Friday morning saw Arsenal Football Club officially announce that Arsene Wenger would indeed be leaving the club after just fewer than 22 full seasons in charge in North London.
Whilst many expected that the 2017/18 season could be the Frenchman’s last in charge at the Emirates Stadium, the official announcement came as a monumental surprise, not least because it had always been the former Monaco coach’s mantra that he always respects the length of his contract.
Crucially, the word retirement was not mentioned once within Wenger’s own statement, and it’s likely he will return to management with several clubs set to be interested in his services.
Arsenal now face the unenviable task of replacing the club’s greatest ever manager, and they must do so in one of the more tightly constricted time frames in recent memory, it’s an appointment the club can’t afford to get wrong.
The Kroenke administration has never needed to make a managerial appointment and there’s an acute sense that the Gunners could suffer from having too many voices involved in the process.
Stan Kroenke and his son, Josh, will take the final decision with the trio of Ivan Gazidis, Raul Sanllehi and Sven Mislintat all putting forth their opinions on who the club should appoint.
Carlo Ancelotti, Leonardo Jardim and Patrick Vieira are the early favourites, whilst Brendan Rodgers and Julian Nagelsmann have also been loosely linked with the vacancy.
The Italian would represent a safe pair of hands, although it’s difficult to see him being able to take the club forward over the course of what would likely be a short-term contract. Jardim has worked incredibly well with Monaco and has the cerebral qualities of a younger Wenger whilst Vieira lacks experience but retains a strong connection to the club and there have even been early suggestions that the veteran coach has given his former midfielder his recommendation.
Brendan Rodgers probably hasn’t done enough to warrant the job, whilst his achievements at Celtic aren’t to be dismissed, it isn’t a competitive league and the Scottish club actually went backwards from last season with regards to their European campaign this term.
Nagelsmann was deemed not yet ready by Bayern Munich, and would be a forward thinking appointment by the Gunners, however with the Borussia Dortmund job likely to also be open in the summer, he may well opt for the comforts of home instead.
With the World Cup taking place in the summer, as well as the Premier League transfer window closing in early August, the time frame for the North London club to make a solid appointment is fairly short. They’ve been given an advantage by announcing a change before the end of the campaign, however you worry incompetence could strike.
Manchester United made a huge blunder when they appointed David Moyes to be Sir Alex Ferguson’s replacement, he didn’t start his job officially until July 1st and that hindered the club in the transfer market.
When you look at Arsenal’s squad, there are several areas of need with regards to improvement, most notably the defence. Furthermore the new coach has to be able to work out a system which gets the best out of January signings, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
One of the issues the Gunners face is that they don’t know their fate with regards to the Champions League, should they lift the Europa League this term and qualify for the prestigious competition, they become an altogether more attractive prospect for both managers and players.
The problem is this can’t be officially confirmed one way or the other until May 16th, when the final takes place in Lyon. Realistically this means the better candidates for the job can’t be negotiated with on a proper footing until after that time.
In reality, Arsenal is a very attractive job, the club has a fantastic revenue stream and the stadium is one of the best in Europe. There are no impending fiscal calamities coming, like the one Chelsea might face once construction begins on their new ground.
There is money to spend at Arsenal, and lots of it, the problem has been Arsene Wenger and his caution in the market. If we look at the source of Antonio Conte’s frustration at Stamford Bridge this term, the Gunners would have almost certainly provided him with more money to spend.
The Italian coach will likely be available in the summer, it seems that he’s informed the Italian FA that he isn’t interested in the national job with Roberto Mancini on the cusp of taking control and it’s difficult to see a better candidate for Arsenal.
His work in his debut season with an underachieving Chelsea team was fantastic, he would shake up the Arsenal dressing room and bring a style that would improve the winning mentality that has recently eroded at the club. Whether or not he’s on the club’s radar remains to be seen.
Should Arsenal struggle to make early inroads with regards to a potential appointment, then you worry it could become a fiasco. Manchester United weren’t prepared for replacing Ferguson, so you have to assume that the London club will have learnt from those mistakes.
The worst case scenario will be coaches not being approached in time, they take other jobs and then Arsenal are forced to make an appointment of a manager who is quite far down their list near the start of the transfer window.
Everything has to be done to give the new incumbent the best possible chance of success next season, and this falls on a group of people who are making their first ever appointment, Arsenal fans would be forgiven for feeling a little nervous.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @cmwinterburn
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