With Arsene Wenger heading for the Emirates exit, speculation over who will replace him in the Arsenal dug-out next season is raging as chief executive Ivan Gazidis begins the search for a new manager.
Former Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has been installed as the early favourite, but Arsenal face a potential tug of war with Chelsea for his services.
Antonio Conte is expected to leave Stamford Bridge after the FA Cup final and the Blues are already scouting for a replacement. They were initially put off by Enrique’s £15m-a-year wage demands, but he remains a candidate for the job.
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“Despite the fact Chelsea would be able to offer Enrique a bigger transfer budget and better squad to work with, Arsenal believe they have a trump card in the form of head of football relations Raul Sanllehi,” says The Daily Telegraph.
“Sanllehi and Enrique worked together at Barcelona and have remained in touch since both leaving the club.
“Arsenal are optimistic that Enrique would be keen to link up with Sanllehi again and that his presence would offer some assurance that he would be given time to succeed – something that is rarely on offer at Chelsea.”
Arsenal have begun sounding out candidates, says the paper, but are unlikely to name a successor to Wenger until next month.
Vieira would answer the call
Gunners legend Patrick Vieira, currently managing New York City FC in the MLS, is “open to the opportunity of making an emotional return to Arsenal”, reports The Times.
“He sees his immediate future in New York but with a three-year deal signed in November 2015 set to expire before the end of this year (a new contract has yet to be agreed), Vieira would not dismiss the chance of going back Arsenal, where he became an international star under the tutelage of Wenger.”
Vieira would be the kind of appointment that would reinvigorate the fanbase at the Emirates says the paper, and the 41-year-old believes he has what it takes.
“It was somewhere I spent nine years and I love the club,” he says. “I played my best football there and made my name in the game. I am always going to have a deeper relationship with Arsenal. That [alone] is not enough to coach that team but I’m ready to coach any side in Europe.”
Odds on Arteta slashed
The odds on former Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta (currently a coach at Manchester City) succeeding Wenger have been slashed after Sky Sports reported that Gazidis was a fan and not afraid of making a “bold” choice.
The decision will not be down to the chief executive alone. He’s just one of three “kingmakers” tasked with appointing a replacement. The others are Raul Sanllehi, Arsenal’s head of football operations, and Sven Mislintat, head of recruitment.
According to The Daily Telegraph, the selection process will be thorough, but the paper says that Luis Enrique is a strong candidate who’s “understood to be keen”.
Max Allegri, Arteta, Leonardo Jardim, Julian Nagelsmann and Joachim Low are among the other frontrunners, says the Telegraph.
“As well as a manager who will continue to play attacking football and give young players their chance, Arsenal also want high standards of discipline. One criticism of Wenger has been that he has been too easy-going with his squad, although a strength also in his style is how he allows young players to grow and make mistakes.”
The London Evening Standard says that “Arsenal consider Carlo Ancelotti, who won the double at Chelsea in 2010 and is being linked with the Italy job, a serious candidate to replace Wenger, while former Borussia Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel is also among the favourites”.
It also name-checks Arteta, along with another former Gunner Patrick Vieira, and suggests that Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez could be in with a shout.
Several young German managers have been mentioned in connection with the post, says the BBC. But the leading candidate was Tuchel, who’s been snapped up by Paris Saint-Germain.
“I don’t see Arsenal making an appointment from the Bundesliga – there is no realistic candidate who is totally viable from Arsenal’s point of view or vice-versa,” says journalist Raphael Honigstein. “Tuchel would’ve been that guy but Arsenal missed the boat on him.”
He’s also sceptical about the claims of the Italians Allegri and Ancelotti, and has reservations about Enrique. He told the BBC: “The fans would be very underwhelmed if someone like Celtic and former Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers came in. You could say the fans were very underwhelmed when Wenger came in 22 years ago, but the club need to make a bigger statement. That either comes through a blue chip manager or somebody they consider an Arsenal man – Arteta or Vieira would really galvanise the support.”
Arsenal manager betting odds:
- Luis Enrique: 2/1
- Mikel Arteta: 5/1
- Joachim Low: 7/1
- Massimiliano Allegri: 9/1
- Brendan Rodgers: 12/1
- Patrick Vieira: 14/1
- Carlo Ancelotti: 16/1
- Thomas Tuchel: 20/1
- Eddie Howe: 20/1
- Rafael Benitez: 33/1
- Giovanni van Bronckhorst: 66/1
- Remi Garde: 100/1
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