Things feel like they’re moving at a rapid pace in the hire for the new manager of Arsenal FC, but I’d caution you to all slow down a touch.
The leaks to the press are interesting, but I think we need to be careful about what we believe.
Things we’re pretty damn certain about:
1. Arsenal were not talking to any manager about Arsene’s job before last Thursday. That was a respect thing, the club like to claim they have class, and we’ve no reason to believe otherwise.
2. Arsenal want to get this next hire right. Ivan has been waiting for 10 years to make a proper impact on the playing side. This is his chance, his moment to shine like Pascal Cygan’s forehead on a summers day. Do not believe they fired Wenger so they could make a decision in 4 days. They have time, they’ll use it.
The club will go through a proper search and select process. Firstly, they’ll likely have spent a year building a brief of the type of manager they want to hire, Ivan already stated he wants someone who can work with young players, it’s clear they want someone who understands how to implement a pressing game, and he’ll want to lean into the playing values Wenger brought to the club. They’ll be thinking about what they’re looking to achieve, and the ways they can achieve it, as well as the different ways they can achieve those goals.
From there, they’ll compile a group of names and they’ll press contacts throughout Europe to build reports (Sven and Raul will show their worth here, just like Henrique has been doing at PSG). They’ll want to know about their characters, their ability to deal with pressure, style of management, how they work with those above them, and what players think of them. According to Ballague’s book, it was after this phase Arsene Wenger was pushed out of the reckoning for the Barca job in 2008.
From there, they’ll whittle down to a list of names they can speak to, maybe they’ll reach out to agents to gauge interest, then they’ll set up interviews.
You’d imagine for a job the size of Arsenal, they’ll be expected to present their vision of the club (Ryan Giggs classically failed here for Swansea). Arsenal will want to interrogate their ideas for Arsenal, find out more details about their footballing ideals/values, understand their management style, and get to grips with how they work with the specialists where they are. Jose Mourinho failed to get the Barca job back in the day because when he was asked if he’d relinquish his combative approach in the media, he refused, stating it’s part of his game.
I’d imagine after working with Wenger, the club will want someone amenable to a more democratic structure, a man open to new ideas, comfortable with empowering those around them with responsibility and decision making power, and the absolute key… being able to communicate ideas with intensity and passion.
Whenever you read about Pep, it’s always his intensity. Players love his training sessions (read), no one has more energy than him, no one has better ideas, and his commitment and his vision are utterly infectious (watch). Intensity is something we lack on and off the pitch, and it’s something the board will want to see back at the club.
So basically, what I’m saying is this… sure, Enrique and Arteta are going to be in the mix for the new role at the club, but don’t be daft enough to think they’re near a decision yet.
I’m not so keen on Enrique. I don’t know a lot about him, but I kind of feel he’s a poor man’s Pep G. This from Sid Lowe at ESPN very eloquently gives an insight into the manager that I’m not sure we’d enjoy.
Barcelona’s problems are a reality. The team that once invited opponents onto them now looks frightened when they are pressed, unable to find a way out; those passageways they once opened remain closed, the mechanisms malfunctioning. Or maybe there aren’t any? Maybe that element of their game, once so central and important, has been relegated to a minor issue? The evidence on the pitch suggests so, and so did the comments on the touchline.
Luis Enrique is a former Barcelona player, a Barcelona B-team manager, a man who embraced the city and the club and loved to wind up Madrid, who said he was coming “home” when he took over, likening the Camp Nou to Disneyland. But some critics suspected that he was not really Barcelona, and now they’re even more convinced. When Luis Enrique said he was “faithful” to the style but wanted to “evolve it, perfect it, improve it,” they suspected he actually meant destroy it. Now they’re even more convinced of that. Not least because they were convinced of it then, even as he won trophies and fans chanted his name
I’m kind of hoping the name will go away, but the key here is that Enrique knows someone at the club.
There’s a clear pattern from yesterdays media leaks. All the people that are supposedly still in the mix are linked to someone at the club. I don’t think that’s necessarily a key decision point, but as you know in business, it really fucking helps if someone can vouch for you. I have my doubts it’s any different in football.
I’d imagine a big part of Ivan’s decision making has to be with the fans. He’ll never admit it, but he needs us onboard. Letting Sky know Arteta was his favoured candidate might not be as irresponsible as you think. I’m sure he’s gauging fan reaction to see how much stomach we have for risk. Managerial trial balloons, I’m not sure he’d have liked the reaction, which seems cold if I’m honest.
I’ve been telling you since last May the club wanted the return of Arteta, and that the Spaniard turned down Spurs because he wanted to return to us at some point. I wrote in November why he’d be an interesting hire.
1. Signing Arteta works from a culture perspective, he gets the club, he’s well-liked, and he knows everyone
2. Ivan would own his pristine hair and his backside. Being a kingmaker allows you to control the manager and the direction of the club. Something he’s lacked under Wenger.
3. You’re hiring from the best-tutored coach in the world game. The greatest innovators are usually exposed to genius somewhere along the line (Steve Jobs @ Xerox). They often take others ideas, and reimagine them for themselves. If Arteta is as smart as they say he is, he could be a force to be reckoned with if he can adapt to the gravity of the job.
4. There’s a cost benefit. A young manager charges less, comes with fewer people, and if it goes wrong you don’t have to spend much to rectify the issue.
I’m not sure we’ll have the balls to go with an Arteta like signing, but look, I’d not be against the move. I think it’s strategically sound, and I’d certainly be excited about watching a young manager bring Pep levels of intensity to the Colney dossers club.
Definitely worth a few of your pennies if you’re a gambler, but I do think it might be sharper for the club to look at Nagelsmann if we’re going for untested. He’s already proved he can build something from nothing, he’s taken Hoffenheim to the Champions League (from relegation fodder), he’s shown he can develop players, and he’s on the verge of recreating the same success of last season for the second year running. He’d still be a brave move, but I think the fans would be more comfortable with him as a risk.
There will be more names linked, likely more experienced, and I think the favourites list from the bookies will go back and forth. Expect Conte to be linked, I’d imagine the Allegri rumours will start again, we’ll absolutely explore Jardim, and I’d imagine we’ll see names like Hassenhutl, Jardim, Poch, Carlo and Tedesco in the papers.
Everyone, I say this truthfully, I have not been this excited about Arsenal for 15 years.
The future is bright. It’s technical. It’s unpredictable and joy-filled whatever happens.
We’ve broken the grip of Wenger, now we can enjoy football like any other fan of a rich elite club in London.
What a summer we have ahead.
See you in the comments.