rijkaard in charge, the Gunners will still play attractive, expansive football—and yes, that does matter. They will also still continue to make room for and develop talented young prospects. Hiring Rijkaard would protect and respect the legacy that Wenger will eventually leave behind.