Emery: Wenger, Pochettino, Allegri, Benítez in Arsenal job running
The Spaniard received his marching orders after defeat against Eintracht Frankfurt, leaving one of the most attractive jobs in European football open.
The writing had been on the wall for some time, particularly after the Premier League’s least lethal attack amassed 21 shots on goal when Southampton visited the Emirates Stadium and left with a point that flattered the hosts, and Arsenal finally pulled the plug on Unai Emery after 18 months in charge.
Emery is only partly to blame: taking over the personal fiefdom of a manager of Arséne Wenger’s pedigree is a little like ascending the throne immediately after a revered monarch. Either you shake up the realm or maintain the status quo. Emery largely did neither. His tactics were as meticulous as ever but did not transfer from the more technical landscape of LaLiga to England and few of his signings have taken root in North London. Emery seemed unsure what to do with Lucas Torreira, isolated Arsenal’s most creative player in Mesut Özil and as the final nail, left Alexandre Lacazette – whose double against Southampton extended Emery’s employment for a few days – and €80m summer signing Nicolas Pépé on the bench with Arsenal chasing a 2-1 deficit against Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday. The Gunners still progress to the knock-out stages of UEFA’s ugly sister tournament, but it will be a different coach leading them.
The list of candidates to replace will not be short, but who will get the gig?
The timing could hardly be more comic but few Tottenham fans would be laughing if their beloved former coach made the short trip across London to take over at the Emirates. For the rest of the football watching world, it would be frankly hilarious and Gunners fans would lap it up. From Pochettino’s point of view, he would not have to relocate while inheriting a decent squad with the promise of further investment to push a club living on its former glories to new heights. Sounds familiar? The Argentinean has ruled out coaching Barcelona due to a distaste for all things claret-and-blue fostered during his time at Espanyol but has no such qualms over Arsenal and it would be a poetic response to his being binned by Daniel Levy six months after taking Spurs to the Champions League final, 35 years after their last appearance in a European showpiece.
They say never go back, but Arsenal fans would probably roll out the red carpet for their former manager, even if he was hounded out by an increasingly vocal section of the Gunners’ support – a small irony in the stadium once dubbed “The Library.” But the avuncular Wenger could be precisely what Arsenal need to galvanize a directionless squad for the remainder of the season. It would be short-termism, but it would probably also reap Champions League football next season.
Taxes, death and Eddie Howe being linked with the Arsenal job. In that order. The Bournemouth manager has long been touted for a tilt at the big time and may feel the time is ripe for a change of scenery after coaching the Cherries in various capacities since 2006, with a brief spell at Burnley his only other managerial job. Howe replaced Wenger as the Premier League’s longest-serving coach when the Frenchman departed the Emirates. It is probably the best opportunity he will have to do the same with his former colleague’s job.
Benítez left Newcastle due to a lack of investment and differences of opinion with owner Mike Ashley but on the pitch he worked wonders with the Magpies, gaining a lot of respect for not jumping ship when they were relegated but staying on to bring them back up. The Spaniard has won trophies in three different countries and was the last manager before Diego Simeone to break the Real Madrid-Barcelona duopoly in LaLiga with Valencia. And he did it twice. The only thing standing between Arsenal and arguably the perfect coach for the club is Benítez’s fat contract at Dalian Yifang, where he signed a two-and-a-half-year agreement in July on a reported €12m a year.
Another absolute banker and one not inhibited by the Italian’s current employment status. Allegri left Juventus as the dominant force in Italian football, winning five consecutive Scudetti, four Coppas Italia and taking the Old Lady out to dinner in two Champions League finals, where he ran into vintage versions of Leo Messi’s Barcelona and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real Madrid (even though Gareth Bale secured the 2018 title for Zinedine Zidane’s side.) Quite simply, there are few coaches if any who are better qualified for the job and Allegri won’t take much persuading, particularly if he can raid his old club for the likes of Sami Khedira, Paulo Dybala and a keeper who can actually keep goal. Gianluigi Buffon at the Emirates, anyone? The mere pull of Allegri will bring players into Arsenal’s orbit that would otherwise go to light speed to avoid the place and persuade the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Lacazette not to leave next summer.