With Unai Emery ‘s managerial hot seat reaching record temperatures, the Arsenal board must get their next appointment correct. Who could be in line to replace the Spaniard when, rather than if, they pull the trigger?
Five Potential Candidates to Replace Unai Emery
Arsenal must keep in mind that the ideal candidate must be able to accomplish one thing, and one thing only: Champions League qualification. They also need to keep things realistic. No manager who is currently with a Champions League side will find the move to be attractive. That rules out Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone and Ajax’s Erik ten Hag. Both managers would excel at Arsenal, but would barely be tempted with the move. When changing managers midseason, the shortlist is much smaller.
Additionally, current Arsenal assistant and former player, Freddie Ljungberg, will not be getting the job. He does not currently possess the required coaching license to manage Arsenal on more than an interim basis. Ljungberg would need a UEFA Pro license which is one step above the one he currently has obtained, the UEFA A license. That being said, here are five candidates the Gunners should consider.
The former Arsenal captain and current Manchester City assistant coach nearly got the job ahead of Unai Emery in the summer of 2018. Eventually, the Arsenal hierarchy decided to go with a manager who had more experience. At the time, Mikel Arteta had two years as an assistant under his belt. One of which ended with a Premier League title.
It would be an attractive move to bring a former captain back to manage and the fact that he has been learning from one of the best managers in the game, Pep Guardiola, makes the prospect even more exciting. Could a defensive midfielder help organize this Arsenal team in shambles?
A former Arsenal captain from a much more successful time at the club could be interesting. Patrick Vieira is currently in charge of OGC Nice in Ligue 1. The Frenchman got his start in management with New York City Football Club in Major League Soccer. Vieira captained “The Invincibles” and won a World Cup with France. His short tenure in MLS went fairly well and earned him the move to one of Europe’s top leagues. In his first season with Nice, the club finished seventh. Although they are currently sitting in 15th place, they are only three points off of sixth in a tightly contested division.
The idea of Vieira returning to Arsenal at this time is likely to excite fans especially due to the success that Frank Lampard is in his first season at Chelsea. Vieira could help bring back the core values of the club and not only improve the team on the field, but off it as well.
Over the course of his managerial career, Rafa Benitez has racked up an impressive trophy haul. He has won La Liga twice, the UEFA Champions League, two UEFA Europa Leagues, and many more. Benitez currently resides in the Chinese Super League with Dalian Yifang, who scooped him up once his contract expired at Newcastle United. It would not be a bad idea for Arsenal to give him the job until the end of the season with an option of extending that a year further. They do not want to be stuck in a situation where the move does not work out and they either stick with yet another unsuccessful manager or pay the remainder of their contract.
Rafa Benitez would be brought in with the idea that he can organize the midfield and defence. He worked wonders with Newcastle United in that department but ultimately left when a new contract could not be agreed upon as well as transfer restrictions. Even with less money available, Benitez’s Newcastle were better defensively than Arsenal in his two seasons at St. James’ Park.
The former Juventus boss has the best record by far of any manager on the shortlist. Max Allegri spent five years at Juventus, winning the league in all five seasons, plus four Coppa Italias. On top of that, he led Juve to two Champions League finals, ultimately coming up short. In total, he won 11 trophies in five years in charge. He also won Serie A with Milan back in the 2010-11 campaign.
In 271 matches in charge of Juventus, they allowed 0.77 goals per game. Arsenal would kill for a defensive record of that nature. Under Unai Emery, Arsenal have allowed an average of 1.34 goals per game. The biggest question would be whether Allegri would take the job. He very well may be tempted for a bigger job to come along.
How great would it be to tempt the former boss of fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur to switch allegiances? Mauricio Pochettino led Spurs to the Champions League final last season but was sacked last week after a horrid start to the season. It is unlikely that he would join Arsenal, à la Sol Campbell, but that does not mean Arsenal should not at least consider reaching out. With Bayern Munich and other top clubs calling, Pochettino would most likely head elsewhere.