Will Arsene Wenger sign a mooted new 2-year contract extension on the table, or will the 2016-2017 season be his final year at Arsenal? The 66-year old manager will be approaching 68 at the end of his current deal and should he sign the extension reportedly on offer, he will be almost 70 by 2019.
What this means is that even if Wenger chooses to stay for two additional years, Arsenal will be in a position at some point in the near future, of looking for a new manager. A position the club has not been in since back in 1996, when Bruce Rioch was sacked and the Gunners surprised everybody by appointing a virtual unknown (in the UK) to the role.
It proved to be David Dein’s shrewdest signing ever. Wenger is not just Arsenal’s longest serving manager of all time, he is also the clubs most successful and his FA Cup victory last year saw him earn his sixth win in that competition, another record (this one shared with George Ramsey who won all his FA Cup Winners medals with Aston Villa between 1887 and 1920).
As has been seen many times before when long-serving managers leave the club, finding the right successor is paramount for stability at the club and to ensure ongoing success. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that Arsenal board members are already thinking about who could be the eventual successor to Wenger when the time comes.
The bookies are certainly looking at the prospect of Wenger leaving but even after checking the odds at all those listed on bettingwebsites.org the narrowest odds candidate is Frank De Boer at 11/1 which certainly doesn’t suggest a strong indication they know what’s going to happen.
So who are the likely candidates?
Steve Bould – Following on from Pat Rice as assistant manager, Steve Bould has become Wenger’s trusted right hand man at the club since Gunners legend Rice retired at the end of the 2011-2012 season. He has coaching success on his CV, taking Arsenal’s Academy team to the Premier League title in two successive seasons (2009 and 2010) and also winning the FA Youth Cup in 2009. Whether Arsenal directors would look to promote from within remains doubtful however and many feel a higher profile manager would make a more suitable appointment.
Frank de Boer – The current Ajax manager has made several remarks in recent times about wanting to try his hand in the Premier League at some point. Currently manager of Ajax, with Dennis Bergkamp, a former Arsenal legend as his assistant, de Boer has the standing in football, the coaching experience and has been schooled in the style of football that Arsenal have become accustomed to play. A de Boer-Bergkamp managerial team at the Emirates Stadium would be an enticing option for many.
Jose Mourinho – Could one of Arsenal’s greatest villains perform an about turn and take on the role of manager? In truth, it’s a far-fetched scenario. Wenger’s not Jose’s biggest fan or vice versa and the bad blood between Mourinho, Wenger and Arsenal would likely hamper any deal. However, if there are two things going in Jose’s favour it is that firstly, he is available and secondly, wherever he has gone, he has enjoyed immense success, especially in the initial three years.
Laurent Blanc – The current Paris St Germain and former French National team manager may have the billions backing of wealthy owner at PSG, in a league where the opposition is somewhat less wealthy, but there is no denying Blanc has done extremely well to turn what used to be a very inconsistent PSG team, into one of European football’s dominant sides. By the time Wenger retires, Blanc may well be looking for a fresh challenge and Arsenal would certainly be a good option for him.
Patrick Vieira – Until recently, Vieira was working as a Football Development Officer at Manchester City, but on the 1st January 2016, Vieira took his first tentative steps into the world of management when he took on the role of Head Coach at New York City FC. That came after Vieira was spoken to, at length, about the possibility of taking over at Newcastle United. If Vieira can prove his worth with New York and Wenger opts to stay on until 2019, the calls for the former captain to return home to take over the role at the Emirates could be very vocal.