Five managers who can replace Arsene Wenger at Arsenal

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Five managers who can replace Arsene Wenger at Arsenal

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Amlan Majumdar

02/17/2017

From Jorge Sampaoli to Massimiliano Allegri, here are the five managers whom Arsenal could eye as the replacement for Arsene Wenger if and when he decides to leave in the summer.

The vultures are circling. The knives are out. Arsene Wenger’s 21-year reign at the club is heading towards its end. An end which he does not deserve but is inevitable at the moment. But, who will replace the Frenchman when he finally decides, and make no mistake that it will be his decision, to walk away from the empire he had built since taking over in 1996? Here are the five candidates Arsenal will keep a close eye upon in the summer.

5. Jorge Sampaoli

Current club: Sevilla

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When Jorge Sampaoli was appointed as the coach of the Chilean national team in December 2012, he inherited a squad that had lost each of their previous three World Cup qualifiers. However, he turned around the team’s fortunes with some drastic tactical changes. Heavily influenced by Marcelo Bielsa, Sampaoli changed the slow-paced passing game of Chile with high-energy pressing football. He used various formations from three at the back to four at the back, and the Chilean team went on to win the Copa America on their home soil playing stunning football along the way.

After arriving in Europe with Sevilla, Sampaoli is once again leaving his mark, this time in a league which is usually dominated by three clubs. Sevilla are currently third in the league table, just two points behind Barcelona, and they were the team to end Real Madrid’s 40-match unbeaten run earlier this year.

With an extensive experience in ‘fixing’ teams, Sampaoli will be an exciting appointment for Arsenal and the Premier League.

4. Leonardo Jardim

Current club: AS Monaco

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Jardim had started his coaching career at the age of 22 with the youth team of Santacruzense and now at the age of 42, he is slowly making people take notice of him. After threatening to take down the Benfica-Porto duopoly in Portuguese football with Sporting CP, who were drifting towards mid-table mediocrity before he arrived, Jardim took up the managerial role at the ambitious French club Monaco. Now, he is threatening to demolish the monopoly of PSG in the French league.

Monaco are currently leading the Ligue 1 table by three points and are statistically the best attacking unit in Europe at the moment. The French club have scored 75 goals in 25 league games so far and had also topped their Champions League group.

In the initial stages of his Monaco stint, Jardim put together a structured, hard-to-beat XI, finishing third in each of his first two seasons in France, largely playing 4-5-1. Criticism came his way, with French pundit Pierre Menes labeling his tactics as “the chloroform."

However, this season things have changed drastically under him. He has managed to rejuvenate Radamel Falcao and is getting the best out of Brazilian playmaker Bernardo Silva. The gloves have been taken off, and Monaco are dazzling France with their attacking football with a modified 4-4-2 formation – this after losing key players like Geoffrey Kondogbia, Layvin Kurzawa and Yannick Ferreira Carrasco in the last two years.

He might seem like a risk given he is yet to manage at any of the big leagues in Europe, but Jardim is certainly one of the most talented young managers out there at the moment. The last time Arsenal signed a former Monaco manager, it did go pretty well for them.

3. Laurent Blanc

Current club: Unattached

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Very few people have managed to carry through their success as a footballer to their managerial career, and Laurent Blanc is one of them. After a glittering career as a defender across Montpellier, Inter, Barcelona and Manchester United among others and the French national team, where he won nearly everything there is to win at the club and international football level, Blanc made an immediate impact as a manager with the French club Bordeaux, guiding them to their first league title in a decade.

He also performed respectably as the manager of the French national team considering the fact that 23 players were suspended by the French federation after the disaster in South Africa under Raymond Domenech. The chance to manage the cash-rich club PSG arrived soon, and he led PSG to three consecutive Ligue 1, Coupe de la Ligue and Trophee des Champions titles, as well as back-to-back Coupe de Francewins, in a glittering three-year stay at Parc des Princes.

