The managerial spot may be vacant at Arsenal in the wake of Unai Emery’s sacking (what’s the opposite of an untimely departure?), but the hotseat was barely cold before talk of the next manager heated up. In fact, the Spaniard looked to be on the chopping block for such a long time, that many were already preparing decorations for the next coronation.
I feel as though going through an exhaustive list of the potential replacements could be a wasted exercise. By the time you’re reading this, we could be living in a world of Allardyce’s Arsenal – although if that’s who they go with, I’d prefer not to be living.
Having sat on their hands for far too long, allowing the situation to fester as it has, the next stage will be a real yardstick for the Arsenal hierarchy. It is not only about how they view the club and its trajectory, but it is a chance for them to ‘make up’ for allowing this to go on too long.
Appoint a manager like Allegri or Ancelotti, and you are making a statement that you feel tangible success is attainable in the next two years. It is what Tottenham have done with Mourinho; although not at his level of goldfish managing, the two names mentioned are not exactly long-term custodians. With the age profile of a lot of Arsenal’s best players, the club is arguably already in the situation of needing success soon. Financially you need to commit a substantial amount for the manager’s wages as well as his desired rebuild – there would be no point in giving Allegri a defence with Sokratis, Mustafi and David Luiz, and then expecting seismic improvements. Consequently, to balance the books, you need to be bringing in Champions League level money. There is very little margin for error.
Go with a greener manager, and convince them the grass is a better hue at the Emirates (which, in a truly Partridge-esque sense, is true because the groundsmen do a spectacular job. Not quite Leicester standard, but certainly top three in the country.), then perhaps you are recognising the reality. As painful as it might be to admit, but Arsenal are not a Champions League club. Certainly, the chances of qualifying for that competition this season are gone. Contrary to what may be seen as a ‘lack of ambition’, I think it would probably be the first time that the hierarchy have shown how they are actually attuned to the reality of where Arsenal are. Backing someone like Howe, Arteta or Vieira would be a recognition that Arsenal won’t compete for serious silverware over the next two to three years. But, you are realising something that a lot of Arsenal fans have been sorely missing – the need for a connection. Emotions are at the heart football. We have seen it with the debates around VAR taking the joy out of goal celebrations – it makes you feel isolated from the moment. For a while, aside from the halcyon/ludicrous days when we convinced ourselves ‘Emeryball’ was a thing because we beat the worst defensive side in recent memory (Fulham) by playing on the counter, Arsenal fans have felt a sense of distance. We have been VARred. Longing for an identity, something to connect to, I think a lot of Arsenal fans would be willing to take a level of sacrifice. It can be easy to forget that the quality of play for the final Wenger years was not the slick style a lot rightly associate with the Frenchman’s reign. Couple that with the emotions intertwined with commenting on even the colour of Wenger’s handkerchief, and there hasn’t really been much to consistently enjoy about Arsenal for a fair while. Establishing a connection back to fans could be the best thing Raul Sanllehi and Edu do.
As I said previously, all eyes have now shifted to the ‘executive committee’. Emery’s departure came too late. Arsenal had one win in nine matches, which came courtesy of two late freekicks from Pépé. Oh, and it was against Vitoria. At home. It looked as though Emery would struggle to get this team into the top 4 prior to the previous international break, and frankly the way Arsenal capitulated at the end of last season was arguably enough to give him the Spanish Archer. The good dealings in the Summer buoyed hopes, but the poor performances and form soon saw that disappear like *insert Arsenal punching bag of choice* at *insert big away venue/stereotypically British ground of choice* on a *insert inclement weather type of choice* Tuesday night.
My opinion is that, whilst arguably the riskier option, a longer-term appointment would give the power-brokers more leeway if success isn’t imminent. My hope? I want to fall back in love again. It has been weird to love Arsenal, and to love football, but to not love watching Arsenal play football. I dreaded having to watch the Europa League game against Frankfurt, and I really didn’t want to watch the match against Norwich this weekend. Already I am intrigued by the prospect of Ljungberg taking charge against the Canaries, and if the next appointment can sustain that I don’t really think, as a fan, I can ask for much more.