Originally posted in The Sport Review
The winds of change are blowing at The Emirates. Arsene Wenger, who has been in charge of Arsenal since 1996, has so far refused to confirm where his future may lie after this current season ends in May.
The French manager is under severe scrutiny, after finally being able to assemble a squad capable of challenging for honours in the last few years, he has been unable to recreate the glories of old in the first decade of his tenure. It seems the old magic has been lost.
Wenger also appears to have lost a large chunk of the support in the stands too. Protests and marches have taken place in objection to Wenger continuing in his capacity as manager, and this season has offered no respite.
With the Gunners out of the Champions League places and yet again failing to make the Quarter-Finals of the same competition, speculation has been rife regarding a possible successor to the Arsenal managerial throne.
Many names have been touted, but here are twenty of the best candidates to lead Arsenal out of the doldrums should Wenger abdicate his position:
20 – Luciano Spalletti
The Italian started his coaching career the hard way, bringing lowly Empoli up two divisions to Serie A. He eventually earned a move to Roma after a successful spell at Udinese, and a Manager of the Year Award was just reward for turning the Roma team around. He has other experience from different leagues after five years with Zenit St Petersburg, but he has since returned to the Stadio Olimpico – and has seen his team produce the only credible challenge to runaway Serie A leaders Juventus.
19 – Rafa Benitez
Newcastle United Manager
The Spaniard, when in charge of Liverpool, always showed Wenger ample respect when their respective teams duelled. Benitez has helmed some of the biggest teams in the game – Valencia, Real Madrid, Liverpool and Chelsea – and he looks like carrying Newcastle straight back into the top flight. Benitez would relish a return to the larger spotlight, and the ideals he shares with Wenger would make him a man that could come in with the minimum of adaptation time.
18 – Pai Dardai
Hertha Berlin Manager
The Hungary-born man may be inexperienced, but he is showing that his tactical acumen is spot on. Having spent over a decade with Hertha in his playing days, upon retiring he took a position as youth coach. Dardai has also taken charge of his country, before taking the reins at Hertha. The team from Berlin under his stewardship have climbed up to fifth place with a moderate squad, and the relatively young Dardai deserves the credit. His firm grasp on the modern game gives him a shout.
17 – Carlo Ancelotti
Bayern Munich Manager
The eyebrow-arching Italian has won it all in the domestic game, and his accumulated experience means he has much to offer. If Arsenal are planning long term, then Ancelotti could provide the perfect two to three year platform for their intended target to bed in. One thing Ancelotti can guarantee is success and making sure his teams are in contention. His short spell at Chelsea means he is accustomed to the pressures of the Premiership too.
16 – Laurent Blanc
The Frenchman had a glittering playing career, and his managerial career has gotten off to a great start too. At his first club, he led Bordeaux to a Ligue Un and Coupe de la Ligue double. He also led them to a Quarter-Final in the Champions League. He also took charge of his national team, before being offered the lucrative position of Paris Saint Germain boss. He has led the capital-based team to three consecutive titles, as well as five domestic cups. The Frenchman is now a free agent, which would make negotiations a tad easier!
15 – Joachim Low
The shaggy-haired German coach has led his country to World Cup glory. He was an integral part of the German revolution which began in the early 2000’s which saw all levels of German football adhere to the same playing model. The tactics have worked, and Low continues to lead his country to domination. His team play in the same way as Arsenal, and he would ensure the Arsenal Way is maintained. After so many years in international football, a new challenge would be a tough choice to turn down.
14 – Luis Enrique
Enrique oversaw one of the most successful seasons in Barcelona’s history, when the Catalan club won the treble in 2014-15. They also won the Double in the next season. He recently announced he would be departing Barcelona at the end of this current season, which appears to be perfect timing. enrique has maintained he needs a rest from the pressures of being a manager, but could he be tempted to come to London?
13 – Dennis Bergkamp
Assistant Manager of Ajax
As a player, Bergkamp is heralded by Arsenal fans as perhaps the greatest man to have pulled on the shirt in recent times. The Dutchman opted to return home to begin his managerial career, but would a return ‘home’ lure Dennis to take the Arsenal hotseat? His lack of experience may harm his prospects, but his choice could prove to be a very popular one within Arsenal fan ranks.
12 – Dragan Stojkovic
Guangzhou R and F
The Serbian played for eight years at Nagoya Grampus Eight in Japan, and he played under current Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger. Wenger has touted Stojkovic as an excellent candidate for manager previously, but his lack of European managerial experience may cost him. However, if Wenger has any say in the process, Stojkovic may just be the surprise option.
11 – Julian Nagelsmann
TSG Hoffenheim Manager
The 29yr old German coach dramatically saved Hoffenheim from relegation last season against all odds, and he has continued to impress and defy the doubters. His side currently sit in 4th position in the Bundesliga, and his innovative tactics and relative success at a modest club are attracting suitors. Nagelsmann would be a high risk choice as he hasn’t yet managed in the top flight for a whole season, but if he earns Hoffenheim a Champions League spot, Nagelsmann will be a wanted man.
