What kind of Managerial profile should Arsenal be looking for?
By Vinay Shankar
Now that Unai Emery has finally been relieved of his duties, after a torrid period culminating in a 2-month winless period, Arsenal are on the lookout for a new Head Coach. The club’s hierarchy need to think long and hard about the direction of the club and the kind of football they want to see the team play. Figuring out the club’s ideology is a key point that needs to be addressed at this juncture before any kind of appointment is made, especially in the current era of football, which is why I think we should take our time and wait until next summer.
There has to be a proper structure across the club, from the academy players to the senior squad and only then, will the academy be a feeder system to the main squad. This is what Raul Sanllehi was brought in to address, having implemented this successfully with Barcelona’s La Masia academy. The next head coach appointment is key for all the components to come together. Philosophy and structure are the two most important things that will define the club and help its achieve its long-term goals.
It’s been nearly 2 weeks since the sacking was confirmed and the potential candidates touted by news outlets keep increasing by the hour. As a fan, it feels great to see so many top managers being linked with the vacancy but we must not get caught up in putting our weight behind the best available coach.
Max Allegri is one of the most high-profile targets linked with the job. Similar to Conte and Sarri, he is a tactically brilliant coach, with his team’s traditionally being very versatile, switching between formations and systems. In attack, his teams are typically slow in build-up play with the focus being on maintaining possession, and defensively, they are conservative in the press. Whilst his methods are effective, the style of play would not excite the fans and the language barrier may also be a significant issue, especially after the debacle with Emery. When he left Juventus in May, he wanted to take a sabbatical for year before returning, so it’s unlikely that he will come in before next summer.
Mauricio Pochettino is another name doing the rounds but, despite his sacking, it’s unlikely he will turn his back on Spurs. After the way things unfolded at our neighbouring club, it would be better if gets a break until the summer to be fully recharged before considering him.
Freddie Ljungberg was promoted to the role of assistant coach before the start of the season to provide inputs to Emery about the young players and also appears to be being groomed to become head coach in the future. While this isn’t the circumstances in which he wanted the job, it is a right move by the hierarchy to back him. He’s a club legend and a part of the ‘Invincibles’ so he is very much appreciated by the fans. What is key is that he loves the club and has the club’s best interests at heart so the atmosphere around the club will be positive if appointed permanently. There are rumours that he is trying to get his under-23s assistants to join him, while Robert Pires would always be around to help. It’s been widely reported that the impact he’s had on the players’ warm-ups before games and prepping them for in-game situations with inputs and feedback has been very positive. He may not have a defined style as of yet or substantial experience, but what we’d hope he’d make sure to do is to release the shackles off the players, allowing them to play freely and also encourage youth. Personally, I wouldn’t be against him retaining the job until the summer.
The last sensible candidate is Mikel Arteta. Another guy who loves the club, and his knowledge of the game is immense. He’s learnt a lot with Guardiola and has been instrumental in City’s success, especially in the development of several players, such as Sterling and Sane. It’s understood he may not be willing to come until the summer. Backroom staff is a big area of concern and it was one of the reasons that dissuaded Arsenal 18 months prior. If he comes in the summer, he will have time to build his team. During the interviews in 2018, it was rumoured that the transfer budget was a big issue but looking at the club’s spending this summer, there shouldn’t be any worries. Like Ljungberg, experience is an issue but he has been known as a great orator with a high tactical acumen. Appointing him would certainly be a bold and inspirational choice, very similar to the announcement of a certain individual recruited from Nagoya Grampus (Japan) in 1996.
Other choices include Brendan Rodgers, who is unlikely to leave Leicester with the season they’re having; Rafa Benitez would certainly bring back the ‘One-Nil to the Arsenal’ days; Eddie Howe is promising but not a solution to current troubles; Patrick Viera would be well received but hasn’t been great at Nice. Whoever it is, it’s pivotal we take our time and get the right man.