First of all, Arsenal will have to get used to the idea their next managerial appointment will probably not be a dynastic move that changes the face the football. The problem is, they’ve had a guy in charge who created, to some extent, the shape of modern football in England. A cosmopolitan who was relatively unknown but had ideas that English football had never before encountered.
Arsene Wenger is the last of an all-but-extinct breed. The concept of a long-term manager who defines the club’s culture is one that will always struggle to exist in this world of immediate corporate football. Managerial appointments are transactional, much the same way that careers in the “professions” have become hopping on and off points in recent years. A three-year stint – at best – is just about what you’ll get. If the clubs don’t demand it, then the employees themselves have also moved in that direction. Hence, in year two of a three-year cycle, there’s agitation, leaked news stories claiming the manager has been talking to [usually] PSG or similar and sightings at airports claiming the gaffer has been going backwards and forwards to some of Europe’s big football cities. It’s either contract extension time or the relationship is moving to its inevitable conclusion.
So now we are hearing rumours that Carlo Ancelotti is on Arsenal’s wish list and that Wenger, despite a two-year contract, might after all be stepping down in the summer. You could have written most of that script at the time his current deal was announced last year.
Ancelotti is a perfect fit for a three-year “transaction”. Even today, many folk regret that Chelsea treated him the way they did, sacking him in a corridor just one year after he secured the “double”. Yet Ancelotti seems to be treated rather harshly by virtually every club he manages, despite being consistently successful. At the same time, he appears to go with dignity, and doubtless, a big pay cheque.
It’s clear that Arsenal have long lost their way under Wenger. Already, the current season looks like all the rest since he last won the Premier League in 2004 – promise, episodes of brilliance, disappointment and confusion. The FA Cup – his saving grace in the last four years – has gone but Arsenal could still (and indeed, should) win some silverware, but every time there’s a setback, the “Wenger out” brigade build up steam. And there’s the ongoing sagas of his big signings, Özil and Sanchez, both wanting away, obviously frustrated at the club’s lack of progress. You have to admire Arsenal’s loyalty, but equally, ambition seems to be rather limited at a club that was ranked number two in the world in terms of financial clout (Soccerex, Football Finance 100 – January 2018).
Arsenal may not have the seemingly unlimited resources of Manchester City, but in order to be a credible force, they have to be genuinely competing in Europe. Ancelotti’s experience at the highest level is unmatched – no manager has won the modern UEFA Champions League as many times as the Italian (2003, 2007 and 2014). His CV is impeccable – there’s not a top-class manager that has been in charge of major clubs in the top five leagues: Premier – Chelsea; La Liga – Real Madrid; Serie A – Juventus and AC Milan; Bundesliga – Bayern Munich; Ligue 1 – Paris St. Germain. What a list! He’s won the league title in four of those five (he didn’t make it in Spain).
On top of his credentials, Ancelotti seems to be a “nice guy” and will be conservative enough for a club like Arsenal. The only real criticism you hear is that he’s often not tough enough, that there is sometimes a lack of discipline about his regime. But he will never be called a “clown” or sneer at reporters with sarcasm. If Arsenal want a man who won’t get them into trouble but will make them contenders once more, Ancelotti should top their list – but they better hurry, this fellow doesn’t stay out of work for too long and the deckchairs are starting to be rearranged again in European football…
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