Following 20 years of service to Arsenal Football Club, many are predicting this season will be Arsene Wenger’s last hurrah in the dugout as Gunners boss.
As such, attention will sharply turn to who will become the Frenchman’s successor for years to come in north London. The Gunners must surely learn from the mistakes made by Manchester United during their replacement of Sir Alex Ferguson, having got it so horribly wrong with the David Moyes debacle and period of stagnation that followed under Louis van Gaal.
Here, we will look at five candidates who could find themselves in the frame for the role come the end of the season if Wenger opts not to renew his contract.
A proven winner at international level, Low currently remains the favourite with the bookies to take on the Arsenal job when Wenger decides to hang his coat up. The 56-year-old hasn’t managed in club football since a stint with Austria Wien in 2004 before linking up with Jurgen Klinsmann to transform German football after a catastrophic Euro 2004. After taking the reigns on himself in 2006, Low has formed a side which has made at least the semi-finals of each major tournament since his appointment, culminating in success at the 2014 World Cup where the Germans claimed their first world title in 24 years, famously beating hosts Brazil 7-1 in the last four.
Having accomplished everything other than winning the European Championship with his country – something he will have to wait at least another four years to attempt – a fresh challenge may be on the horizon for Low. However, all signs indicate Low will remain with Germany until the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia, potentially forcing Arsenal to wait at least two years to get their man unless a potential deal could be agreed with the German FA.
Diego Simeone has turned Atletico Madrid from the proverbial shadows of Real Madrid into a club who legitimately can compete across all fronts in Spain since taking over in December 2011. One of the most charismatic and enthralling coaches in the world at this moment, you could not find a more polar opposite to the management style of Wenger anywhere in the world. At 46, he is still relatively young for a coach but already has ten years of experience in the role, having gone straight from a player to manager upon his retirement in 2006. What you can certainly guarantee from Simeone is that he would unite the often torn-apart Arsenal fan base, something which at this moment would seem impossible with the ‘Wenger in/Wenger out’ groups which have so stubbornly fought their case over the past few years.
The Argentinian admitted following Atletico’s defeat in the Champions League final that he was considering his future with the La Liga outfit and may be tempted by the offer of a new challenge in a new country with a club waiting to seriously compete – just as Atletico once were. A manager who will win at all costs, he would be a popular appointment amongst fans who wish to see the back of Wenger.
Bournemouth hero Eddie Howe’s name has been mentioned in a number of national newspapers in recent days, having reportedly been earmarked by Arsenal as a successor for Wenger in the seasons to come. Still only 38, he has been heralded as the future of English coaching and hailed one of the most exciting young prospects we’ve seen in management in this country for a number of years. However, that lack of experience may come back against Howe, who to date has just one season in the top flight under his belt. That said, nobody knows what sort of coach Howe could be in 12 months’ time and in terms of longevity could be an ideal replacement for the long-serving Wenger.
It may not have turned out perfectly for him at Burnley, but Howe has proved during his time on the south coast that once he gets comfortable somewhere, he can be successful over a long period. He may not be a big-name as far as world football is concerned, but Howe could well prove to be a shrewd appointment if the Gunners choose to go down that route.
Currently out of a job following a trophy-laden spell with Paris Saint-Germain – ultimately losing his job due to not capturing a Champions League title – there can be few managers with as impressive of a CV than Laurent Blanc. Currently unproven outside of France having coached PSG, Bordeaux and the French national team, Blanc could be keen to dip his toes elsewhere in Europe and may find it to be perfect timing for him to take on his next job after a rest out of the game. Some may argue that any Tom, Dick or Harry could manage that PSG side to the league title in France, but Blanc also won Ligue 1 with an unfancied Bordeaux side in 2008/09 and won back-to-back domestic trebles with the Parisians in his last two seasons – narrowly missing out on three in a row having failed to win the 2013/14 Coupe De France.
He is relatively familiar with the Premier League having spent his final two seasons as a player with Manchester United before retiring in 2003 and could become a serious contender for the role if a vacancy appears any time soon.
A dream appointment for the fans, Arsenal legend Thierry Henry will have dreamt of the opportunity to manage the club whom he served so phenomenally as a player. Still the Gunners’ record goalscorer, he has been working with the club’s academy on and off over the past two years or so since hanging his boots up, and Wenger has even spoke of Henry’s potential of being a head coach in the future. Like Simeone, Henry has the ability to unite Arsenal’s split supporters and would receive full backing and patience from the fans to get it right, with an almost inevitable desperation for him to succeed in the role. Currently working for Sky and the BBC as a pundit, the impression is he would happily swap his comfortable lifestyle for the opportunity to lead Arsenal in north London – a place he still considers home, despite being a Frenchman.
It’s easy to get caught up in the romantic idea of a return to Arsenal for Henry and forget this is a man with no managerial experience. Nostalgia is always present in football and the board must do all in their power to disassociate Henry the player from Henry the manager in their thought process if he is to become a serious candidate for the top job at the Emirates.
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