The news that Zeljko Buvac had departed Liverpool on the eve of Liverpool’s Champions League semi final second leg against Roma certainly came as a shock, especially when you consider how close he has been to Jurgen Klopp since the pair began working together in 2001.
It’s not yet known for sure if this is to be a brief leave of absence as a result of a family emergency, or if indeed there has been a sensational falling out between the two coaches, it does seem as though the former is the more likely given the fact Liverpool believe their assistant coach will return.
However, in addition to the club line emerging from Merseyside, a report in Bosnia newspaper ‘Pravda BL’ has suggested that everything is in place for Buvac to take the vacant managerial position at the Emirates Stadium, this report was put into more detail by Sport Witness.
Now it’s difficult to know where to start with such a report, Arsenal have already confirmed through Ivan Gazidis that they wouldn’t be afraid to make a bold appointment, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise from the club who hired Arsene Wenger following a stint in Japan, albeit much of his best work came during his spell with Monaco.
Buvac would certainly represent a bold appointment, especially when you consider the fact he hasn’t held a head coaching position since a three year spell with SC Neukirchen ended in 2001.
Many consider the 56-year-old to be the brains behind the style of football Jurgen Klopp’s teams have played over the years, with the latter having the incredible charisma needed to cope with the challenges of managing a team and the media.
Buvac isn’t known to have such skills, or desire any limelight whatsoever so it would be odd that all of a sudden he’s now ready to take on a job on his own, although jobs the calibre of Arsenal rarely become available.
From a footballing perspective, it could bring about incredible change for the North London club, a style reminiscent of that of Liverpool would be welcomed by supporters who’ve grown tired of Arsene Wenger’s endless parade of undersized technicians.
The fast transition from defence to attack, as well as utilising an incredible quick front line that is now in place at the Emirates Stadium could be incredibly fruitful if this appointment becomes a reality.
Of course it’s a risk, but when you’re replacing a coach who has been in place for just under 22 full seasons, any hire will be in the same boat.
The scrutiny would be significant, although simply by his association to Liverpool’s fine run to the Champions League semi final, it’s difficult to see Buvac being a less popular appointment than Brendan Rodgers for example.
One of the problems that the Gunners face this summer is a financial one. Missing out on the Champions League bounty for two successive seasons hasn’t done the club coffers any good whatsoever, or at least that’s what the club are briefing the press.
The reality is that whilst Arsenal do have significant money to spend, there isn’t the bottomless pit that Manchester City have at their disposal.
New contracts from Mesut Ozil and the additions of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have vastly inflated the wage bill at Arsenal, something which flirts with the boundaries of the Premier League’s own Financial Fair Play regulations.
Any incoming coach will be forced to improve players already at the club, just as Antonio Conte did when he arrived at Chelsea in 2016.
Danny Welbeck has underperformed since arriving at the Emirates Stadium, there needs to be better performances from Hector Bellerin, Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi. Improving players already at the club will vastly encourage Arsenal supporters and quickly get them on side.
Football has proven throughout history that the best coaches seldom make the most effective managers, in the Premier League era you’re looking at Brian Kidd and Paul Clement as two glaring examples of that.
This isn’t the case every single time though, Buvac may well prove himself to be the exception, and there is also the possibility that he’s actually being targeted to be part of a new management structure alongside one of Patrick Vieira or Mikel Arteta, both of whom having significant support from members of the Arsenal hierarchy.
Such a decision would seem bizarre in 2018, especially after the difficulties Roy Evans and Gerard Houllier endured together at Liverpool.
At present, nobody knows exactly what the Gunners are thinking, cards are being kept close to the club’s chest and there is still the small matter of a Europa League semi final to play.
The links to Liverpool’s assistant manager are intriguing, and you wonder if there has to be some truth to them when you consider the source, ultimately the only people who know are the individuals in question.
Even Jurgen Klopp’s answer on the topic during his pre-match press conference on Tuesday was short with it clear the German didn’t want to elaborate on the details. This doesn’t actually clear things up either way.
For Arsenal supporters, it’s a sharp realisation that hiring a coach to take Arsene Wenger’s position will not be an easy task, a multitude of factors have to be taken into consideration.
There is a concern many supporters simply expected the Gunners to be able to immediately hire one of the true elite coaches when the time came, but it doesn’t work like that, even Manchester United were believed to have been knocked back by Klopp himself when David Moyes was dismissed.
The gamble taken on Wenger in 1996 paid off substantially, the club is now a behemoth within the structure of the European game, although they are in a slump at the moment.
At 56, it’s unlikely that the Bosnian coach would be present for the long haul, however if he’s able to totally transform the playing style of the team and improve results then Arsenal will certainly reap the rewards of bold thinking once more.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @cmwinterburn
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