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Life after Wenger

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Who are being linked with the soon-to-be-vacant job at Arsenal and what do they bring to the table?

Arsenal faces a transition like no other.

Arsene Wenger was a fixture for 22 years — in charge of everything from the length of grass on the training pitches to the colour of crockery in the tea room, and we aren’t even joking.

Replacing Wenger, Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis said, was impossible. But by being “bold, brave and open-minded”, he insisted the club could find someone who would take it forward.

We look at the managers in contention.

THE FAVOURITES

MASSIMILIANO ALLEGRI

Odds: 8/1

Age: 50 | Nationality: Italian

Currently at: Juventus | Other clubs managed: AC Milan, Cagliari

Trophies won: 4x Serie A (2010-11, 2014-15 to 2016-17); 3x Italian Cup (2014-15 to 2016-17)

Other honours: 2x Italian Super Cup; 2x Champions Trophy RU

Preferred system: 4-2-3-1 (also uses 4-3-3, 4-4-1-1, 3-5-2)

Most expensive buy: Gonzalo Higuain €90 million

Win%: 59.94 | Points per match: 2.00

Although not the odds-on favourite or an obvious stylistic fit, Allegri reportedly has several admirers in the Arsenal hierarchy. He isn’t a proponent of progressive football — like, say, a Guardiola or a Sarri — but a pragmatic, versatile problem-solver. Think of him as Mourinho without the petulance or the persecution complex, if it helps. Despite his reputation as a tactician, he plays it down. “I could never be a coach who focuses on tactics or analytics because I am more instinctive,” he once said. “The coach bases his decisions on sensations, perceptions. Otherwise football would be like PlayStation.”

PROS: Allegri has shown he can compete against superpowers on the big stage. It took Messi’s Barcelona and Ronaldo’s Real to trump him in his two Champions League finals. But he stayed in the fight; he has also beaten both these teams in Europe, and is a serial winner in Italy. Wenger’s loosely structured football can be spellbinding or frustrating; Allegri’s is more consistent positionally, more secure defensively, but with space for creative players to express themselves.

CONS: His isn’t the intricate, sharp-passing style that has come to be known as Wengerball. He is a patient facilitator who allows players to grow into their roles, not a suave, cutting-edge ideologue whose sides play lights-out football.

LUIS ENRIQUE

Odds: 11/4

Age: 47 | Nationality: Spanish

Currently: Unattached | Other clubs managed: Barcelona, Celta Vigo, Roma

Trophies won: Champions League (2014-15); 2x La Liga (2014-15, 2015-16); 3x Spanish Cup (2014-15 to 2016-17)

Other honours: UEFA Super Cup; Spanish Super Cup; Club World Cup

Preferred system: 4-3-3 (also uses 3-4-3)

Most expensive buy: Luis Suarez €82 million

Win%: 59.05 | Points per match: 1.94

Enrique, partly because of a pre-existing relationship with Arsenal head of football relations Raul Sanllehi, is a favourite. A couple of caveats, though. The former Barcelona manager, like Allegri, is among those under consideration by Chelsea to replace Antonio Conte. And his fee demands are something of a stumbling block. Also, despite his success, Enrique’s Barca wasn’t feted: more direct than previous sides, it struggled to build play through the middle — fans considered it too much of a departure from the club’s DNA of line-breaking, one-touch play. But there is no doubt that he brings an elite pedigree to the job, in term of trophies won.

PROS: Enrique has the forceful personality a big club benefits from. He can deal with egos and dressing-room unrest. He is also a draw in the transfer market. He was successful in subtly reshaping Barcelona, dealing with the departure of the irreplaceable Xavi, even if he was helped in large part by ‘MSN’: Messi, Suarez and Neymar.

CONS: He isn’t renowned as a tactical heavyweight: his in-game skills were frequently questioned at Barcelona. His critics also found him too reliant on individual match-winners. Can he deal with the demands of a hugely competitive league where a manager must always be ‘on’?

PATRICK VIEIRA

Odds: 12/1

Age: 41 | Nationality: French

Currently at: New York City FC | Also managed: Man City Youth, U21

Preferred system: 4-3-3

Win%: 45.12 | Points per match: 1.60

The midfield general from the Invincibles era, Vieira would be a popular choice. A hero’s return could prove a powerful moment that unites a split Emirates fan-base. But what next? Vieira’s managerial experience is limited, his record passable at best. What of the chasm between Major League Soccer and the Premier League? Does Vieira have the nous to bridge it?

PROS: Vieira, according to reports, is seen as a backup if Allegri and Enrique don’t work out. He is likely to be surrounded by a strong backroom team, allowing him to find his feet. His reputation as a leader should help, and for what it’s worth, NYC has improved under him.

CONS: It will be quite the punt, even for Arsenal, which has a history of taking punts. There is little in Vieira’s track-record to suggest that he can, at the moment, take over from Wenger.

IN THE CONVERSATION

LEONARDO JARDIM

Odds: 12-1

The 43-year-old Monaco boss is, in many ways, the new Wenger. He has empowered youth, won the French league and nurtured a starboy (Kylian Mbappe). His teams aren’t possession-heavy, but they score freely, and he knows what it takes to go up against big money (PSG).

MIKEL ARTETA

Odds: 12-1

The cerebral former Arsenal captain, currently Guardiola’s assistant at City, is highly regarded by the Gunners. And he has close links with the club. But his lack of experience suggests he is more likely to become a No. 2 or join a coaching team (with Vieira, perhaps) than be appointed manager.

JOACHIM LOW

Odds: 11-1

This was an idea the suits at Arsenal really liked, reports claimed. Except for one small detail: in a World Cup year, Low, even if he agrees to break his contract with the German team, would have little time to talk business and even less time to settle.

CARLO ANCELOTTI

Odds: 12-1

A safe bet, given his experience of winning with big clubs, Ancelotti was the early favourite. He even lives in London. But at 58, he isn’t a long-term prospect. He also isn’t a significant step up from Wenger, in terms of method. He’s now in talks for the Italy job.

FROM LEFT FIELD

If Arsenal thinks out of the box, how might it go? Hoffenheim’s 30-year-old Julian Nagelsmann and Schalke’s 32-year-old Domenico Tedesco are exciting, new-age prospects, in tune with the modern pressing game. Napoli’s Maurizio Sarri is the closest thing to Guardiola for possession-based, penetrative football; and the forward-thinking Manuel Pellegrini is a shrewd stopgap should Guardiola become available soon.

LAST WORD

So, when will a decision be made? It’s impossible to call, but a few key dates offer hints. The transfer window opens on June 9: ideally, the club will want the new manager in place by then, so he can have an input on targets. Arsenal’s first announced pre-season friendly is on July 26 and the window closes on August 9 — if there isn’t a decision by then, it’s a crisis.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 6:33:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/life-after-wenger/article23702551.ece

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