Imagining an Arsenal Team with Roberto Martinez as Manager

Charlie Melman@@charliemelmanCorrespondent IIApril 6, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 30:  Manager Roberto Martinez of Everton celebrates victory after the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Everton at Craven Cottage on March 30, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Arsenal fans know that Arsene Wenger is going to leave at some point in the relatively near future.

The legendary Frenchman's departure is inevitable: He has been managing Arsenal for almost 18 years and, at 64 years of age, is at a very acceptable retiring age.

There is also a sense among some fans—a sentiment that has been been percolating around the Internet since Arsenal's most recent collapse—that Wenger has taken the club as far as he can and it is time for some fresh ideas at the top.

The Frenchman has been an excellent servant to the club and has guided the Gunners through a prolonged period of financial hardship in the wake of the construction of the Emirates Stadium while keeping the club in the Champions League and among Europe's elite.

There have been some suggestions that Wenger should leave the club when his contract expires at the end of the season even if Arsenal win the FA Cup. Regardless of the validity of that point, it's worth noting that Wenger has not yet signed a contract extension and is perfectly free to walk away as soon as the season ends.

So, it's worth exploring whom Arsenal might look to in order to replace the single most iconic figure in the history of the club.

Options include Jurgen Klopp, who has made Borussia Dortmund into a perennial powerhouse using a very similar attacking philosophy as that of Wenger. Arsenal would not have to change their formation or tactics much to adapt to the German's style.

Another valid but certainly less preferred choice would be Dragan Stojkovic, who is Wenger's protege and would come straight from Nagoya Grampus, just as the Frenchman did when he came to north London in 1996.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 30:  Manager Roberto Martinez of Everton smiles during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Everton at Craven Cottage on March 30, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

But too few have considered Roberto Martinez, whose appointment would actually make a whole lot of sense.

The Spaniard shares Wenger's philosophy of emphasizing attacking football first and foremost and has extensive experience with doing as much as possible on limited budgets, both at Everton and Wigan. Though Arsenal's cash reserve is considerably larger than it has been in years past, there is little chance that the club will suddenly become profligate after years of careful management.

Crucially, though, Martinez has oodles of something the two aforementioned candidates do not: Premier League experience.

Such a track record of success is highly prized in potential player signings, and it should also be in managers. The world's most difficult league is difficult to navigate for an entire season, let alone the several that would be required of a long-term replacement for Wenger.

Players have to be carefully rotated, and one must deal with the infamous English press every single week. Maintaining just the right balance of composure and feistiness is extremely difficult under the heat of the constant tabloid pressure, and only the best managers are able to handle it.

But Martinez has shown that he can. And since he is only 40 years old, he will be able to serve for as long as there is mutual interest in him doing so. Stability is crucial and exceedingly rare in the modern game, and Martinez could theoretically provide it.

Now on to the juicy stuff: the structure of the team itself.

Since Martinez and Wenger share a common view on how football should be played, the starting XI would not look much different from what it is now; indeed, this is one of the factors that would make him an excellent replacement.

There would still be some differences, of course. For example, Martinez is not likely to favor a technically unskilled player like Mathieu Flamini in midfield and would prefer someone more like Mikel Arteta to both shield the defense and distribute the ball.

But, as we have seen this season, Arteta is rapidly slowing and is no longer suited to that dynamic role. Martinez would almost certainly have to purchase someone like Morgan Schneiderlin of Southampton to fill that gap.

Players such as Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and especially Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla will be favored. All are as creative as a purist like Martinez would like, but the latter two combine an eye for a killer pass with exceptional skill on the ball.

But the one spot in which major overhaul will be needed is striker.

Martinez's system, like Wenger's, largely depends on the presence of a powerful lone striker capable of winning aerial duels as well as holding the ball up and clinically finishing goalscoring chances.

Romelu Lukaku does all these things excellently for Everton, and Jose Mourinho's decision to loan him out at the beginning of the season looks ever odder with each additional goal Lukaku nets.

Olivier Giroud would be a very serviceable backup to someone like Lukaku or Mario Mandzukic, but he is not capable of filling that role consistently.

Perhaps most importantly, though, we would immediately see a change in tactical flexibility if Martinez took over for Wenger.

The Spaniard is quite willing to alter certain aspects of his team depending on the particular opponent and tends to be much less rigid with his substitutions than Wenger.

Arsenal's current manager receives more than his fair share of flak for this obduracy, but if the club picks Martinez to succeed him, fans can at least expect some welcome relief in this one area.


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