LONDON: Thomas Tuchel is favourite to take over as next manager of Arsenal from Arsene Wenger after reports that he has been in talks already with the club writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Tuchel, who is currently out of work, led Dortmund to their record-breaking season in the Bundesliga in 2016 and current Arsenal players Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were part of that impressive side.
German media outlets have suggested that the 44-year-old had turned down approaches from Bayern Munich, with a top European team said to be in pole position to secure Tuchel’s services.
Wenger is currently in the midst of a two-year contract but it looks increasingly likely that he’ll be replaced with a season still left to run on his deal with Arsenal sitting in sixth in the Premier League table and set to miss out on a place in next year’s Champion League, unless they can win the Europa League.
Arsenal have been pondering the managerial succession for at least three years. The problem has always been that Arsene Wenger resisted not only suggestions that he should consider his own future but that he should think about the good of the club.
Wenger has been urged by the media and observers to retire in glory after each of the last three FA Cup victories in four years. Unfortunately each success has only persuaded him to stay ever more firmly in post.
In the meantime the names of possible successors have come and gone. They have ranged from men who ‘know’ Arsenal, such as Dennis Bergkamp, to solid veterans such as Carlo Ancelotti and new names like Antonio Conte.
Ancelotti is known to be keen on a return to the Premier League with a big club but is hardly the man to oversee a revolution in squad and style; Conte is going to be out of work at the end of the season after his Chelsea roller-coaster.
All these several years Thomas Tuchel’s name has always been referenced during both his ups and downs at Dortmund. Arsenal appreciate the ‘project’ approach and chief executive Ivan Gazidis wants a man with long-term potential.
It can not harm to Tuchel’s prospects that Gazidis has already looked in Dortmund direction in strengthening the back room staff.
In essence, while Wenger’s popularity has been dwindling so Gazidis has been trying to prepare the club for the future. This may also be reflected in the club’s change of transfer policy.
No longer do Arsenal go fishing for players in France, as they did most profitably, during Wenger’s first decade.
Now the emphasis has leaned much more towards a ‘German school’ – not so much as regards Mesut Ozil, who is very much a ‘Wenger footballer’ but more specifically the likes of Serge Gnabry (now departed), Per Mertesacker (heading for a role on the coaching staff), Shkodran Mustafi, Henrikh Mkhtaryan and Pierre-Emerich Aubameyang.
No future Arsenal manager will be allowed the power and reach of Wenger who has been, since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, the last old-fashioned English football manager with a reach and influence into every corner of the club.
The new man needs to a coach who is focused only on the players, both in the first team but in academy development.
Arsenal fans would hate to admit it but the ideal pattern for a new manager to follow would be that of Mauricio Pochettino at north London neighbours Tottenham. A German coach, brought up with a sense of managerial continuity which is more German than English, would be the sensible choice.
Wenger revolutionised English football in all aspects of preparation and player discovery. His first decade was outstanding but his second decade – despite the FA Cups and Champions League permanence – has been a long slide into mediocrity.
The Frenchman’s successor, whoever he is and whenever he arrives, should be aware he will not benefit from such patient institutional benevolence.