Who should be the next Arsenal manager? That is the question facing a trio of Arsenal executives; Ivan Gazidis, Sven Mislintat and Raul Sanllehi. With Arsène Wenger stepping down at the end of the season, the Gunners’ search for his replacement begins. However, just what attributes are desirable in a candidate? Should the club appoint a young, untested manager? Or go with an established, experienced option?
A Profile of the Next Arsenal Manager
To answer the question of who should be the next Arsenal manager, we need to first think about what the team needs. What would the current players respond to? What strengths are the most desirable for the club? Just how much influence would he have on the day-to-day operations? All these queries must be sorted before a candidate can be considered.
Getting the Most out of the Current Squad
While the past two seasons have seemed disastrous, the current Arsenal team is not a bad one. There are certainly weaknesses, however, few if any clubs in the world could claim imperviousness. For example, the combination of Lacazette, Aubameyang, Özil and Mkhitaryan can create goals against even the most stubborn defences.
Meanwhile, full-backs Monreal and Bellerin are brilliant at times, with the latter consistently linked with a move back to Barcelona. Yes, the team is weak defensively, however most other areas are at least good, if not great.
Even some of the defensive errors are more down to mentality than ability. That is where a motivator can really make a difference. Let’s take Shkodran Mustafi as an example.
Against both Newcastle and Southampton in the Premiership, he made very poor tactical decisions. At St. James’, the German almost single-handedly conceded the goal to Ayoze Perez. With the ball crossed in from the flank, Mustafi allowed the striker to get in front of him and attack the ball first. The result? a superb finish from the Newcastle man.
Shane Long pulled almost the exact same stunt on the defender when the Gunners faced the Saints. Again with a cross coming from the flank, Long darted to the near post and Mustafi simply stopped running. Again, this resulted in a goal shipped and some harsh words for the defense from Petr Cech.
Mustafi could have easily done better, but he chose not to. A motivating manager could work that sort of mental error out of a player’s game. However, that sort of coaching is simply not Wenger’s style.
Big Name or Take a Chance?
In 1996, all the papers asked ‘Arsène Who?’. A very few years later those same publications declared ‘Arsène Knows!’. No doubt that the gamble taken on a young, unknown manager in Wenger was the right decision, at least for the first decade.
However, just how intelligent of a gamble would it be to take the same route now?
Wenger brought with him a new mentality focused on advanced training methods, proper nutrition and gentle persuasion. That resulted in new-found careers for the likes of Tony Adams. However, such methods are commonplace now and it is the post-training trip to the pub which is anomalous.
Younger manager like Julian Nagelsmann certainly have new ideas about the game, but just how radical a shift would their appointment be? With so much information readily available in this digital age, likely there is little to nothing which this new generation of coaches knows that is unknown to the current big names.
So, perhaps taking a gamble on a young gun like Nagelsmann or Eddie Howe would be slightly foolhardy. Then again, the now traditional approach of Arsène Wenger does not seem to work with the current Arsenal team.
Having a manager who oversees the day-to-day operations of the club is simply antiquated. There is also the possibility that, like Wenger, they would be averse to having less control than they enjoyed at previous employers. After all, the club worked very hard to hire Mislintat and Sanllehi, and would probably not wish for them to lose what influence they currently hold on the team.
Simply put, there are arguments for naming an established figure and for appointing a relative unknown as the next Arsenal manager.
The Stateside View
No doubt the next Arsenal manager needs to be a motivator; someone who will come in and knock some sense into at least one or two of the current regulars. They will also need to have the ability to work well with the ‘big three’ at Arsenal in Gazidis, Mislintat and Sanllehi.
Probably the most well-known motivator to Gooners is Antonio Conte, who is all-but sacked at Chelsea. He can be seen barking orders for 90 minutes almost each and every game. Then, there are his training methods, which are known to be relatively harsh. He believes in steely discipline and work ethic.
Of course, there are the worrisome reports in the media claiming he is constantly at odds with management. That may be par for the course at Stamford Bridge, but not so at the Emirates.
Then again, there is the steady hand of Carlo Ancelotti. He is a much more calming influence than Conte and rarely loses his cool. However, he is more of a man-manager than a motivator. For example, his greatest successes came with clubs that had big names and big egos to match, like at Real Madrid.
He is more suited to step into a club that is ready to win, but needs peace and unity in the dressing room. From all reports, this is not the case at Arsenal right now, at least since the departure of Alexis Sanchez.
For my two cents, I see only one candidate which checks all the boxes; Luis Enrique.
He got the very best out of his team while at Barcelona, winning nine trophies in three years. Enrique was also at peace with his bosses, as evidenced by the fact Sanllehi is championing his former co-worker. His tactics are also quite sound, as one cannot simply win the Champions League without tactical nuance.
He may not have quite the bark of a Conte or Dyche, but he has more of a steely edge than an Ancelotti or Lowe. What remains to be seen is who can lure the former Barcelona man; Chelsea or Arsenal.
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