Arsene Wenger: Who Could Replace Him at Arsenal?
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Talk about the future of Arsene Wenger is ripe throughout the football community. Whether it is on an Arsenal fan forum, a reputable media outlet or even a conversation amongst friends, popular opinion seems divided on whether the Gunners should stick with the Frenchman.
Too many people say that Wenger seems frozen to past glory; a stubborn man struggling to come to terms with the fact that the team he has spent years building is falling just short of their ambitions. Arsenal is a big team and big teams demand titles. No title in five years is not good enough.
It seems natural that people are starting to question Arsene's position as Arsenal manager, but, if he was to leave, who would replace him? Despite Arsenal's shortcomings, he is clearly well respected by all of his players and it is this respect that has created the harmonious atmosphere in the Arsenal dressing room. Without harmony, Arsenal would not play the eye-catching football that they have become famous for. A new manager would certainly disrupt the balance of proceedings at the Emirates.
Despite this, one has to ask, how much longer can the trophy drought continue? Wenger has led his club to several finals since their last F.A cup, but the runners-up position is not good enough for even the most fervent members of the Arsenal faithful.
This is a short list of managers I believe could be realistic targets for the Gunners this summer. I have chosen managers who I believe have a similar tactical approach to Wenger and are either unemployed or international managers who could be tempted to return to the domestic game.
I know this list may be contentious and I am looking forward to hearing what you all have to say on the matter.
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It is doubtful that these guys will even get a look in, but in the light of what they have achieved at smaller clubs, would they be worth the gamble?
Tipped by many to be Fergie's successor at United, the Scot has gained the respect of pundits and fans alike during his nine years at Everton. Moyes is a three-time LMA manager of the year and has led the Toffees to Champions League competition with precious little funds. His failure at the European level, lack of experience with world class talent and lack of silverware during his tenure may rule him out of contention.
Even tipping Bruce to be the next Arsenal manager is likely to infuriate Gunners fans, given that he is a Manchester United legend. His credentials, however, cannot be overlooked. He is a shrewd buyer in the transfer market, whether he has financial backing or not and has achieved impressive league results at clubs with small reputations. The fact that he manages Sunderland, despite being a Newcastle fan, suggests he would be up for the challenge should it present itself.
At every club he has been with, he has brought success, most recently guiding Villa to a series of respectable league positions. Despite this, however, the Northern Irishman is known to be difficult to get along with and may be out of his depth at the Emirates.
Marco Van Basten
He is one of the finest strikers that the world has ever seen and a well-respected, if inexperienced club manager. He has achieved no major honours as a manager, but did guide Holland to World Cup qualification in 2006 unbeaten. It seems unlikely the Dutchman will succeed Wenger, as it has been reported that he has agreed to take control of Sporting CP next season if Bruno Carvalho wins the presidential elections.
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Joachim Löw's experience at handling youth development would be invaluable for Arsenal. The manager of the German national team is overseeing what is perhaps the most exciting crop of young players in the world. It is because of this success that some people are naturally turning to him as a potential successor to Wenger.
It seems unlikely, however, that the German coach will be tempted to join Arsenal. He has recently signed a contract extension that will keep him tied with Germany until 2014. Furthermore, he seems perfectly content in his role.
Löw could be described as a "journeyman" manager. He has managed a wealth of clubs in a series of different nations, but has won precious little in the way of major honours. The Austrian Championship and DFB- Pokal (The German domestic cup) are all he has on his C.V, despite being in management for fifteen years.
It is at Germany where he has blossomed as a manager, leading them to a European Championship final and third spot in the 2010 World Cup. In last year's World Cup, he claimed the scalps of England and Argentina before a marginal 1-0 defeat to Spain. It cannot be doubted that he is capable of leading his teams against giants in the footballing world, but his lack of major honours at club level would suggest he is not the most ideal of candidates for the position. Let's not forget either that the international management is an entirely different challenge to the task of managing a club on a daily basis.
In short, he is a fine manager, but will probably be uninterested in the position. Let's not forget either that his biggest asset is handling youth development, something that Wenger is arguably better at. There are better options available than Löw.
Bert Van Marwijk
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Van Marwijk is currently the manager of the Netherlands and like Löw, seems content with his current position. With this in mind however logic would dictate that it would be hard for him to turn down the Arsenal position if it was to become available.
The Dutch coach surprisingly led Holland to their first World Cup final since 1978 last year, which is probably the limit of the Dutch squad’s potential. Although they were narrowly defeated by Spain, it seems unlikely that the will be able to build on their South African adventure with teams such as Germany and France rising to the ascendancy. Van Marwijk may prefer the challenge Arsenal has to other rather.
His tactical approach may not suit the Arsenal style of play either, since Holland are a team previously known for flair and creativity, but under Van Marwijk's leadership, they have turned into a physical and well organised unit. That being said, the Gunners are a team who are weakest in defence and he may be able to bring the order that Wenger has failed to recreate since the departures of players such as Campbell and Gallas.
With this in mind, he has gained experience managing some of the finest players in the world, including Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder. If he was the leave his post with Holland for the Arsenal hot seat, he may be able to lure a few of Holland's more important players to the Emirates. (Not least Maarten Stekelenburg, a potential solution to Arsenal's desperate crisis between the posts.)
The manager of the Dutch national team has not collected a particularly large list of honours, but a 2002 UEFA cup championship with Feyenoord shows that he does have a degree of experience when it comes to managing in Europe. This, combined with his achievements at the World Cup, may make him the man who can turn around Arsenal's Champions League sorrows.
