Wenger Out? But Who Is There To Replace Him?
You either die a hero or you live long enough to become the villain. They say all good things must come to an end and with each passing transfer window, ignominious defeat or unfathomable line-up, tactical decision or substitution more people climb off the fence or take a running leap over it to claim the time has come for the manager to leave.
Once ardent supporters of the manager, people who saw merit in the reasons given for Arsenal’s lack of title winning mettle, now believe he has taken us as far as he can. If Wenger continues and things don’t swiftly improve there will come a time when even the most infamous AKBs, as they are so often labelled, will turn. Personally, I’m just not sure. I flip-flop between games. The title is still possible so he could win me over but if pushed for an answer I think I would say that right now I too think he has taken us as far as he can. That’s obviously a simplistic answer to a complex question as there are so many things to consider.
The players aren’t performing as that’s equally their fault as it is Wenger’s. If they got their sh!t together and put in a run then we could claim the title and Wenger will be somewhat vindicated. I think it would be madness to part ways with a title winning manager unless it was his decision but I also think that this contract should be his last.
I’m a firm believer that teams have cycles that last 3-4 seasons and the core of this squad is in their first or second season together depending on if you count from Alexis or Cech. By the end of next season they will have 1-2 seasons left before a rebuild is required. Great managers rebuild bit by bit and that is something Wenger has done in the past but I’m not sure he’s going to replenish the team to the extent that is required as we’ve been 1-2 players short for 4 seasons now.
Those players haven’t always been the same players but the story is usually the same.
So, if Wenger were to extend he would be responsible for creating the next team with he would either see through until the next team or he makes that his final contract and the next manager has to rebuild with a squad that may not have the quality materials this team has. Let’s not pretend here, this is the best Arsenal squad in many moons and unless we buck our ideas up the best players in it might not want to stick around to be a part of the next great Arsenal team.
It makes sense to let a new man come in in 2017, or sooner, and allow him to build the team in his image with the best remnants of the Wenger era much like Wenger benefited from inheriting the best of George Graham’s final squad. Wenger then went on build the next generation off the back of that squad and it went unbeaten.
The biggest argument for keeping Wenger and probably why I’ve not gone full Wenger out despite understanding his decisions less and less with each passing game is who is out there is replace him? In many ways Wenger is Giroud. In the right system they are excellent at what they do and there are few better in the modern game; however they are both limited and sometimes can be fairly accused of holding us back.
Finding a replacement for Giroud is the same as Wenger, who is there? The best strikers/managers are already at the biggest/richest clubs and it’s unlikely we’re going to get them. Higuaín is the only example of a proven goal scorer that we could have got but as I’ve stated before, hindsight is a beautiful thing and at the time, with the knowledge that Suarez had a release clause; it made sense to switch targets. By the time we had realised Liverpool were never going to play ball no matter what we offered whether it was +£1 or +£20m the chance to sign Higuaín was gone. Yes, it’s crap and we should have known better but what more can we do if clubs refuse to release a player with a release clause? Bid more? We did, and they still said no. Don’t buy this “they were offended by the £1” because that’s nonsense. Sure, they might have been annoyed but that wouldn’t have stopped them turning down good money. They turned us down because they didn’t want to sell to a rival. It really was that simple. Alas, I digress.
This summer we are in the same boat with Giroud. What world-class striker is there that we could conceivably nab? There are none. The answer then is to either go all in for one and hope it comes off or look for a younger player that could be the next big thing. The same goes for Wenger.
If we are looking for a replacement we can’t call on Pep or Carlo Ancelotti, Pellegrini would be plus ça change, Mourinho is basically Costa – you begrudgingly admit he would improve you but you wouldn’t want him because he’s a massive thunderc*nt, Enrique isn’t going to leave Barcelona to join Arsenal any more than Messi, Neymar or Suarez would and Klopp is at Liverpool. So, out of the recognised world-class managers that leaves Simeone. Atletico to Arsenal possibly is a step up but he has a great team that he has built himself, why would he leave? We could throw some money at him and hope for the best a la replacing Giroud or a la replacing Giroud we go down the ‘potential’ route.
Replacing Giroud with potential is a lot easier than finding a proven world-class striker but it comes with some risks. A less risky option would be to pay what it takes to get Lukaku – a proven scorer in the league and someone who has shown a range of abilities and that he is not a flat-track bully. If you want to complete the raid and comparison you take a punt on Martinez.
The dream team of Frank de Boer and Dennis Bergkamp is another option as are Ronald Koeman, Jogi Löw, Allegri, Tuchel and even guys like Howe and Bilic make the punt list. It hurts to say it but Spurs are showing Arsenal the way forward. They’ve gone for a manager who has shown potential at a smaller club and bought a team full of what could be considered secondary options. Alderweireld and Vertonghen wouldn’t have topped any list to replace Mertesacker or Koscielny when all eyes are on players like Hummels and Varane but they’ve been the best defence in the league. Harry Kane repaid the chance taken on him as a youth product with two consecutive seasons of double Premier League figures. I think most of us were wrong about him being a flash in the pan. He hasn’t been as prolific in his second season but he’s also developed into a more rounded player so his contribution has increased. Eriksen was eyed up by plenty of big clubs but none were willing to part with the cash for him and he’s been Spurs’ best player. Dele Alli is another example of trusting a young player. It makes me feel sick to recognise how good they are but they’ve done what we should be doing.
The saddening thing is we could do it even better. We’ve got greater financial resources, better players on paper and won’t be encumbered by a stadium like they will be as we’ve already got the t-shirt.
I’m no more worried about them on Saturday than I usually would be because I’ve always believed that form goes out the window in NLDs – these games go to whoever turns up on the day irrespective of any gulf in class.
It’s time for Arsenal to start looking at replacing Wenger, whether it is this summer or next. The time has come and if there is any chance of bringing in a top manager or one with a bright future then we shouldn’t sit on our hands. Wenger will understand, he loves this club and will want to do what is best.
He has been a fantastic servant for Arsenal and ideally he will stay on in some capacity. It would be good to have someone who genuinely understands football on the board, or he could get involved with youth development or just be Director of Football. There will always be room for Arsène at Arsenal Football Club and he’ll forever hold a special place in my heart and in my mind as the greatest manager Arsenal have had. Whoever replaces him will owe him a great debt of gratitude for what he will leave behind not just in terms of players but also facilities, networks and global standing.
If by some miracle we win the title this season and retain the FA Cup I would gladly watch him see out his contract but I also think it would be nice for him to go out on a high and leave a quality squad for the next manager. As much as Sir Alex Ferguson retired a hero he hamstrung United for quite a few years because the squad was never good enough to sustain success under a manager like Moyes and United had to turn to someone like Van Gaal to steady the ship and you really don’t want what is effectively a stop gap making all the decisions for the future of your playing squad.
I’m worried about what will happen to Arsenal if we don’t handle the transference of power properly so it’s crucial we make moves sooner rather than later so whomever comes in next has a squad with enough talent to power through any teething problems.
There is so much potential at Arsenal to let it go to waste waiting for the perfect striker or the perfect manager. At some point you just have to take a leap of faith and hope it turns out okay. It wasn’t so bad the last time took a chance on someone back in 1996.
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