For the first time in 22 years, Arsenal Football Club needs a new manager.
Arsene Wenger announced Friday that he would be stepping down at the end of the 2017-18 season. In Arsenal’s statement on his imminent resignation, the club said it “will make an appointment as soon as possible.” That means a managerial search – the club’s first since the fall of 1996 – is already underway.
Which, of course, means plenty of possible Wenger successors have already been discussed. Here is a list of 13 from which Arsenal’s next manager will most likely come:
THE DREAM OPTION
1. Joachim Low (German national team)
Low has made his name on the international scene. He succeeded Jurgen Klinsmann as Germany boss after the 2006 World Cup, and has achieved almost unprecedented consistency and longevity since. It isn’t just the 2014 World Cup triumph. In his five major tournaments in charge, Low has led Germany to five quarterfinals, four semifinals and two finals. His tactical acumen is renowned. His ability to get top performances out of top players makes him a fit at Arsenal.
One obvious question is, how well would he re-adapt to club management? The day-to-day grind is a different animal, and Low hasn’t dealt with it since 2004. He also never lasted more than two seasons at club jobs in Germany, Turkey and Austria. And he’s 58 years old. He certainly isn’t the next Wenger.
But if Arsenal is looking for the next Wenger – for another pioneer who’ll lead the club for over two decades – it’s bound to come away disappointed. There may never be another Wenger or Sir Alex Ferguson. As Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis said Friday, “You don’t find a replacement for Arsene Wenger, you find a new path forward.”
And Low might be that. If Arsenal could reach an agreement with him to take charge after the 2018 World Cup – a la Antonio Conte, Italy and Chelsea, Euro 2016 – the German boss would be the best bet to lead the Gunners back to Premier League contention. That is, if he’d fancy the job – which he might not.
THE BOOKIES’ FAVORITE
2. Brendan Rodgers (Celtic)
Rodgers, 45, had several outstanding years at Swansea, then one at Liverpool. But other than that one season, in which he nearly led the Reds from seventh place to a Premier League title, his time at Anfield was frustrating.
Since, he’s been cruising at Celtic, ripping up an overmatched league and winning titles with ease. But that’s not relevant evidence Rodgers would be able to succeed in a Premier League top six that is more competitive than ever. So why the heck is he the aggregate betting favorite at somewhere between 5/4 and 6/1? We’re not quite sure. But hey, maybe the oddsmakers know something we don’t.
THE BIG NAMES
3. Thomas Tuchel (unattached)
Tuchel would have made a ton of sense as a Wenger replacement had Arsenal decided to make a change last summer. However, he is reportedly off to PSG. By waiting, the Gunners might have missed out on a top candidate.
4. Diego Simeone (Atletico Madrid)
Simeone is almost universally considered one of the best managers in the world. His work at Atletico Madrid the past seven years – one La Liga title, one Europa League title, two Champions League final appearances despite resources dwarfed by those of Barcelona and Real Madrid – has been remarkable. And his personality would be a departure from Wenger’s.
But would it be a welcome departure? Would Simeone’s antics and unrelenting intensity fit Arsenal’s ethos? Would his style – one that focuses more on what his team does without the ball than with it – be accepted? Oh, and would he even want to leave Atletico for North London? The answer to all those questions is “probably not.”
5. Luis Enrique (unattached)
Enrique, in part due to a pre-existing relationship with Arsenal head of football relations Raul Sanllehi, is believed to be a favorite. Among the candidates who have established themselves on the continent, he is the favorite. His three seasons at Barcelona were excellent.
But he’s also been linked with the likely-soon-to-be vacant managerial post at Chelsea, and his wage demands are reportedly lucrative. We’d bet on Chelsea meeting those demands before Arsenal.
6. Carlo Ancelotti (unattached)
Ancelotti has been linked with the job over the past six months, ever since a few weeks after his sacking at Bayern Munich. The rumors were met mostly with derision. Ancelotti’s laissez-faire style isn’t what Arsenal needs. His track record is impressive, but there are no guarantees it’d translate to Arsenal’s situation. And he’s 58. He’s not one for a long-term project. So if Arsenal is smart, it won’t even give the Italian much consideration.
7. Massimiliano Allegri (Juventus)
Another long shot. He’s sustained Juventus’ title run in Italy, and made noise with a few impressive gameplans in the Champions League. But why would he leave Juve?
THE ARSENAL LEGENDS
8. Patrick Vieira (New York City FC)
Vieira’s candidacy stems largely from his playing days. He spent nine seasons at Arsenal. He won trophies. He captained the Invincibles, and always seemed like manager material.
But the extent of his coaching experience is a few years with Manchester City’s reserves, and now two-plus seasons with NYCFC in MLS. Is that the résumé of an Arsenal manager? Probably not. Vieira could get the gig at some point in his career. Wenger’s departure just comes a few years too soon for him.
9. Mikel Arteta (Manchester City assistant)
Arteta isn’t quite the Arsenal legend that the men before and after him on this list are. But he might be the most promising coaching candidate. At just 36 years old, he’s already a key member of Pep Guardiola’s staff at City. And he, like Vieira, always seemed to be destined for management when he was patrolling midfields at Everton and Arsenal.
But Arteta is even more inexperienced than Vieira. He’s never been a manager before. If he took over this summer, he’d be the same age as current starting goalkeeper Petr Cech. Surely he’d represent too big a risk.
10. Thierry Henry (Belgium assistant)
His name is going to be mentioned anytime the Arsenal job opens up between now and the end of time. But the extent of his coaching experience is a secondary assistant position on Roberto Martinez’s Belgium staff. He’s better known as a pundit right now. In other words, he’s not the next Arsenal manager.
THE YOUNG GERMAN STUDS
Arsenal’s new chief scout, Sven Mislintat, worked at Borussia Dortmund from 2009-2017, and is reportedly pushing the club to look to Germany for its next manager.
11. Domenico Tedesco (Schalke)
He’s 32. In his first season as a top-flight manager, he’s taken Schalke from 10th to (currently) second in the Bundesliga. He’s not even the hottest name on the German managerial market (see below), but his debut campaign would seem to have elevated him into the Arsenal conversation.
12. Julian Nagelsmann (Hoffenheim)
Nagelsmann, at just 30 years old, was in the mix for the Bayern Munich job. If he’s good enough to be considered by Bayern, he’s certainly good enough for Arsenal. Oh, and he’s the biggest rising star in coaching at the moment. He became the youngest manager in Bundesliga history when Hoffenheim appointed him at the age of 28 in 2016. In his first season, he led the club to fourth place. He has them in the mix for the top four again in year two. He’s drawn rave reviews from all corners of German football.
He, like Tedesco, would be a risk due to the small sample size. But if Arsenal wants a second-coming of Wenger, this is where it should look.
THE DARK HORSE
13. Leonardo Jardim (Monaco)
Jardim doesn’t really fit any of the above categories. He’s not a household name. He’s not a prodigy. He has no previous associations with Arsenal. And he’s not necessarily considered one of the favorites.
But a year ago, after leading Monaco to the Champions League semifinals and a Ligue 1 title, he would have been talked about as a frontrunner. The 43-year-old Portuguese boss has risen through the managerial ranks. After going from Braga to Olympiacos to Sporting CP to Monaco, Arsenal would seem to be a logical next step. If the Gunners aren’t sold on their other options, or if big names like Low and Enrique turn them down, Jardim could be the choice.
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