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The Men Who Could Be King At Arsenal

Another interlull is upon us and it gets us to thinking and speculating about the future. And in this case it is giving us time to speculate about who could take over at the Arsenal should Wenger step down at the end of this season or next?

There have been plenty of names thrown out and some of the more popular ones we discuss as well as a couple that we’d like to see. Each one has their pros and their own cons. And of course it’s all speculative because as we know, nothing can or will happen until either Wenger or the club decides its time for a change.

With that in mind let’s take a look at some of the names being thought of as possible replacements for Arsene Wenger.

The Elder Statesman

These are tried and true names. Big names in European football and as such would likely mean we could see Arsenal return to its pedestal in England sooner rather than later.

Massimiliano Allegri – Juventus (current)

As someone who admires Napoli and watches them as opposed to Juventus, my understanding of Max as a manager was decidedly limited. So I spent some time reading up and especially watching the wonderful Netflix series – Juventus First Team.

Allegri would come in and already be comfortable with the style of play Arsenal like. He is a believer in utilizing a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 if he needs more rigidity in the midfield. He’s likes his side to play with quick transitions and loves a fluid attacking style of play.

Where he can really help Arsenal is how he sets up his team defensively. He is a strong believer in a deep compact shape with the midfield 3 sitting firmly in front of his back 4, with a commitment to maintain shape and defensive responsibilities. He has been known to drop all 11 men behind the ball in either a 5-4-1 (having adjusted to a 3 at the back system when attacking) or a 4-4-2.

He’s a passionate manager who speaks eloquently about the traditions and values of the club he is managing. He is known to get the best out of his players by putting them in roles that takes advantages of each player’s individual strengths.

The big issue is why would he leave Juventus who are once again set up to win their 4th scudetto under him and are also deep into the Champion’s League. Arsenal present a bit of a project for the man and it is unknown whether turning something around would be what he wants to do.

Regardless of that, he should be one of the top names on the list when it comes time to consider a change.

Carlo AncelottiCurrently Unemployed

If you’ve seen gray-haired Italian lurking about London it could be that you’ve inadvertently stumbled across Carlo Ancelotti. Currently without a managerial job since leaving Bayern by “mutual consent” – Mr. Ancelotti has been seen watching a few of the matches taking place in London be it Chelsea or Arsenal.

Now, admittedly I am no Carlo fan and I will lay out why I think this very impressive man shouldn’t be the Arsenal manager.

He is widely considered a contender for the position because he is a winner. And there is no denying his Champion’s League runs and 4 league titles. However, that bares a little further scrutiny as his league titles have come over a span of 20 years and with teams built to win immediately.

Additionally, his Champion’s League titles have come with teams that were ready to win the Champion’s League at that team – i.e. really strong and capable of going deep in the tournament. Arsenal aren’t even close to that so thinking he’s going to come in and turn the Gunners into instant Champion’s League Contenders is a ridiculous notion. There is a lot of work for Arsenal to do before they get there.

Furthermore, when you look behind the curtain it seems that a lot of the reasons why Carlo has gotten the sack recently are similar issues to what we now face at Arsenal. At Bayern he had the hard job of following up the task master that is Pep Guardiola. Watching Pep’s sessions you can understand why and Bayern went a completely opposite route with Carlo. Someone who is less fanatical.

The hands-off, let-em play style Carlo espouses led to the players at the fabled club complaining that their preparation for matches was left wanting. Sound familiar?

Arsenal already don’t prepare for matches and we see where it gets us. Arsenal don’t need another hands-off manager. They may not need an absolute task-master either but they can’t go back to another manager who, like Wenger doesn’t prepare his teams for their upcoming opponents.

We’ll take a pass on this one.

Joachim Löw – German National Team (current)

The 2014 World Cup winning manager is rumored to be the internal favorite to replace Wenger should he step down this summer.

The narrative though from those who don’t dig enough is that Jogi doesn’t possess the acumen or knowledge of club football to be a success. While he is not our first choice, we have to say this narrative is rather far off.

Löw has a 10 year club career which is highlighted by his tenure at Stutgart, where he essentially took them UEFA Winner’s Cup Final, won the DFP Pokal (think FA Cup) and was a runner up in the DFB Ligapokal (think League Cup.) Since his departure Stutgart haven’t reached a final.

He’s often criticized also for not being able to develop talent in his role as a National Manager – you only need to look back at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa to know that’s wrong.

While a national team coach’s time with players is limited they still have to be able to bring 20+ players together to cohesively work as a team. In 2010, Löw shocked German fans by taking one of the youngest squads to a world cup. Prior to the first kickoff, Germany were openly worried their team wouldn’t progress beyond the group stages.

However, Löw got them to work together as a team and surprised everyone by making it to the Semi-Finals and even winning the 3rd place game versus Uruguay. That foundation he built resulted in the 2014 World Cup win that topped off Germany’s return to the top of the footballing world.

He’s not my first choice but if he wound up being THE choice, I’d be okay with it.

