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Inside FutbolInside Futbol

06 October 2018

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26 August 2018


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Why Arsenal Must Learn Manchester United Lesson With Arsene Wenger

After enduring years of Manchester United domination, the Premier League’s other powerhouses are unlikely to be feeling much sympathy for the current turmoil at Old Trafford. The pain of the David Moyes era has transferred itself into the new campaign as Louis van Gaal gets to grips with the challenge he faces in reviving a slumping giant. Just games into the 2014/15 season, Manchester United already look outsiders to finish in the top four.

The whole league is likely taking note of events at Manchester United, but Arsenal should be paying the closest attention since there is a key lesson to be recognised and understood – a shaky succession plan can derail even a very capable squad.

It is easy to forget that Manchester United lifted the Premier League trophy in May 2013 as Sir Alex Ferguson bid farewell after 26 years in the hotseat, leaving behind a group of players who were aging but had been capable of winning the title at a canter. Fifteen months later, the aura of invincibility and the energy have gone, there is no Champions League action (or even Europa League games, for that matter) and huge sums are now being spent in the transfer market to overhaul the squad, including a British transfer record to bring Argentine Angel di Maria to Manchester and a hefty wage outlay for Radamel Falcao to follow suit.

Arsene Wenger signed a three-year contract extension this summer, taking him through to May 2017 and giving the Gunners more breathing space in their search for the right candidate to succeed the Frenchman. But the day will come when Wenger – who turns 65 in October – is no longer on the Arsenal touchline and a new manager is looking to stamp his own identity on the club while handling immense pressure to maintain previous standards.


The Gunners cannot afford to hesitate. Plans are likely already under way and finalising a clear game plan must be considered a priority.

While Manchester United do not look a more potent force as yet under the experienced Van Gaal, Arsenal would be wise to note the credibility questions that dogged Moyes, who arrived at Old Trafford without a single trophy to his name. Rightly or wrongly, that matters when walking into a dressing room full of highly paid international stars who have played in plenty of big games and lifted their fair share of silverware.

Assuming the Gunners keep their core together for the next three or four years (far from a safe bet given some of their dealings in recent summers), the new boss would need to command the respect of an array of big names, including characters like Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez.


So, who are the candidates?

Rudi Garcia: The Roma boss, a fellow Frenchman, has been a huge hit in the Italian capital, turning around the club’s fortunes and developing a squad capable of challenging for the title. Garcia has the personality for the job and, by the time Wenger makes his exit, he may have the ideal CV too.

Jurgen Klopp: Beloved at Borussia Dortmund, Klopp is high on the list of talented young managers and is renowned for both his tactical mind and his attacking philosophy. He has led Dortmund to the Bundesliga title and the Champions League final. He would not be fazed by the challenge of succeeding Wenger, but would the job interest him?

Joachim Low: Fresh off guiding Germany to World Cup glory, Low has no desire to walk away from that job just yet and is set to stay at the helm through to Euro 2016. But beyond that, his future plans are unclear. Would the lure of London and the Premier League be strong enough?


Roberto Martinez: The Spaniard could be a good fit given his penchant for attractive football – but, if Everton have not tasted the Champions League by then, would he be a big enough name? Martinez has impressed at Goodison Park, however it will be interesting to see how he recovers from a difficult start to the season, in which his defence has already shipped ten goals.

Dennis Bergkamp: If the Gunners are looking to make a big splash and are willing to take a bit of a gamble, Bergkamp could be the man. He has already begun his managerial journey – currently working as Ajax assistant manager – and may feel ready to run the show at the Emirates by 2017.

Lee Dixon: A major outsider – but Dixon has impressed as a pundit and his connection to the club would please the supporters. His appointment might not resonate so well with foreign stars, however. While he played in some great Arsenal teams, he was more a steady performer than a star.


Plenty can happen between now and the summer of 2017, including the possibility that Wenger will not be ready to step away just yet from the job he began back in 1996, and the chance he may leave before his deal expires. But Arsenal need to be ready to bring in the right successor. Making the wrong choice could undo all of the fine work of the past few decades – just ask Manchester United fans.


Tom Oldfield

Published: Wednesday, 3rd Sep 2014