To be or not to be? What’s love got to do with it? Who let the dogs out? And for years it has been the standard device to deflate detractors of one of the most successful managers ever in world football and end the conversation there and then.
“That’s all well and good, but who do you get to replace Arsene Wenger?”
Increasingly, though, it looks like the Arsenal board are going to have to come up with an actual answer sooner rather than later. And they are struggling more than Hamlet, Tina Turner and the Baha Men put together.
Wenger’s demeanour of late, culminating in the whole miserable experience in the Allianz Arena on Wednesday night, suggests more and more that it is time for him to abdicate. Arsenal are getting further away from Europe’s elite, not closer.
Goodness knows, the Arsenal board don’t want him to go, though. In the summer, chief executive Ivan Gazidis made it clear that the ideal solution as far as they were concerned was that Wenger extended the deal which expires in the summer.
Arsenal are under pressure to work out who could replace Arsene Wenger
Arsenal were humiliated by Bayern Munich in the Champions League
Then in September, usually ‘Silent’ Stan Kroeke, Arsenal’s major shareholder, admitted in a rare interview that they were all “very high” on Wenger and he would be “very hard” to replace.
There is an all-pervading fear around the Emirates of the Fergie Factor – the difficulties Manchester United encountered in their own attempt to shift dynasties when Sir Alex Ferguson finally retired. They must avoid a repeat at all costs.
In trying to avoid that, the Arsenal board – no football experience; no previous managerial appointments to their name – appear to be focusing on four men who are very much de rigeur at the moment.
Massimiliano Allegri of Juventus is the favourite and ticks many of the boxes. After initially making his name at AC Milan he has inherited a regime built by Antonio Conte at Juventus, tweaked it and enjoyed the sort of continued success they want at Arsenal.
It was by no means a straightforward transition and Andrea Pirlo, Carlos Tevez, Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba all had to be replaced – perhaps as Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil will need to be at the Emirates.
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Massimiliano Allegri is the bookies favourite to take over from Arsene Wenger
Can you guess the last Arsenal team to win a Champions League knockout tie?
Thu, February 16, 2017
Arsenal last won a Champions League knockout tie against FC Porto back in 2010, but can you name the players in that victorious side?
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Can you name the last Arsenal team to win a Champions League knockout tie?
And you quickly spot a theme developing with their second candidate. Thomas Tuchel managed to step into the shoes of Jurgen Klopp and keep Borussia Dortmund in good order despite the sudden considerable vacuum – although he has coped less well with the departures of key names like Mats Hummels and Ilkay Gundogan.
Which is why, perhaps, it is time for a club that has not won its domestic league for 12 years and never won Europe’s major prize to look for something different rather than more of the same.
Leonardo Jardim is the polar opposite to Wenger in terms of stability, with Monaco his sixth job in nine years, but he seems to have found a niche in the principality.
Having been accused of “chloroform tactics” when he first arrived, he has built a more fluid outfit and even put Tottenham out of this season’s Champions League, immediately giving him hero-status with the Arsenal fans.
Or there is Roger Schmidt, figurehead of the Red Bull Salzburg emergence and now at Bayer Leverkusen, another of Spurs’ Champions League group conquerors this season.
Question marks over his temperament could make him too hot for Arsenal to contemplate – a factor which would also appear at first glance to rule out Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone.
The Argentine is very much the anti-Wenger – a purveyor of uncompromising defensive football at odds with Wenger’s legacy.
While Tottenham have already bagged the more touchy-feely top Argentine managerial talent out there at the moment in Mauricio Pochettino, Simeone could shake up a dressing room that showed on Wednesday it has become too comfortable and arrogant, even, in meeting the very ordinary demands of a board happy with fourth-placed league finishes and group stage Champions League qualification.
Sir Chips Keswick, Gazidis, the Kroenkes, Ken Friar, and Lord Harris of Peckham must ask themselves this: “Do they want their next manager to go for glory or sit contentedly on the gravy train?” That is not so much a rhetorical question as a multi-million dollar one.