Dan Smith has certainly livened up the boring interlull with his Top Ten lists, and today’s is just as interesting… Read on…
You know you are getting old when players you watched growing up are now becoming managers. Clearly there was a temptation in the summer to keep the Job ‘in house’, to replace Arsene Wenger with someone who has Arsenal in their DNA. It was right to go with our heads and get someone with experience who can deal with this time of transition.
Yet now the likes of Henry and Vieira have a chance to prove that their ex-employers were wrong not to follow their hearts. It does make me more interested In Ligue 1, I have ordered my Henry Monaco shirt lol. For note, the French Arsenal Derby, Viera vs Henry is in December.
Uni Emery is doing a great job so don’t read that this article has me wishing him out. More a fun list to acknowledge Thierry Henry’s first managerial role. If an ex-gunner was going to manager us one day, who would it be? Here a list of 10 gooners who are best placed to come back to us as manager one day.
10- Sol Campbell
I wrote a week ago about Sol’s struggles to get a job since retirement, something he feels is to do with the colour of his skin. He’s had to go all the way to Trinidad and Tobago to get a taste of coaching making the FA’s invite to work with the under 21’s too good to turn down. Gareth Southgate is a classic example of how a career can change when you get your foot inside Football Association’s headquarters. Back then, he had been sacked as Middlesbrough boss. Circumstances made him the right person at the right time and suddenly he was leading his nation into a World Cup. Anyone who’s read the defender’s autobiography will know he’s a complex character. That’s fine being one of many leaders but being in charge of a whole club? He could be too marmite to run Arsenal.
9- Marc Overmars
Like several of their ex stars, Overmars returned home to Ajax, a club renowned for looking after their own. The Flying Dutchmen initially managed in their youth set up, showing interest in coaching before being offered the position of Director of Football. In a strange coincidence he ended up having to sack the man he had such a great understanding with on the pitch, Dennis Bergkamp. If he did work again in London, it’s more likely it be based on a complete change of structure behind the scenes. An Overmars/Bergkamp dream team?
8 – Dennis Bergkamp
Ajax are rivalled by only Bayern Munich for wanting to keep ex-players involved in the club. Up till last Christmas, our former striker was coaching the club’s academy. Imagine being a kid and being educated by someone with that man’s footballing brain. Arsene Wenger eventually was open to letting his ex-players coach with him and surely would have accepted the input from one of the greatest talents he’s ever worked with. What could prove a handicap to any dreams of being in the dugout is his well-known fear of flying. As a player, Arsenal could compromise and put provisions in place. In 2018 though, the moment you lost in Europe, the ready-made excuse would be, their boss wasn’t on the plane with them.
7- Steve Bould
In one of his biggest mistakes, Arsene Wenger seemed uncomfortable keeping ex-players around as a sound board or to help the next generation. That policy changed slightly when Bould was promoted up to assistant manager upon Pat Rice’s retirement. I say slightly as observers have often doubted how much input he’s been allowed to have. It’s hard to think that someone part of our famous back four would be coaching some of the worst defensive performances witnessed over the years. He’s either not been given the freedom on the training field or struggles to get his message across. It’s common when a new boss comes in, he likes to keep an employee of the previous regime who knows the traditions of the club. So, if Unai Emery had a crisis, Bould is in position to take temporary charge. That’s the only reason he’s on this list.
6- Robert Pires
Our of respect and love for what he did for us, Robert Pires was given a job at Arsenal, with his ex-manager letting him choose his role. He would work with the youngsters on a part time basis, while also being an ambassador for the club. He would balance this with various grassroot charities before making his work at the Emirates a full-time gig. Like Ajax and Bayern, we are the type of family club who would be tempted to keep the Gunners post in house, as evidenced by nearly choosing Arteta over Emery. If Pires was serious about his development I believe Unai would find him a specific post, like an underage group.
Clearly divides our board’s opinions. The rumours are saying that preferring Unai Emery over our ex captain was a last-minute decision, with Arteta believing he was dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s over a deal. This was based on being Pep Guardiola’s right-hand man, as that’s the only experience he has in terms of coaching. He’s earned a reputation in his two years at Man City which is why he topped our shortlist for so long. Obviously, the more experience he gets, the more others will want to take a gamble. History will tell us if we were correct to view this as too early for him to be a manager. If the criteria though is being a gooner, then there are greater legends who would capture fans imaginations.
4- Van Bronckhorst
It was strange that in the summer ex-players were linked with Arsene Wenger’s job to keep the role ‘in house’, a former gunner with more experience wasn’t getting a mention. Indeed, Van Bronckhorst has earned a reputation as one of Europe’s great young managers by ending Feyenoord’s 18-year title drought. He started his career with the Dutch side, won a Premiership and two FA cups with us before playing for Barcelona. That’s not including appearing for a country renowned for playing the right way. In other words, he would have the same ethos as us.
Not an Arsenal legend though in terms of dreaming to come back to North London
3- Freddie Ljungberg
Worked with our under 15’s in 2015 before a 6-month spell as assistant manager at Wolfsburg. He returned to Arsenal in the summer as head coach of our under 23’s and is already making waves for how he’s got the youngsters playing. Like Arsene Wenger, Unai Emery wants all age groups playing the same way. Having featured for the most successful side in our history, the Swede knows all about free-flowing football. Again, in terms of keeping things ‘in house ‘ this is a smart role to have taken. Zidane got the Real Madrid post based on years of developing the next gems so why not Freddie?
2- Patrick Vieira
When gooners heard that Arsenal were considering ex-players to replace Arsene Wenger, many saw romances in rehiring our former skipper. In fact, some reports suggest that Vieira was unhappy about the indecisiveness of our recruitment process, making him feel undervalued. At Manchester City, there were whispers that while they wouldn’t stand in Arteta’s way, they were reluctant to lose the Frenchmen from their American project. The champions had invested years in preparing Vieira as their future gaffer, with a spell in the MLS an apprenticeship of sorts. It’s hard to believe though that a club backed by a country won’t always just throw millions at getting the sexiest name available, so the World Cup winner has chosen Nice as his next challenge.
Success in Ligue 1 could see an Arsenal – City bidding war
Call me a romantic but I long dreamed of the greatest player in our history returning to end our title drought.
The man himself, unlike a Viera, hasn’t been shy in admitting we offer the ‘dream job’. Of course, the fact that he has a statue outside the Emirates doesn’t guarantee anything. There are numerous examples of legends who hurt their legacy by coming back as managers. What Henry has demonstrated working with young gunners and as number 2 to the Belgians is a likability factor. The likes of Roy Keane have struggled to cope with individuals not as skilful or motivated as him. As one of the all-time best at what he did, Henry accepts it and brings a calm approach. A sulky striker, even when he scored, Henry wants the game to be about fun. It seems unfair that the odds of a Lampard, Gerrard, Vieira and now Henry being managers in a decade could be decided on picking their first job correctly. History shows, pick a dodgy owner, have bad luck, etc, you will be back on the pundits’ chair permanently. I hope Henry gets Monaco right and my dream will become a reality.
Who would you choose?