The runners and riders to replace Arsene Wenger
Why should discussions about Arsenal’s next manager always be seen to have sinister motives behind them? Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho are always linked with moves to Manchester United, and yet that is seen as an inevitable discussion; Alex Ferguson will eventually move on from the game and there will come a time when other managers are looked at as more than just ‘what if’ scenarios.
Arsene Wenger will also eventually move on from Arsenal, but at the same time this isn’t a campaign for his removal. A lot of people say that supporters should be careful what they wish for, and that is right to an extent. As Johan Cruyff said earlier in the week, “it can be the case that you have to deal with a decline, as at Arsenal, but eventually with this formula you will get to the top.”
But while that may be true, it is completely wrong for people to suggest there is no other man in world football who can do better than Wenger. Does it show a lack of knowledge beyond the English game? What about a complete lack of respect and even faith? There are many clubs in Europe who are in a far more worrying position than Arsenal but are nevertheless doing well with very good managers.
Let’s get Guardiola out of the way first: while it would be nice to have him at a club like Arsenal, others clubs such as Bayern Munich represent a much more likely destination.
The next stage would be to look at Jurgen Klopp. The Borussia Dortmund manager may find himself in high demand come next summer, with Real Madrid among many high-profile clubs looking for a new manager. Is Klopp good enough to do what Wenger does at Arsenal? Why not? He’s worked under conditions where the club’s debt fell from 150 million euros in 2006 to 42 million euros in 2012, while building a title-winning side in the process. And Dortmund’s game is built on extremely attractive and ambitious football.
It remains a question as to whether anyone can tempt Klopp away from Dortmund anytime soon. It’s been highly refreshing to see so many of the club’s top talent pledge their loyalty to both the manager and the prospect of further success at Dortmund. They would receive far more in wages elsewhere, but they’re a very tight-knit group that are happy to continue growing as a team. It shouldn’t be beyond realistic to assume Dortmund could go all the way in this season’s Champions League.
La Liga also currently houses a few promising prospects. Diego Simeone’s achievements with Atletico Madrid is sure to have many clubs taking notice. While it would seem absolutely disastrous for Atletico to let him go anytime soon, Simeone’s contract does come to an end at the end of the season. It would be surprising if they failed to offer him an extension, but at the same time Atletico are a club who are wholly unstable and have lacked any real consistency in terms of managers of late.
Simeone may be lacking in the desired experience for a club like Arsenal, but this is a young manager who is desperate to reach the top and achieve recognisable success with a major club. I’m confident he’d want to stay and continue to help Atletico towards a promising future rather than just patches of light in otherwise dark times, but if he is released and without a club, Arsenal really shouldn’t be turning their nose up at him.
The thing about Simeone, and something that is similar to Klopp’s style, is that he’s enterprising and brave. He wants his team to work hard and play with a fearless approach. He wants to test the biggest of opposition, even when it seems far more sensible to hang back and wait for your chances. But he’s also brought a real togetherness to this Atletico team, one who were ineffective and without direction under Gregorio Manzano.
Is he working to a budget? Other than the purchase of Radamel Falcao and whoever comes in to replace him should the striker leave, the current Atletico team weren’t assembled through heavy spending. Diego Costa won’t command big bucks, nor will Gabi, but he’s manufactured a hugely impressive team who know how to work as a unit and win.
Wenger’s style of play and his managerial demeanour may bring about a few obvious targets if the club want to continue down the same path. In Manuel Pellegrini, Arsenal could be onto another hugely experienced manager with an impressive background.
Pellegrini has managed to keep Malaga’s spirits high following the financial shock of the summer. He’s brought the best out of young talents in the squad, notably Isco and Ignacio Camacho, and encouraged the ageing Joaquin to find the best form of his career. Again, Malaga are playing good football and are clearly overachieving. He’s a manager who knows how to do well following very little spend in the transfer window, but he also did well during a short spell with Real Madrid.
Pellegrini may not be the best manager to handle the egos and big names that Real Madrid had on their books at the time, but other than a horrendous exit in the Copa del Rey, he really did very little wrong. And as should be well documented, his time at Villarreal should be seen as a phenomenal high in the club’s history. Lets not forget that this is a man who managed Santi Cazorla at two different clubs and enforced some breathtaking football, especially while at El Madrigal. On a very small budget and at a stadium which holds less than 30,000, Pellegrini took Villarreal to second place in La Liga in 2008, as well as to the Champions League semifinal in 2006.
Elsewhere there is Pepe Mel at Real Betis, Frank de Boer at Ajax and of course Dennis Bergkamp. The former Arsenal striker’s fear of flying may be an issue, but he, more than a great number of others, could be a real success at Arsenal.
It’s irresponsible and totally inaccurate to paint a picture that there are no ‘realistic’ options available to replace Wenger. After all, who would have thought an unknown manager based in Japan could have achieved so much in England?
It will eventually become a serious discussion, and it should be completely down to the current Arsenal manager when that discussion comes about. But the world will not end for the club when Wenger decides his time is up. There are many exciting options in European football beyond just Pep Guardiola.