There’s been an awful lot of talk surrounding Arsene Wenger’s increasingly bleak position as Arsenal manager over the past few days, ever since his side were thoroughly trounced in a miserable Munich mauling by a buoyant Bayern side.
Le Prof continues to be one of the most divisive figures in the Premier League, with the Gunners seemingly at a crossroads under his stewardship. Sure, his influence has been so deeply woven into their success since 1996, though it remains as prevalent in their failure to win a league title since 2004.
As he watched his side capitulate in the Allianz Arena little under a week ago, the 67-year-old cut a forlorn figure during his fleeting forays to the touchline and looked at his most broken during an excruciatingly awkward post-match press conference. Still, perhaps those so quick to lament Wenger are missing the point entirely.
Much of the criticism levelled towards the club by their fans of late has centred around the fact top brass in north London are seemingly sticking with a man living off past successes. While that may be true, both fans and the board alike should be looking to the future, rather than slating a man so well-respected within the game.
Whether he stays or goes in the summer remains to be seen, though, either way, the club should be looking at successors. Having watched what happened to Manchester United upon the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013, the Gunners really have no excuse not to be prepared whatever the outcome at the end of the season.
Which is why Monaco’s trip to Manchester City should be of huge interest to those making that sort of decision at the Emirates. With the Ligue 1 side enjoying such an impressive season under the tutelage of Leanardo Jardim, his name surely must be one considered when drawing up a list of potential replacements.
The Venezuelan-born coach is an interesting character. An intelligent one. Sound familiar? Having started his career in South America, the 42-year-old began coaching local kids in his area, as well as working with both a women’s football team, and a handball side, as he explained to Andy Brassell in a recent interview on UEFA.com.
”I had quite an academic education. But I also played football and handball and therefore I had that handball coaching experience, which was also positive.”
Since then, his coaching credentials have taken him around the world, managing in Portugal, Greece and France. Still, despite winning the second tier while in charge of Portuguese side Beira-Mar, as well as a league and cup a double with Olympiacos, it’s his work with Les Rouges et Blancs that has brought him to the attention of the wider public.
He took over as Financial Fair Play regulations rocked the club from the Principality, and has had to deal with losing top players since joining. He has done so rather well, though, creating a wonderfully dynamic side despite the hardships. The Stade Louis II outfit have emerged as one of the most entertaining teams to watch on the continent, as Jardim focuses on creating a collective unit, just a few years after the club almost ran themselves into the ground by buying big names at great expense and little success.
There are goals from all over the pitch, with fourteen different players having scored for the club this season. Within their ranks, there’s little doubt Arsenal boast enough players to hit similar statistics, though Wenger hasn’t been bringing enough out of them of late.
We’ve seen what focusing on the collective can do in the Premier League. Despite their defensive frailty, Liverpool have looked devastating under Jurgen Klopp’s watch, so it’s incredible to think just what a side with a stoic backline could do. Granted, Shkodran Mustafi didn’t cover himself in glory during the Bavarian beating the other night, but he and Laurent Koscielny as a pair have looked formidable at times.
”It’s a marvellous experience to play in stadiums like in Turin, like in England against Arsenal – full stadiums with an extremely positive atmosphere.”
Jardim, unlike the Wenger we’ve seen in recent years, isn’t afraid to tinker either. He’s used 23 different players this season, though his side never seem to lose the intensity and fluidity that much of the good work they do is based upon. Those two themes may have summed up the early part of Wenger’s reign rather well, though have entirely left him it seems.
The Frenchman’s blind faith with players who constantly let him down is one of the most frustrating aspects of their recent malaise, so a strong hand such as Jardim – someone who is capable of making big decisions yet still yield success – could be a breath of fresh air to those in north London.
As he brings his side to England to square off against Pep Guardiola’s resurgent Manchester City side, Arsenal’s eyes must be cast over Jardim at the Etihad on what could be a huge night in his intriguing coaching career thus far.
A thinker, perhaps his succeeding Wenger could be the most intelligent move Arsenal could make.