The 51-year-old was unceremoniously sacked, though despite his success with the owners growing impatient for the Champions League Trophy to arrive in their closet. Since June 2016, he has been without a club but is unlikely to remain the same this summer. Blanc is known to play free-flowing football, and he would also bring in a massive title-winning credential along with him to the Emirates.

2. Diego Simeone

Current club: Atletico Madrid

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If Arsenal are looking for immediate success, which they should given the state of the fanbase at the moment, it is hard to look beyond Diego Simeone. The former Argentine international had turned the two-horse title race in Spain to a three-horse race, and he did so while taking on two teams with the biggest budgets and the best squads, and that too despite losing some of his best players over the years in the transfer market.

However, Simeone and Wenger are almost diametrically opposite managers. Simeone is from the Jose Mourinho school of thoughts, where winning is prioritized over aesthetics. Of course, competing with the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid on limited resources meant he had few other options as well. Having said that, he is one of the best at what he does, and most of the Arsenal fans would happily accept him, his philosophy, and his antics in a blink at the moment, as long as he ends their title drought.

Having been at the Spanish club since 2011, during which period he has won a La Liga title, a Copa del Rey, a Europa League title, a UEFA Super Cup title, and two appearances in the Champions League final, Simeone is likely to be eager for a new challenge. A move to the Premier League where he will rejoin his old adversaries in Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola would certainly sound enticing to him. However, there still remain doubts about whether the Arsenal management would want to deviate so much from the ways Arsene Wenger had installed at the club in the past couple of decades. Even still, that might be what they need at the moment.

1. Massimiliano Allegri

Current club: Juventus

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When the 49-year-old was asked to replace Antonio Conte at Juventus, there was a lot of skepticism among the Juve faithful. Not the most glamorous of managers, Allegri's reign at his previous club AC Milan met a disappointing end when he was sacked in January 2014, along with his staff. Stepping into the shoes of Conte was never going to be an easy task as the current Chelsea manager had set the bar pretty high during his spell.

However, the former midfielder slowly won over his critics and has guided Juve to two consecutive domestic trebles in the last two seasons. His biggest achievement was perhaps giving the Turin-based club their first appearance in the final of the Champions League, beating Real Madrid along the way, in over a decade, though.

He has also earned a lot of praise for the way he has rebuilt the side after the departure of key players like Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba and long-term injuries to the likes of Kwadwo Asamoah and Claudio Marchisio. Allegri has shown the ability to get the best out of his players, even someone as erratic as Mario Balotelli.

Allegri is also a shrewd tactician. Although initially, he did use the 3-5-2 setup left behind by Conte, over the course of the past three seasons, he has shown a lot of flexibility and knows how to tweak his tactics based on the opponent he is facing. Italian football analyst Antonio Gagliardi had once tweeted: "Juventus defend low with a 5–4–1, they press with a 4–4–2 and they attack with a 4–2–3–1. Systems in the future will become ever more fluid."

Arsenal and Arsene Wenger have often in the past been criticized for being too stubborn and rigid in the way they approach the game. Allegri, if he lands the job, could change that. Under Allegri, Juventus became slightly less aggressive and intense in their pressing off the ball, compared to what they were under Conte, while their playing style became more patient and focused on keeping possession and gaining a territorial advantage. That in itself is not a big move away from the philosophy that is already in place at the club under Wenger. But, when the need arises, Allegri does not shy away from getting men behind the ball and defending with two banks of four.

The Italian, according to the players who had played under him, also seems to have a calm presence on the training ground, and is a fantastic man manager. Unlike a lot of other coaches these days, Allegri prefers to keep a low profile, and the London-based club will not have to worry about a lot of antics on or off the pitch. At this moment, he seems to be the best bet if you believe the English media, and we are not betting against it.

Other notable options:Ralph Hasenhuttl of RB Leipzig, Roger Schmidt of Bayer Leverkusen, Eddie Howe of Bournemouth, Thomas Tuchel of Borussia Dortmund, and Ronald Koeman of Everton.

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