BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 08: Josep Guardiola the Barcelona coach celebrates as Arsene Wenger the Arsenal coach looks on during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match between Barcelona and Arsenal at the Nou Camp Stadium on March 8, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
At some point in the near future, Arsene Wenger will no longer be the manager of Arsenal. Whether it's at the end of his current contract, in 2014, or after another contract, Wenger will most likely not be managing Arsenal by 2020. For the first time in at least 17 years, Arsenal will have to conduct a search for a new manager. One would think that after such a long time at the club, Wenger will be involved in choosing his successor; after all, Wenger has effectively reshaped the philosophy of the club. Changing away from Arsènal would be a major change to the club; probably much more than when Wenger arrived in 1996. Thus, the new manager is likely to be a man who believes in playing a passing style of football, and someone who believes in the benefits of a youth system. Conveniently, there's a man who believes in these values who just became available: Pep Guardiola. By 2014, Guardiola is likely to return to football (I'm ignoring the fact that he could return in 2013), rejuvenated after a well-deserved sabbatical. A lot of speculative pub talk over the past couple of years has led to the idea that a Guardiola/Wenger manager/Director of Football situation is a definite possibility, but with Wenger unlikely to want to be in that position, the actual chances of it happening are slim. So, I'm just going to consider Guardiola, and other candidates, just for the position of manager. To do this, I'm pretending to be the Arsenal board, and as such, have drawn up a shortlist.
- Pep Guardiola
Pep Guardiola doesn't seem like a bad choice for Arsenal manager. His record at Barcelona is outstanding, winning 13 out of 17 trophies. He plays a very attractive style of football (unless of course, you're the opposing team). He very much believes in the role of the youth system, having come through La Masia and promoting players like Pedro, Thiago, Cuenca and Tello. His tactical ability is very high, and his English is impressive. There are, though some question marks. Until he wins trophies without Messi, Xavi and Iniesta, there will always be that question mark of whether he fed on their ability or not. That, of course, is nonsense; just look at the 2007/08 campaign for Barcelona, where they finished 18 points behind the champions, Real Madrid. A more pertinent question, though, is his spending patterns. At Barcelona, Guardiola had a net spend of €146m in 4 years, which is 30 times the net spend of Wenger in his entire time at Arsenal. Obviously, that sort of spending can't happen at Arsenal, and it's not as if Guardiola is spending well; Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Dmytro Chygrynskiy and arguably David Villa have all been poor signings. Even the good signings haven't been for value, unlike Wenger's purchase of Laurent Koscielny for £7m (for example). Finally, would Guardiola be able to adapt Arsenal for a full-season pressing game, which they've been unable to do until now, or, would he himself be able to adapt to a team that can't maintain this intensity for a full season?
- Roberto Martinez
"Yeah, what's he won"? Well, nothing yet, but Roberto Martinez has been an impressive manager at both Swansea and Wigan, keeping Wigan up despite losing his best players every season (that'd make him a good manager for Arsenal /trololololol). Despite pressure to resort to a more direct and defensive style of play, Martinez has struck to his principles, showing tactical ability in his clever switch to a 3-4-3--something that Arsenal fans saw first hand in Wigan's victory two weeks ago. He operates within the financial parameters in Wigan, finding players in leagues not often used for transfers: The Scottish Premier League, the Championship and League One and Latin America, as seen in his purchases of Jimmy-Jim MaccamacCarthyarthur, Shaun Maloney, Maynor Figueroa and Jean Beausejour. He clearly has an eye for a player, and it's not hard to envisage him transferring this ability to a larger scale. He hasn't won a trophy at a higher level, but, neither did Guardiola when he became Barcelona manager.
- Jurgen Klopp
Whether Jurgen Klopp becomes Arsenal manager in 2014 is depends on what Borussia Dortmund do in the next 2 seasons; right now, the two clubs are basically even, with Dortmund perhaps above Arsenal. If Klopp viewed Arsenal as a step up, he'd probably take the job, and he'd be an excellent candidate. His teams are defensively sound but very exciting going forward; there's little doubt he could translate his managerial ability to Arsenal.
- Dragan Stojkovic
Stojkovic is apparently Arsene Wenger's preferred successor. Like Wenger, he manages Grampus 8 in Japan, and also likes to play technically sound football. Unlike Wenger, though, Stojkovic has no previous European managerial credibility; he was instead an administrator, not a manager.
- Remi Garde
Former Arsenal player Remi Garde has taken well to management, guiding Lyon to 4th in Ligue 1, playing attractive football. During his time at Arsenal he was seen as a player-coach by some, and could be a contender for the job once Wenger retires.
- Brendan Rodgers
Rodgers' Swansea have been one of the better teams in the Premiership this season, using the ball extremely well, both defensively and offensively. They were called the "Barcelona of the Championship", and although they lack the flair of Barcelona, they share the need for possession with Leon Britton mirroring Sergio Busquets. Whether Rodgers could translate this to another club remains to be seen; he didn't do all that much at Watford or Reading.
- Andre Villas-Boas
Despite his tumultuous time at Chelsea, Villas-Boas could be an outside candidate for the Arsenal job. He famously wants his teams to press and play passing football, which Arsenal do to an extent (the pressing part, at least). He's a very studious manager, though his tactical acumen came into question towards the end of his time at Chelsea. By 2014, though, Villas-Boas will likely be in another job, and unlikely to take the Arsenal job.
- Steve Bould
An unlikely candidate? Definitely. But, Steve Bould has worked with Arsenal's brightest home-grown talents, such as Jack Wilshere. He's won the Youth league and Youth Cup and could be the assistant to Wenger next season. He might not want to go into full-time management, though; so far, he's shown a preference to remaining Youth coach.
- Dennis Bergkamp
Bergkamp would be an adventurous choice; he's a Youth coach at Ajax at the moment, but could make a move to Arsenal in the future. The biggest flaw, though, is his inability to fly. That was a problem when he was a player; it'd be a major obstacle to him becoming a manager.
- Marcelo Bielsa
Bielsa is an awesome manager, but Bilbao may be his level; like Villas-Boas, he's very studious, and he's also got excellent tactical acumen. His training methods, though, and long DVD viewing hours may be best suited to players without big egos; also, it might take time for him to adapt to the Premier League.
So, who's the successor? If Klopp doesn't want to move from Dortmund to Arsenal in 2014, the best choice seems to be Martinez. He has Premiership experience, expertly uses the transfer market and likes using younger players. He's also a bright tactical mind, which Wenger definitely isn't. Guardiola may be the flashy name, but he seems to have more question marks than Martinez; furthermore, Martinez would continue an Arsenal tradition of appointing candidates who weren't completely obvious (such as Wenger and George Graham and Bertie Mee).