Arsenal’s post-Wenger era is severely lacking a sense of direction

Sir Alex Ferguson stunned Manchester United with his plans to retire at the end of the 2012/13 season and attempted to soften the blow by appointing his own successor.

It was almost an incredibly scaled-up version of an employee telling their boss that they need that day off that they were told they absolutely could not have but it’s fine because they’ve already organised cover.

Suddenly, two enormous decisions in the club’s history had been taken out of their hands; David Moyes wasn’t so much appointed by the club but anointed by Fergie.

As dire as times have become at Arsenal in recent years, they at least had a template on how not to replace a legendary manager which should have helped them avoid the same problems that United encountered.

Arsene Wenger’s departure from Arsenal has been as telegraphed as Ferguson’s was unexpected. The Gunners were only moving in one direction and it was just a case of when and not if the stagnation, the voices of discontent from Arsenal FanTV, the lack of a Premier League title challenge, the empty seats and the failure to make the Champions League became too much.

The club – one of the country’s best run off the pitch in terms of professionalism and slickness – had years to prepare for Wenger to leave and draw up a suitable succession plan.

Yet, it would seem that one was not put in place. Wenger has effectively revealed that he did not choose the timing of his departure from the Emirates but the Arsenal have reacted in the aftermath of the news with all the poise, composure and direction of a club who have had the decision sprung on them.

There is no uniformity among the managers who have been linked to the club as the leading candidates to replace Wenger.

Mikel Arteta on Manchester City's bench for their Premier League game against Southampton

Max Allegri, Mikel Arteta, Patrick Vieira, Theirry Henry and Luis Enrique are characters with vastly different levels of experience, playing styles and personalities. Arsenal have jettisoned Wenger without a clear idea of who – or even what type of manager – they want in.

Enrique was approached before Arsenal were put off by his eye-watering wage demands; surely the Gunners could have sounded out the former Barcelona boss at an earlier stage and procured this information sooner?

Arsenal look like a club without any clear idea of where to go after Wenger. Do they want Allegri or is he just appealing because he contrasts to sharply with Wenger’s style as a disciplined, defensively-focused manager?

Do they want a safe pair of hands to absorb the loss of Wenger before passing the reigns to a younger man to start a new dynasty?

Targeting untried managers like Arteta, Henry, Vieira or even Rui Faria or Zeljko Buvac would indicate a commitment – potentially misguided given the way that the United job swallowed even an experienced like Moyes whole – to developing a younger coach but those men have a spectrum of managerial influences.

There is not a playing style that connects them or suggests that Arsenal know the way they want to approach the post-Wenger era tactically.

Allegri has now committed his future to Juventus, which appears to have left the Gunners scrambling around somewhat; they may well have expected him to leave Turin but were either misinformed or unable to convince the Italian that the club would be competitive under his stewardship.

The prominence of Arteta and Henry in the race to succeed Wenger hints that a sentimental appointment could be made.

In the absence of an outstanding candidate, a sense of direction or a clear sense of identity in terms of playing style, the Arsenal board are moving towards simply appointing a man that the fans like.

In the Arsenal FanTV generation, there may well be a hope that appointing a former club captain or icon eases the instant pressure that comes with succeeding Wenger, especially in the absence of a clear blueprint for success in the Frenchman’s absence.

The issue with #WengerOut – and the fact it lasted so many years – was the lack of clarity over who it was that the club’s fans actually wanted in charge. The frontrunner to take over from Wenger became secondary to the desire for him to leave.

It is not the fans’ role to choose, but the board’s decision to remove Wenger was taken with a similar lack of foresight. Choosing a former Arsenal man would be a transparent attempt to ease the scrutiny on a decision that looks increasingly likely to be taken in haste.

The post-Wenger era at Arsenal is off to a shambolic start.

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