Seven candidates to replace Wenger at Arsenal
Knocked out of the FA Cup by Watford, eliminated from the Champions League by Barcelona and fallen 11 points behind Premier League leader Leicester City, one-time title favorite Arsenal now faces a familiar slump toward third or fourth place.
The collapse of a season that held so much promise has ratcheted up the pressure on manager Arsene Wenger in a way that we’ve never quite seen before. Opinions remain divided on whether the long-serving Gunners boss should, or will, remain in place next season.
But with long-term managerial targets Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp now secured by Manchester City and Liverpool, respectively, who are some of the other managers who could replace Wenger if were to finally go?
If there is a ready-made replacement for Wenger already in the Premier League, surely it is Southampton boss Koeman. The Dutchman, who won the Champions League as a player with Barcelona before going on to win multiple Eredivisie titles while managing Ajax, has exactly the right sort of pedigree for Arsenal.
He’s been named Premier League manager of the month three times since taking over at Southampton and has been also been particularly successful against Arsenal. His Saints side knocked the Gunners out of the League Cup in 2014 and handed them their heaviest defeat in the league this season – a 4-0 loss on Boxing Day. Recently, Koeman was named as the English bookies’ favorite to succeed Wenger.
A specialist in the kind of high-tempo gegenpressing Jurgen Klopp innovated at Dortmund, Schmidt, the Bayer Leverkusen manager, has risen quickly from managing a sixth-division side in 2005 to taking charge of one of Germany’s biggest clubs in 2014.
Appointed to the Leverkusen job not long after his Red Bull Salzburg side demolished Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich 3-0 in a preseason friendly, Schmidt led Leverkusen to a fourth-place finish and a spot in the Champions League in his first season.
Deeply opinionated on how the game should be played, Schmidt, with his commitment to high pressing and attacking soccer, has earned him both admirers and critics in Germany. But despite some ups and downs, his Leverkusen team remains in contention for a Champions League spot this season and has come to be known for playing an attractive brand of soccer that would get the approval from Arsenal fans.
Frank de Boer
While he may not yet have the managerial track record of his countryman Ronald Koeman, De Boer shares a similar pedigree.
A Champions League winner with Ajax and La Liga winner with Barcelona as a player, De Boer took charge of managing Ajax in 2010 and led them to four consecutive Eredivisie titles, becoming the first coach ever to win four Dutch titles in a row.
His Ajax background would seem to make him a natural for carrying on (and possibly improving) the attacking, possession-based style Wenger has implemented at Arsenal. De Boer’s backroom staff at Ajax, meanwhile, includes two former Arsenal legends with Dennis Bergkamp working as his assistant and Mark Overmars serving as technical director. Coming from Ajax, De Boer is also accustomed to working within the financial constraints that seem to persist at Arsenal, despite rumors of a largely untapped £200m transfer kitty.
While Wenger has been criticized for failing to get the most out of what, on paper, looks to be one of the most talented squads in the Premier League, Simeone has made his reputation by turning a crop of seemingly unexceptional players at Atletico Madrid into a sum that’s always greater than its parts.
Working with a budget that’s a fraction of that of Barcelona or Real Madrid, Simeone has expanded La Liga’s “Big Two” into a “Big Three.” The fiery Argentine would seem to be the right manager to inject some fight into an Arsenal team that still has a tendency to capitulate at the first sign of trouble. However, while El Cholo can unite a dressing room like few others, his teams thrive on a siege mentality and have run into trouble when they’ve tried to venture into the kind of attractive, attacking soccer Arsenal aspires to play.
Having missed out on Klopp, Arsenal could potentially look to his Dortmund successor, Tuchel. Dubbed “The New Klopp” since taking over at the Westfalenstadion, the former Mainz boss has successfully maintained Dortmund’s high-pressing style and its ability to nip at the heels of Bayern Munich.
At just 42, Tuchel is fast becoming one of the hottest young managers in Germany. Having built on the intensity and technical proficiency Klopp implemented at Dortmund, Tuchel has gone on to instill a fierce sense of the collective spirit that Arsenal seems to cry out for at times.
Having recently led Paris Saint-Germain to its fourth consecutive Ligue 1 title in record time, Blanc doesn’t always seem to get the credit he deserves for the job he’s done since taking over from Carlo Ancelotti.
Despite the imbalance of power in Ligue 1, Blanc should be praised, both for the attractive, possession-based style he’s implemented at the capital club and for the way he’s shaped the team’s collection of big stars and massive egos into the one of the most cohesive units in this season’s Champions League.
A World Cup winner with France as a player, Blanc spent the final two seasons of his playing career with Manchester United. And while Old Trafford looks the most likely Premier League destination for Blanc, his disposition toward technically proficient, tactically sound soccer could make him an ideal fit for the Gunners. In an interesting twist of plot, Wenger has also been identified as one of PSG’s main targets for taking over at the Parc des Princes should Blanc leave.
With Klopp installed at Liverpool and Guardiola on the way to Man City, there are very few managers potentially on the market with the kind of profiles that could send Arsenal fans into dreamland. One of them, however, is most certainly Loew, the Germany boss.
German soccer know-how is very much in demand following Die Mannschaft’s triumph at the World Cup two years ago. The man who led them to that title has emerged as another favorite among English bookies to succeed Wenger.
Credited along with Jurgen Klinsmann for helping to reinvent German soccer as a fantastic, attacking spectacle, Loew would be a dream appointment for Arsenal, especially given his knack for getting the best out of Mesut Ozil. But could Loew really make himself available after managing Germany through the Euros this summer? That remains to be seen as the 56-year-old Bundestrainer recently extended his contract until 2018.
Report by Alex Baker/Yahoo! Blogs
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