Since Arsene Wenger announced that he is all set to leave Arsenal at the end of the season, speculation has been rife as to who will succeed the man who has sat in the hot seat for some 22 years now. Plenty of people from across the sport have chipped in with their suggestions, with the most common names including Carlo Ancelotti, Brendan Rodgers, Ralf Rangnick and Luis Enrique to name a few.
But while most suggestions and links seem sensible, other names being linked with inheriting Wenger’s collection of sleeping bag-style coats are fairly left field. Some managers like Antonio Conte and Claudio Ranieri are pretty unlikely to be considered legitimate possibilities, but other more surprising candidates such as Mikel Arteta, Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp at least offer some appeal to the Arsenal board, given their history.
Former players know the club. They understand the traditions and the feel of the place. They have existing relationships with supporters and know how to get to the training ground without a Sat Nav. But should Arsenal go down this route and hire a fresh-faced former employee? Or should they open up the vacancy to the wider world of experienced football coaches?
I’d say the latter.
Appointing a successor to Wenger is no easy task. The club need to make the right appointment. A rushed decision that proves to be a poor one could see the club quickly take a nosedive. When you consider that Arsenal already now regularly finish outside the top four in the Premier League, any further decline is not really an option.
Now isn’t the time to take chances.
Former Arsenal and England centre back Sol Campbell has weighed in with his thoughts and he’s getting behind a team of ex-colleagues – former midfield hard man Vieira and the silky-skilled Dutchman Bergkamp. But while the combination may excite some slightly more sentimental fans, pragmatic and sensible Emirates attendees would likely wince at the decision.
The pair have a combined two years of experience in management. Okay, Bergkamp was – until recently – the assistant manager at Ajax for six years, but he’s never led a team out himself. And former Arsenal captain Vieira has a mere two seasons as New York City FC manager under his belt (plus another two leading Manchester City’s reserves). That is simply not enough experience.
In an interview with football.london, Campbell says…
“I think they should see if they can promote from within. It could be someone who has played for the club and is managing now, or has aspirations of managing Arsenal and would love to take that opportunity.
“Mikel Arteta has gone to Manchester City and has gained fantastic experience, but for me, someone like Patrick Vieira would be perfect and he’s great buddies with Dennis Bergkamp so for me, to have those two guys at the helm, I think that could be a really good combination.
“Bring guys who have done well for Arsenal back into the club. Otherwise, people like Carlo Ancelotti, unless he takes the Italy job, he could be a good fit. Then you’ve got Allegri and the Germany manager Low.”
We like how Campbell backs off a little at the end there. But surely Ancelotti is the ideal man to step in – at least for a season or two. He’s one of football’s smartest and most successful ever managers, plus he knows the league.
Perhaps the former Spurs and Notts County man makes somewhat of a good point about bringing back ‘Arsenal people’. It’s probably a clever idea to appoint members of the coaching staff that know the club and have worked there before. But for the top job? It’s too big a chance to take.
Sure, Bergkamp has proven himself an excellent coach. It’s undeniable too that Patrick Vieira has shown real promise. But a steady ship is what’s required at the club now. Grooming Vieira, Bergkamp, Arteta or Henry for the gig in the future makes sense for Arsenal provided their choice can demonstrate their ability away from Arsenal first. But handing over the reigns to a rookie at this precarious stage? It’s borderline recklessness.
Arsenal need to appoint the best manager they can. Not just the best manager in their phone book.