A few years back the mere thought of discussing a replacement for Arsene Wenger at Arsenal would have been sacrilegious. Events of the recent past have now altered this reasoning, the tide has now shifted. The managerial position at Arsenal, once synonymous with Wenger is now seemingly up for grabs.
Minutes after Arsenal crashed out of the FA Cup after a humiliating 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Championship side Blackburn, the long knives that had been barely sheathed all season long came out once again. The crescendo of boos at the Gunners home turf at the final whistle were resounding (one would even say deafening) and defined a turning point in the fortunes of a club that was once a European powerhouse.
It was not just the defeat, after all soccer is an adversarial sport with a winner in a cup tie the imminent tale of the joust; it was the manner of the defeat that rankled the Emirate faithful.
Arsenal were listless throughout, similar to a wet sponge on the desert floor they were ineffectual. There was no passion, no desire, no commitment, no zeal, no endeavor. To rub salt in an aggravated wound the defeat marked the first time that Arsenal under Wenger's reign had lost to a lower division side in the FA Cup.
Arsene Wenger has been an ever present at Arsenal since taking over the reins in 1996. In the beginning it was all rosy, 11 titles in 9 seasons were achieved on a platform of scintillating football, consistency was the key. None could even begin to imagine the fall from grace that was to follow.
Inexplicably Wenger begun to toy with the club, letting go of some of its most prized assets and failing to find adequate replacements. Slowly the Arsenal express that was so rampant in the late 90s and in the new millennia began to grind to a halt.
The sale of Robin Van Persie which followed the release of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas seems to have been the final nail in the Arsenal coffin, the death knell for a manager who brooked so much promise.
With the league title a mirage on the horizon and the Champions League crown though achievable an imponderable task time seems nigh to consider life after Le Professeur. This is even more of a reality with Arsenal facing stiff competition for a place in the Champions League next season, a card that Wenger has used to placate the Arsenal fans.
And the thought of a departure for Wenger is not a thought that has recently taken root, it has, like a festering wound, being a dominant thought the past two seasons.
So who would fit into the sizeable shoes if Wenger were to be shown the door?
Jose Mourinho would without doubt be a serious contender.
The ‘Special One’ has in the recent past indicated his desire to return to the Premier League where he has been so successful with Chelsea leading them to a multitude of trophies including their first league title in 50 years.
Mourinho was also very successful at Internazionale where he won a double in his first season and followed it up with the ultimate treble in 2009-2010 of the Serie A, the Coppa Italia and the UEFA Champions League.
Although many have tied his definitive statement of a return to England to a succession plan in Manchester United (vehemently denied by United so far) the Gunners may be, and probably should be, interested observers.
With enough funds at his disposal there is none better in the world game than Mourinho in turning a team into a phenomenal juggernaut. He has an impressive CV and cuts a dominant figure in the dressing room. He will, if he joins Arsenal bring with him a winning mentality and a desire to succeed that has been lacking in Arsenal in the recent past.
Another tactician of interest would be Jupp Heynckes, the current Bayern Munchen coach. Despite Bayern’s superiority in the Bundesliga and another season that seems to be going according to plan the Bayern coach will be out of a job at the end of the season as former Barcelona Coach Pep Guardiola is set to join the Bavarians.
Heynckes has a habit of winning with success both in Germany and with Real Madrid with whom he won a Champions League trophy. This capacity to win trophies will be of particular interest to Arsenal.
Rafael Benitez is yet another name that may be considered by the Arsenal top brass. Liked and despised in equal measure by English football lovers the Spaniard’s brief tenure at Chelsea has been a roller coaster of emotions.
Chelsea are in the top four in the league table, are still in contention in both the FA Cup and the Europa League but still Benitez has failed to win over the Chelsea faithful.
In the event that his temporary contract is not renewed by the Blues, Benitez will be available to work at the Emirates. Benitez has a history of success. He famously won the Champions League with Liverpool at Istanbul and also has an FA Cup to his credit at the same club. He will add much needed guile and unpredictability to the London outfit.
Whichever way it goes the time has come for some tough decisions to be made at the Emirates before the Gunners descend into mid table mediocrity.
Arsenal’s position can best be summed up by the comments of a disappointed Arsenal fan Stanley Ngaira, who quipped on social media: “The Gunners have become the laughing stock of the Premier League. Tough decisions must be made for the sake of the club”.
Well said. Over to you Arsenal FC.
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