10 – Giovanni Van Bronckhurst
Van Bronckhurst has returned Feyenoord back to where they belong after many years in the shadows of the Eredivisie. They currently sit top of the Dutch league, and the Dutchman is responsible for the turnaround. Van Bronckhurst had a short spell as an Arsenal player, and he had a successful playing career playing under some great coaches. The accumulated experience has helped him as a manager, and if he wins the rotterdam club their first title for over a decade, he will be on the shortlist for sure.
9 – Eusebio Sacristan Mena
Real Sociedad Manager
Mena has allowed Sociedad a period of sustainability, slowly steadying the ship after many peaks and troughs. His managerial style comes from Barcelona after firstly performing the assistant role in the early 2000’s, before taking charge of Barcelona B from 2011 to 2015. Sociedad are his club now, and they are in 5th place as this is written – only one point behind Diego Simeone’s Atletico in 4th. Mena could bring the good times back to Arsenal.
8 – Eddie Howe
Howe has worked miracles at Bournemouth. The modest South Coast club have not only reached the Premier League for the first time, but under his stewardship, they have comfortably retained their status in the top flight. They are struggling at this moment in time, but the exciting brand of football he espouses is in line with Arsenal. Howe may lack the years of hardened competition in Europe, but Howe could be the long term option that Arsenal crave.
7 – Lucien Favre
The Swiss manager started off in his native country, before making the short journey to the Bundesliga with Hertha Berlin and Borussia Monchengladbach. He was a success at both clubs, in both cases rescuing them from the relegation places and steering them to the Champions League. He has since taken over Nice, and yet again he is overseeing major change with Nice challenging for Ligue Un against more established teams like Monaco and PSG. Favre is accustomed to tight budgets and his brand of fluid football and unearthing talent is exactly what Arsenal need.
6 – Ralph Hassenhuttl
RB Leipzig Manager
The Austrian coach has earned his stripes. He has managed in all tiers of the Bundesliga, and his last club – Ingolstadt – have risen from the second tier to the Bundesliga under his leadership. He has since moved to cash-rich RB Leipzig, and they seem to be the only credible challengers to Bayern Munich’s domination. Hassenhuttl has changed the way Leipzig play, and has utilised the unique talents at his disposal to engineer a counter-attacking team that are resolute as well as lethal. It is unclear who pulls the strings at the club – whether it be Hassenhuttl or Sporting director Ralf Rangnick – but the Austrian Manager is on the radar.
5 – Leonardo Jardin
AS Monaco Manager
The previous managers of Monaco have proven that cash is not the sole reason for success, but since taking over at the club, Leonardo Jardin has taken Monaco to where they need to be to ensure the millions have not been wasted. The team from the tiny principality are top of Ligue Un and have a gap between them and PSG who have ruled France’s top league for the last three seasons. Jardin’s style has earned plaudits, and his recruitment policy has found some real gems. Jardin could revolutionise Arsenal, and his team’s display in the Champions League against Manchester City recently was the best advertisement for what he brings – fast paced, attack-minded football.
4 – Thomas Tuchel
Borussia Dortmund Manager
Tuchel has matched previous Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp’s path in management. Taking Mainz to the top flight and a European spot, he was courted by some big German clubs before opting for Dortmund after six years with Mainz. He has lost only 13 games from his 91 Bundesliga matches so far, and he has replaced some players with promising young talent. Tuchel has maintained BVB’s trademark pressing style which he inherited from Klopp, but Tuchel could do with some success on the domestic front before making the leap to the big time.
3 – Jorge Sampaoli
Sampaoli will be forever revered as a hero in Chile, after engineering back to back Copa America triumphs for the South American nation. Sampaoli has since joined Sevilla, and he has allowed the club to make the leap from Europa League to Champions League comfortably. They are also challenging for La Liga, in the mix with Barcelona and Real Madrid. Sampaoli is unflinching in his demand for 100% from his players, but he also manages to make the most from every percent. Sampaoli is one of the favourites for the Barcelona job, but Sampaoli can pick his next club from a host of offers.
2 – Diego Simeone
Atletico Madrid Manager
Simeone was a winner as a player, and as a manager this has been the same. He returned Atletico to the top of Spanish football and won La Liga in 2013-14. He also tasted success as a manager in South America, so his pedigree is one of accomplishment. The man known as ‘El Cholo’ in Spain is labelled as a counter-attacking specialist, but that would be doing a great disservice to his teams. He is adept at adapting his teams to the demands of every opponent, and can switch from possession football to defensively minded in an instant. Simeone has also reacted to losing key personnel by replacing them seamlessly. He has to be a frontrunner for the job.
1 – Massimiliano Allegri
Allegri has reportedly already started English lessons as he courts the Arsenal position, and the North London club would be getting a brilliant manager. Starting off in the lower reaches of Italian football, he eventually found his way to Cagliari and pushed them to their best ever season. This paved the way to AC Milan, and he duly won them their first Serie A title for seven years. He then moved to Juventus after four years at Milan, and he enjoyed instant silverware, winning the Double in his first season, followed by the same the very next campaign. Allegri has purchased shrewdly, created teams of strength and pace, and is as thorough in his preparations as anyone could be. The Italian has emerged as the favourite for the Arsenal hotseat, and it is easy to see why.