Arsenal’s search for a new manager goes on, without much indication at the moment that the Gunners really know what they’re looking for in their replacement for Unai Emery.
The Spanish tactician was sacked last week and Freddie Ljungberg has been placed in charge on a temporary basis, but one imagines Arsenal will surely need a bigger name to come in soon.
A report from the Daily Mirror states the north London giants have as many as 12 names in their mind for the job, with Mauricio Pochettino, Massimiliano Allegri and Brendan Rodgers mentioned as contenders.
Sky Sports have previously thrown up some similar names, but also add Napoli manager Carlo Ancelotti, while Manchester City assistant Mikel Arteta is also mentioned by both sources.
However, given Arteta’s lack of experience, it’s hard to know what he’d bring to the role, so we can’t assess him too easily on here.
Read on, however, for our best effort at looking at what challenges await the next Arsenal manager and which of the names being linked might be the best fit to fix these problems…
Fix the defence
No team conceded fewer goals than Pochettino’s Tottenham in 2015/16 or 2016/17, so the former Spurs boss seems like a decent shout there, even if he’d be working with David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi at the Emirates Stadium rather than the rather more reliable Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen as he had in his previous job.
Being Italian, Allegri also has a bit of a reputation for being a strong defensive coach, with Gianluigi Buffon keeping a record-high 21 clean sheets in the 2015/16 season, but then again that’s Gianluigi Buffon…with Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini in front of him.
Despite being Italian, Ancelotti does not have that same reputation for building particularly solid or strictly-drilled sides, even though he worked with great defenders like Paolo Maldini and John Terry down the years.
Even at his peak with Liverpool, Rodgers’ side conceded 50 goals when they came within a whisker of winning the league in 2013/14 – more than David Moyes’ Manchester United side that finished 7th that year.
Play entertaining football
Neither Allegri or Pochettino exactly scream out ‘Wengerball’, and that is one thing many Arsenal fans will have come to expect when they buy their extremely overpriced tickets – entertainment. The dull football served up by Emery will no doubt have also played a big part in him rapidly growing very unpopular and eventually being sacked.
Ancelotti might be a decent shout there, with his Chelsea double winners of 2009/10 hitting a stunning 103 goals on their way to the title that term – 17 more than runners-up Manchester United just below them. The Napoli boss has also been blessed enough to work with attacking talent like Cristiano Ronaldo, Angel Di Maria, Kaka and Andriy Shevchenko in his career, and, as good as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is, there’s nothing comparable on Arsenal’s books right now.
Rodgers also seems a good philosophical fit for Arsenal in this respect, with the Northern Irishman’s Liverpool sides often producing some stunning football, particularly in 2013/14 as they scored 101 league goals and yet somehow still only finished 2nd in the table. He’s now also got his Leicester City team playing some expansive stuff and flying high in 2nd in the table as they emerge as genuine top four contenders.
It’s astonishing that amid all the talk of Pochettino taking up a top job after leaving Tottenham, it seems his lack of silverware is barely being mentioned.
Remarkably, despite all the fine work he’s done in his career so far, the South American has never won a trophy as a manager, though guiding THFC to their first ever Champions League final is obviously still a huge achievement.
Rodgers’ CV is also not too impressive on this front as seven of the eight trophies he’s won in his career came with Celtic, with the other being the Championship playoff final trophy with Swansea City.
Ancelotti, meanwhile, has 20 trophies to his name, including three Champions League titles, and league titles in three different countries. Is winning Ligue 1 with PSG or the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich really comparable to the task he’d face at Arsenal, however? Not really.
And the same goes for Allegri in that respect, with the 52-year-old picking up 14 pieces of silverware in his career so far, though all but three of those came with Juventus, and that’s not far off what Rodgers achieved with Celtic in terms of how competitive Serie A is. Like Pochettino, Allegri is perhaps most highly regarded for what he didn’t win, ie the two Champions League finals he made with Juve after a long time of the club not being at all competitive in that competition.
Work on a limited transfer budget
Juventus may like free transfers, but you can scratch Allegri off the list here, as his club still delivered big-name signings like Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain, Mario Mandzukic, Juan Cuadrado, Alex Sandro and various others during his time in Turin.
Ancelotti also doesn’t look ideal in this respect, with much of his recent experience coming at super clubs like Real Madrid, PSG, Bayern and Chelsea, where there were either already squads packed full of world class players, or more delivered to him by his wealthy backers.
Arsenal may have splashed the cash a bit this summer, but there will be much more emphasis on working on a budget and so Pochettino is probably the best bet after getting barely any money to work with at Tottenham. The north Londoners notably didn’t sign anyone in 2018/19, while many of Pochettino’s biggest success stories were bargain buys like Dele Alli, Kieran Trippier and Toby Alderweireld.
Rodgers may not have spent as much as Ancelotti or Allegri, but he did make more bad signings than good ones at Liverpool, and he probably couldn’t afford that many mistakes at Arsenal. Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho were both snapped up on the cheap and worked out well, but Rodgers also blew vast sums on flops like Mario Balotelli, Lazar Markovic, Alberto Moreno, Mamadou Sakho and Iago Aspas, while even Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren ultimately ended up looking expensive for what they were.
Trust and develop young players
Allegri and Ancelotti have very little to boast about in this area. The latter did pretty well with Kaka in a Milan side otherwise full of hold heads about 15 years ago now, but hasn’t really brought anyone through since. Allegri had a young Paul Pogba in his Juventus side, though much of his key development had already come under Antonio Conte.
Needless to say, as with cheap signings, Arsenal will be reliant on their youth in years to come and their next manager needs to be able to develop the players he has. In Matteo Guendouzi, Bukayo Saka, Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson and others, there is a pretty bright crop of players coming through at the Emirates at the moment, and that should be utilised.
Pochettino has a strong CV in this regard, having helped Harry Kane develop into one of the finest strikers in the world, while Alli also arrived as a teenager from the lower leagues and quickly became one of the brightest stars of the top flight. Elsewhere at Spurs, Pochettino also brought through Harry Winks, while now-established names like Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-min weren’t exactly fully developed world beaters when he first joined.
Rodgers has also shown he can work with youth, with Raheem Sterling first breaking through in the Premier League under his guidance, while Coutinho was also pretty young when he first joined. At Leicester, he’s now getting the best out of James Maddison, Ben Chilwell, Wilfred Ndidi, Harvey Barnes and Caglar Soyuncu in a generally youthful squad.
Give us your predictions. The next Arsenal manager will be___________________ pic.twitter.com/KV5Fd82VC4
— CaughtOffside (@caughtoffside) December 3, 2019
There’s no easy answer for Arsenal here, with the Gunners now feeling like they’re at something of a crossroads in their history. Clearly, they’re not where they want to be in terms of any of the key issues mentioned above. Silverware is what all fans and players want, but it doesn’t look immediately realistic even if they do go for proven winners like Allegri and Ancelotti, who could certainly struggle in this environment. Rodgers and Pochettino also look like gambles in their own way, but it seems increasingly like it has to be one of those two if Arsenal want to rebuild in the way Liverpool have in the last few years. Whether they have the patience or the people behind the scenes at the club with the vision to help pull it off is another question.