As you will certainly know by now, Arsène Wenger has confirmed he will be stepping down as Arsenal manager after this season. Why has he come to this decision? Was it his decision? Is it good for Arsenal? What now? Let’s take a look.
It was on the fateful day of September 22, 1996, that Arsène Wenger was unveiled as the Arsenal manager, and the football landscape of England would never be the same. The Frenchman brought a full-scale revolution to England, employing a ball-on-ground approach so rarely seen on the island. He signed players, turned them into a proper team, made them grow and grew with them.
Time passed, slowly but irresistibly. The days of captain Tony Adams ended, Martin Keown came back to the club and his time ended too. Players came and went: Patrick Vieira, David Seaman, Ray Parlour, Freddie Ljungberg, Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Gilberto Silva, Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, and many, many more. Each and every one of them etched his name in Arsenal’s and English football’s history, all under the guidance of Arsène Wenger. During his 22 years at the helm, the Gunners have won three Premier League titles, seven FA Cup trophies and seven FA Community Shields.
His services to the club, English football and football overall, will never fade or be forgotten, and rightly so. From any football perspective you may take on the matter – an era is about to end.
Is the time right for the club to move on? There are many factors to consider when pondering that question.
It is no big secret that there are many Arsenal supporters who had decided to stop supporting Wenger as the manager in the past few seasons. It cannot be overlooked that the club isn’t what it used to be. Arsenal are no longer considered among the top favorites for the Premier League title, and it’s been a while since they were able to cause a stir in the Champions League. Unless they win the Europa League this term, it will be the second time in a row that they’ve failed even to qualify for the continent’s elite club competition. To be fair, the emergence of Manchester City as a financial superclub, or the hundreds of millions of pounds Manchester United keep investing into their team every year can hardly be put down as Wenger’s fault, but at the moment even the likes of Liverpool and, as painful as it is, Tottenham Hotspur, are edging ahead of Arsenal.
Another thing that cannot be overlooked is the fact that the manager is 68 years old. The job he is leaving behind is stressful to say the least, and that’s on a good day. The cases of his great rival Sir Alex Ferguson and Bayern Munich’s Jupp Heynckess, who have enjoyed success past the 70-mark, are extremely rare and even they did not last long after that – Ferguson retired at 71 while Heynckess is set to retire for the second time this summer at 72.
What actually happened?
Was the decision to leave the club his? In his article for ESPN, respected journalist Gabriele Marcotti reports that it wasn’t. Not exactly, anyway.
Marcotti claims Wenger was asked to leave. It appears the manager opted to make his departure his own choice in the eyes of the public in order to avoid the label “sacked”, which he definitely did not deserve from Arsenal Football Club.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was apparently offered to Arsenal last summer, but Wenger chose to go another way with the signing of Alexandre Lacazette. Therefore, the eventual arrival of Aubameyang in January now seems like it was a sign that the Frenchman was starting to lose control over some things at the club. It also seems that the indecisions about his future at the club were costly in terms of Alexis Sanchez’s decision to leave the club and back-and-forth approach of Mesut Özil, who eventually signed a new deal for a huge raise.
The manager realised that there was no way to change the mind of the club to go in another direction come the end of the season and therefore opted to leave with dignity.
With Wenger in charge or without him, the team needs to find some new quality, some new drive that will give them enough of a boost to snap out the current state and climb to the very top once more. And given his age, maybe it is for the best that Arsenal entrust a fresh face to kick-start that resurgence.
Several names have been touted as possible candidates to replace Wenger at Arsenal.
Spanish football expert, journalist Guillem Balague says former Barcelona player and manager Luis Enrique would love the job. After a year away from the game, Enrique is ready to return to work and he’s looking for a challenge. He loves England, the Premier League, and he holds the connection between English clubs and their fans in a regard higher than that of Spain.
Balague also points out that Enrique would be a much better fit for Arsenal than Diego Simeone, as possession-based attractive football is something that the Gunners are renowned for.
In the end, the Spanish journalist says Arsenal haven’t yet approached anybody out of respect for Wenger, and all that we read these days are lists drawn up by the media.
On the other hand, ESPN’s Arsenal correspondent Mattias Karén says his preference would be either Monaco’s Leonardo Jardim or Massimiliano Allegri of Juventus, while stressing that the club have given themselves enough time to find the right man.
Celtic’s majority shareholder Dermot Desmond stated that the Scottish club would not stand in the way of Brendan Rodgers should the former Liverpool and Swansea boss wish to talk to Arsenal.
It seems there are plenty of options to choose from. People always say hindsight is a wonderful thing, but now it’s time for foresight. So get you crystal balls out and share your views – who would be the best successor to Arsène Wenger at Arsenal?