Van Marwijk may not be a name off of everybody's lips, but if he were offered the Gunners' position, he may be tempted enough the leave his position as the head of Holland.
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The former Real Madrid boss is currently out of employment following a disappointing spell with Turkish club Besiktas this season. Despite his recent failure, however, he has amassed a wealth of experience from his time spent managing Real Madrid, perhaps the most difficult job in football (alongside the England job!)
The former Real Madrid boss' most notable achievement in club management is winning the La Liga title in 2007, his first season in charge. The German was warmly received by Madrid fans as a breath of fresh air from the disciplined and overly-defensive Fabio Capello era. He arrived following an impressive spell with Spanish club Getafe.
Schuster's teams tend to play an attractive, attacking style of football, a trait that has won him as many fans as it has critics. The Turkish media were critical of Schuster’s approach to the game, deeming his over-emphasis on attack to be reckless. In the past, even his own players have spoken out against his formations, Sergio Ramos once complained that he had to play as both a right back and winger during Schuster’s tenure.
Schuster accumulated a wealth of honours as a player and even made the infamous switch from Barcelona to Real Madrid. He is no stranger to success and his winning mentality may brush off on the Arsenal squad.
Schuster is also no stranger to controversy, indeed, he often provokes it. This would make him great entertainment for Premier League neutrals, since he would relish the challenges the English media would throw at him and would not shy away from mind games against the likes of Ferguson and Ancelotti. Some fans, however, may recall the bizarre press conference he gave prior to the El Classico match in December 2008, where he said his team stood no chance against the might of Barcelona. Naturally, this would lead one to question what impact this would have on team morale.
It seems that Schuster would be a realistic target for the Gunners, since he is currently unemployed and has experience at managing some of the world's finest players. Despite this, however, some fans may question his tactical approach and occasionally volatile behaviour.
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Rijkaard is an explosive, unnerving and well experienced manager capable of worker under the most intense pressure. His tenure at Barcelona has seen him amass an impressive trophy cabinet and become one of the most well respected managers in the world.
Rijkaard would be a great manager for Arsenal. His teams naturally play an attack orientated style of football, as exhibited by the 4-1-2-2-1 formation he deployed during his tenure at Barcelona. This is a style of play that may suit Arsenal too. Alex Song would fit in nicely as a defensive midfielder, while Fabregas and Wilshere controlled Arsenal's attacks from the centre of midfield.
Rijkaard is also experienced at overseeing the development of youngsters, including Lionel Messi. There is no better youth system than Barcelona's and with the knowledge Rijkaard would have accumulated from his reign at the Catalonian giants, he would be a great mentor for the likes of Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Kieran Gibbs.
The success that Rijkaard has achieved as both a player and coach, combined with the fact that he values every member of his teams equally will ensure that the transaction from Wenger to Rijkaard is as harmonious as it could possibly be. Players will no doubt respect his past achievements and the knowledge he could bring to Arsenal could be a breath of fresh air to Wenger's tried and tested tactics.
From a neutral point of view, too, his personality would be great for the Premier League. The Dutchman is not one to shy away from controversy and mind games. The example that best stands out to me is the feud he had with Mourinho when Chelsea and Barcelona met in the 2005 Champions League.
Rijkaard would be a great Arsenal manager.
Louis Van Gaal
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Van Gaal's career is littered with honours, as he has brought success to every club that he has managed. (Although his spell as Holland manager was an astonishing failure.) He has managed some of the finest players in world football and would be no stranger to the imminent pressure he will be put under if Arsenal were to appoint him as manager.
It has recently been announced that the Bayern Munich boss will be leaving the German champions this summer by mutual consent following a bust up with the club's hierarchy. In just two seasons at the German outfit, Van Gaal has a domestic league and cup double, the German Super Cup and a Champions League final to his name. Despite such early success, Bayern Munich have found themselves perfoming below par this season, currently sitting in fourth position of the Bundesliga, two points away from Champions League qualification.
Van Gaal is known for his tactical flexibility because his teams are built around potent goal scorers and a solid defensive wall. His current Bayern Munich squad operates in a similar system to Arsenal's 4-2-3-1 style of play. Robben and Ribery hugg the wing, with Mueller providing support for Mario Gomez up front in much the same way Arsenal lined up with Nasri, Arshavin, Rosicky and Van Persie against West Brom. On top of this, the holding role played by Schweinsteiger and Tymoshchuk mirrors the role played by Denilson and Jack Wilshere. This suggests that Van Gaal could adapt to the Arsenal philosophy very quickly.
Van Gaal has a very strong Bayern Munich team, with a well rounded combination of youth and experience. Youngsters like Mueller, Breno and Kroos benefit from the wealth of experience present available in the Bayern Munich dressing room. Even if he does not succeed Wenger at Arsenal, the Gunners could certainly learn a thing or two from the Bayern Munich approach of football.
If I was an Arsenal fan and contemplating the departure of Wenger, Van Gaal would be my number one choice.
A Final Thought...
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Arsene Wenger has become a legend at Arsenal Football Club and rightfully deserves a much revered spot in the club's history books. He has nurtured a wealth of exciting young talent and brought Arsenal great success in the past.
He is not doing a terrible job at Arsenal, so sacking him would truly be a difficult, emotional and controversial decision. On the other hand, he is not bringing Arsenal the success that he should be. He has been building this team for half a decade now, it is about time they came good.
If I was left to make the decision, I would stick with Wenger, at least for another season. If he wins the Premier League this season, we'll wonder why we questioned his position in the first place. Another fruitless season in 2011- 2012, however, for me, will mean that the Frenchman has to go.