Imagining Arsenal Life After Arsene Wenger
It is difficult for Arsenal supporters to imagine their club without Arsene Wenger. There is now an entire generation of fans who have no memory of a time before Arsene's Arsenal.
However, the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson is a stark reminder that all good things come to an end. Perhaps Arsene Wenger and Arsenal's inevitable separation is not too far away.
Wenger's longevity and consistency warrant worldwide admiration, yet there are those among the Arsenal fans who feel he may have served his purpose. Arsenal have not won a major trophy for eight years, and there is a growing fear that a new man is required to break the losing habit.
Wenger's contract expires in the summer of 2014, and although the Daily Mail report that Ivan Gazidis has suggested the club will try to retain him there are lingering rumours—such as this story from The Telegraph—about Wenger hopping over the channel to take charge of PSG.
Should he do so, Arsenal would suddenly face their most radical overhaul in almost two decades.
The first task facing the Arsenal board would be to identify a replacement. Sir Alex Ferguson himself named David Moyes as his preferred successor, and perhaps Wenger would be afforded the same luxury.
It's possible that Wenger would nominate Remi Garde. Utility player Garde was one of two signings Wenger instructed Arsenal to make prior to his arrival as manager in 1996. Garde was unveiled at Highbury on the same day as one Patrick Vieira.
Upon retiring, Garde built up a career as an esteemed pundit in France before eventually assuming control of first-team matters at Lyon in June 2011. Last season, he overcame financial difficulties to lead the French team to a creditable third-place finish.
However, Garde is still lacking in experience. By the summer of 2014, he will only have spent three full seasons as a manager. Perhaps Wenger will be forced to look outside his native France to nominate a successor.
Wenger is originally from Strasbourg, which is close to the dividing line between France and Germany. Wenger grew up admiring the great Bayern Munich sides, so perhaps the man to replace him could be found over the border.
Arsenal have been linked with moves for Dortmund's Jurgen Klopp by The Evening Standard and the German national team manager Joachim Low by The Sunday Times. Both men combine youthful and experience. They're also two of Europe's most highly regarded coaches.
Klopp may be out of Arsenal's reach by 2014, especially if he enjoys another successful Champions League campaign. Low, however, could be a realistic target.
Low would be attracted by Arsenal's reputation for stylish football and phenomenal facilities. He would also immediately take charge of two stalwarts of his German international squad in Lukas Podolski and Per Mertesacker.
There would inevitably be changes, both on and off the pitch. The likes of Steve Bould and Neil Banfield would probably be dismissed from their posts as first-team coach and assistant manager respectively. Low would want to bring in his own trusted aides.
Former Gunner Jens Lehmann, who has expressed an interest in a full-time coaching career according to John Edwards of the Daily Mail, could be a candidate to serve as Low's assistant. Lehmann's intimate knowledge of Arsenal's infrastructure and traditions would smooth out Low's adaptation period.
As Low is known for his focus on pure coaching, he might decide to appoint a Director of Football to function as the link between he and the board. Oliver Bierhoff, the General Manager of the German national team, would be an obvious choice.
Low's Arsenal team would probably abandon Wenger's possession-focused style and seek to replicate the lightning counterattacks of the German international side. To facilitate that tactical switch, Low might take advantage of Arsenal's renewed financial power to tempt the likes of Marco Reus—a player first linked with the club by the Daily Mail back in 2011—to swap the Bundesliga for the Barclays Premier League.
Per Mertesacker would replace Thomas Vermaelen as captain and form the focal point of an increasing German core in the squad. The experienced professionals would be joined in the first team by the emerging pair of Serge Gnabry and Thomas Eisfeld.
Arsene's francophone Arsenal could become Low's German Gunners overnight.
At this stage, it's merely a fantasy. However, if Arsenal fail to tie Arsene Wenger to a new deal it could swiftly become a reality.
The Wenger age is approaching an end, and a new era beckons.
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