The Chaos of Choosing Arsenal's Next Manager

Dean Jones@DeanJonesBRFootball Insider at Bleacher ReportMay 4, 2018

The Chaos of Choosing Arsenal's Next Manager

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    As Arsene Wenger faces up to a final trophyless season at Arsenal, focus turns to the chaotic process of finding his successor.

    The manner of Thursday night's Europa League defeat to Atletico Madrid underlined exactly why the club needs a change of direction and new life.

    The "Wenger Out" brigade were delighted when news arrived of Wenger's departure, but since then there have been conflicting reports about who could arrive as the Frenchman's successor.

    The truth is that decision-makers can not agree on which direction they should take the club.

    The Sun's Martin Lipton reported as many as 14 names  are on Arsenal's shortlist. While that may be slightly exaggerated, it does reflect the club's uncertainty about where to turn next.

    As one source explained: "Not all senior figures are currently singing from the same hymn sheet."

Choosing the Right Man

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    Chief executive Ivan Gazidis is perhaps the most significant figure.

    On the day of Wenger's departure announcement, he sat front and centre at Emirates Stadium to discuss with the media how the club would move forward.

    If the next appointment is a success, he will get a large chunk of the credit. If it's a disaster? He could be asked far more difficult questions further down the line.

    "The most important thing is to make the right appointment, not a quick one," Gazidis said as it was announced Wenger would be leaving.

    But sources have indicated to B/R that Arsenal would like to know the identity of their next manager by the end of May. Top brass at the Emirates Stadium believe the new boss will need as much time as possible to prepare for next season.

    Right now it does not seem like that process will be straightforward, because very few men have the same vision.

    It is no surprise to learn there is plenty of support in the boardroom for former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique to take over if they are going to go for a big name—and Arsenal's new head of football relations, Raul Sanllehi, is one of those supporters. It is also understood that Max Allegri is gaining support by the day, hence why many consider him the favourite.

    Other key figures at Arsenal are not so sure about the approach, though. The big-name, big-contract tactic seems dangerous to some.

    One member of staff with a different outlook is Sven Mislintat, Arsenal's new head of recruitment.

    He is understood to be pushing quirky alternatives, such as Hoffenheim Julian Nagelsmann, for the role. Zeljko Buvac, who has just taken a leave of absence from his assistant manager role at Liverpool, has also been linked, and while sources could not confirm if he was on the list, he would fit with Mislintat's vision of a bright, forward-thinking coach who is not already a well-known name.

    And then there is Gazidis, the voice of the club in those hours that surrounded Wenger's departure.

    He stated how it was important to find a candidate to represent the club that would also hold onto the qualities and values Wenger had held so dearly.

    Sources at Arsenal say Gazidis likes the idea of choosing a manager with links to the club, and that's why Mikel Arteta and Patrick Vieira are both considered to be in the running.

Money Is an Issue

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    One of the major considerations that will impact the decision is money.

    Not just in terms of the manager's salary, but how much can be spent on the summer transfer window.

    The signings of Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan certainly gave the Gunners squad a more luxurious feel over the past months, but their arrivals will have a knock-on effect.

    Sources confirmed reports that the club will have no more than £50 million to spend in the summer market. That doesn't get you much in the modern game and is one of the reasons former Barcelona chief Enrique has been put off the prospect of joining.

    Adopting Wenger's squad from this season means adjusting everyone's mentality and style. Most bosses coming into a major club want at least three of their own men to come in to add their stamp.

    If currently out-of-work Enrique is not keen on the task of lifting the spirits, performance levels and league position of Wenger's current crop, why would Juventus boss Allegri?

    There is also the question of whether either man would be worth such significant deals. There is a very real fear that Arsenal could get worse before they get better.

    As one source explained: "Returning to the Champions League is suddenly looking like a more difficult ask than ever before, and even a £15 million-a-year manager can not guarantee success. At this moment in time, you have to wonder just what the short-term objectives should be."

Turn to a Club Legend?

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    A top-four spot—once a guarantee for Wenger—will be seen as success next term. Small building blocks are needed as part of the revival.

    With that in mind, maybe there really is more sense in steering clear of the top-tier bosses and their extravagant financial demands for now.

    Club officials are expected to approach New York City coach Vieira for talks very soon. There has not yet been any formal contact with the club's legendary midfield player, but that will change as they seek to find out his thoughts on the situation and his own career plan. Meanwhile Arteta, another former Arsenal player, also appeals because of his coaching pedigree at Manchester City. Gazidis is believed to have a good relationship with Arteta.

    A source said: "In a year of transition, maybe it makes more sense to choose someone with an emotional attachment to the club. If fans identify with the next manager, it might bring about a spike in form and belief."

    One thing almost everyone seems to agree on is that Arsenal will seek a head coach rather than a traditional manager. It would give more power to Mislintat on the recruitment side, and such a move would take them closer to Chelsea's modern approach.

    Ultimately, it is Gazidis who is going to have to think very carefully about the fallout from whichever decision is made.

Decision Time

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    While fans will welcome just about anyone apart from Wenger right now, there is always the danger that a bold appointment could lead to an even bigger slump than supporters are willing to accept...and then Gazidis would feel the heat.

    He positioned himself at the centre of this situation, and while he is just as desperate as any Arsenal fan for the dawn of a new era, the example of David Moyes taking over from Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United remains a warning as to how badly things can go wrong.

    Over the coming weeks, figures inside Arsenal's corridors of power will have to start to agree on which approach to take and ensure that the end-of-May deadline is met.

    It's important that fans and players know what is happening before the World Cup preparation begins.

    But don't be surprised if Arsenal decide on a cheaper option rather than one of the world's big names.


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