The Young Guns

Luis Enrique – Currently Unemployed

Lucho as he is called was considered by some to be a return to Pep-style football when he took over the helm at Barcelona. While the basic principles of possession-based football remain, under Lucho Barcelona became more direct and more potent.

Where trademark Pep Barca was fluid and patient, Lucho’s Barca were quicker to the attack with the ball moving from the defense too Raktic and then quickly into the front three of Messi, Suarez and Neymar. Using this base 4-3-3 as is the Barcelona way, the emphasis became to more incisive in attack.

Instead of an over dependence on the midfield, the wings began to take a more important role and the play as we’ve already said was more direct trying to get the attack involved as quickly as possible.

However, it didn’t mean that defensive principles were shunted as one season they only conceded 19 goals the whole season.

If there is a knock against Lucho its not knowing if his success at Barcelona was truly down to him or the assemblage of talent he had. His previous managerial experience at Roma is regarded a failure as the Spanish style didn’t flourish in Italy. Whether it’s a valid criticism or not it does beg the question to how we would fare with a team that is somewhere in between what he had at Roma and Barcelona.

Still, with the pedigree and the titles – we’d be crazy to not have him high up on the list of considerations.

Domenico Tedesco – Schalke 04 (current)

I won’t be ashamed if you don’t know this name. But let me give you a couple of facts about this laptop manager currently plying his wares in the Bundesliga. His only previous managerial experience was Bundlesiga 2 side Erzgebirge Aue whom he saved from relegation and then after only 11 games he was quickly snapped up by Schalke.

Yep, 11 games into his professional managerial career and he gets a crack at Germany’s third richest side. And as he has now got them sitting in second place with a Champion’s League spot looking assured he has been hailed as a flexible, innovative manager who is able to effectively respond to the team’s strengths and weaknesses.

His team operates from two tactical set ups based off of 3 at the back. Against some teams you will see his Schalke side use a low press to invite a counter attack and process the ball to the front 3 as quickly as possible. Against teams who may sit deeper and set up more compact he employs a high-press utilizing 5 attacking players to win the ball back as quickly as possible before the opposition can get organized.

Using 2 very different tactical systems it allows him to prepare his team for each tactical possibility they face. You only need to watch the Hoffenheim v Schalke match from earlier this season to understand how much of a tactical thinker he is to know that this is a guy who tries to build a system that effectively gets the best out of his entire side.

Julian Nagelsmann – Hoffenheim (current)

You can’t mention Tadesco without mentioning his 2016 DFB Coaching Course class mate, Julian Nagelsmann. Nagelsmann is another breed of the laptop coaches coming on strongly in Germany at the moment. His playing career was cut short due to injury and never had a chance to play first team football.

But what he has done with Hoffenheim hasn’t gone uncrecognized. Like his classmate, he is widely regarded as a manager blessed with man-management skills who is also an astute tactician. His side is considered to play attractive, yet tactically intelligent football.

Another proponent of 3 at the back he likes his teams to press at the front but not for quick counter-attacking purposes but to win the ball and build slowly to create chances through the lines.

Hoffenheim play directly through the middle and ala pep players are dropping in between lines to find open channels. Watching Hoffenheim on the ball, you will see players constantly looking to find space in relation to their teammates. It is dynamic and fluid.

Nagelsmann said it best about himself – “I work like a baker, I mix things up, put them in the oven and see if I like what comes out”

I’m lumping these two – Nagelsmann and Tedesco together because they are young and hungry coaches. They’ve started to achieve success where others thought they wouldn’t and while you want to see where they go a little bit longer its interesting to see them on the fore-front of tactical football and being recognized for what they are doing.

I don’t think Arsenal would go wrong in hiring either of these managers I feel we are club that has to slightly rebuild to go forward and either of these two would do well with what we have at the club today.

The Risks

Rather than dive into each of these individually I wanted to throw out the 3 names that might be considered too much of a risk to employ at Arsenal.

The least risky is probably Patrick Vieira currently the manager of MLS side NYCFC – City’s MLS affiliate. He has done okay. The team would probably be strong if City Football could invest heavily like they did in the Premier League but MLS rules prohibit that.

Still Vieira gets his team into the MLS playoffs but has yet to win a title.

The next least risky is probably Thierry Henry. The Arsenal legend knows the club and its values as does Vieira but his coaching pedigree is less concrete. He currently is Roberto Martinez’s number two with the Belgium set up.  He has no club managerial experience and shunned a chance to work in club football (working his way up) for the riches of sky.

The most risky is Pep’s student, Mikel Arteta. Arteta is getting a lot of praise for whatever it is he is doing at City for Pep. Pep himself praised him for his work turning Sterling into the player he is now. But like Henry he has no real club managerial experience so hiring him without seeing what he could do comes with a huge risk to it regardless of his connection to Arsenal.

Conclusion

People always say – who could replace Arsene Wenger? Who is out there? When you dig and open your perspective you find a lot. Let’s remember no one had heard of Arsene when he arrived on these shores. When he leaves it will be a name all of England remembers.

Whether they are tried and tested or a bit green under the collar, the club have a wealth of potential managers to pull from. Let’s hope their eyes and minds are open when it does come time.


 

 

 

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