Vieira’s return – How many other Arsenal players became managers?

As part of our focus on Patrick Vieira returning to Arsenal on Monday, I thought I explore other

Gunners who played for us in the Premier League who went on to become managers.

In truth very few have succeeded while some of our bigger names instead turned to media. That indicates that the pressure in coaching isn’t worth it when you can get well paid for being a pundit on TV and radio.

Perhaps my one criticism regarding Arsene Wenger was he could have done more to prepare players for management.

It took him too long to trust ex talent to work with him while a Man United would ensure Scholes, Giggs, The Nevilles, Butt, Carrick, Fletcher, etc, were part of the set up behind the scenes.

Vieira is only the 5th player in the Prem to play for us who would go on and manage in the division.

Whereas a Sir Alex Ferguson produced a Bryan Robson, Steve Bruce, Paul Ince, Mark Hughes, Roy Keane and Solskjaer while Giggs is in charge of Wales, Gary Neville (failed) was given a chance at Valencia while his brother took responsibility of the English lady’s national team.

So, here’s a list of Gunners who played in the Prem and how they fared in the dugout.

Law of averages show that it won’t be easy for Viera….


David O’Leary

No man has played more for the Gunners then David O’Leary.

Having featured in the debut season of the Premier League, O’Leary would reunite with George Graham at Leeds.

Out of loyalty though, the idea of following the Scot to Spurs was unthinkable so he remained at Elland Road, where to the surprise of many he was given the role of manager.

The Irishman built one of the most impressive young squads in England, to the point where many predicted they would become the main long-term contenders to Man United.

What no one knew was Peter Ridsdale was borrowing money on the provision that Leeds had Champions League revenue. So, when two years running, the club failed to finish in the top 4, they couldn’t pay back loans.

It would cause drastic financial results which would see them drop down the football pyramid.

How much O’Leary knew about the financial situation is debatable to this day. His reaction to their plight and how he dealt with the Lee Bowyer and Woodgate trial came across as him trying to protect himself.

He needed to get his next job right to remain coaching at this level but without the same financial backing at Aston Villa, he failed.


Tony Adams

Our ex-captain has been very critical with Arsene Wenger’s reluctance to give him opportunities to come back and work for the club with it suggested it affected the twos relationship.

It would be Harry Redknapp who would give him the chance to coach in the top flight after his first gig ended in relegation at Wycombe.

When Harry went to Spurs his assistant was made Portsmouth’s full-time boss.

He was well aware that the only reason he got the position was because of Pompey’s financial plight.

He lasted 16 games after only 10 points.

Contacts got him work in Azerbaijan, where he coached Qabala for 3 years, then became Sporting Director for another 3 years. When he returned he took over at Granada who were in a relegation dogfight. Adams lost all seven games as manager and was subsequently sacked.


Paul Merson

As covered in his recent book, a chance to be player/manager at Walsall was too good an opportunity to turn down.

Deep down though Paul Merson knew his addiction to alcohol, drugs and gambling meant it impossible to succeed.

He was sacked with the club 19th in League One and heading for relegation.

Now a pundit on Soccer Saturday, he cites young managers needing the luck of picking the right job at the right time.


David Platt

Has not left a very positive memory wherever he has managed.

Taking charge of Sampdoria so soon after retiring was a big news story in Italy at the time, with many fans and press feeling he didn’t have the qualifications to meet the requirements needed to manage in Serie A.

He would then go to Forest where despite heavy financial backing he failed to get promotion, falling out with many senior pros.

He did his best coaching work as Mancini’s assistant at Man City.


Remi Garde

One of the few times Arsene Wenger’s judgement was wrong was when he phoned Aston Villa and suggested they should hire Garde who had lifted two trophies at Lyon.

Garde walked into a club who had just had a period of poor recruitment with their owner no longer willing to invest.

3 wins out of 23 meant he couldn’t arrest that slide and it damaged his reputation in France.


Steve Morrow

Best known for scoring our winner in the 1993 League Cup Final and breaking his arm during the celebrations.

At the end of his career he played in America, which saw him end up as a manager for a couple of years.

His reputation within the sport is big, working for Arsenal in various departments and now employed by the FA.



Having played for 11 different teams you can’t blame many people for assuming Anelka’s move to Mumbai was a marketing ploy to help launch the Indian Super League.

In his second season he became player/manager but failed to meet the target of reaching the play offs.

Quitting after just 12 games over two campaigns it confirmed many suspicions that this was simply a pay day.

He is now Lille’s academy coach.


Nelson Vivas

Has made all the headlines as manager for the wrong reasons.

At Argentina he left Quilmes after attacking a fan and famously ripped off his shirt in anger when sent from the bench at Estudiantes.

No wonder Simeone wanted him as his assistant.



After retiring went back to the Ukraine where he’d taken charge of three clubs.

Many Kiev fans were disappointed the couple of times he found himself as caretaker boss and was never offered a permanent position.



There’s a great story that to wind Keown up Parlour would say in training how good this young trialist was and that Keown’s position was under threat.

Thinking he was being serious it convinced Mr. Wenger to offer the Latvian a contract.

He’s considered one of the worst players in our history.

Never have I seen a player take a first touch and a whole crowd gasp.

In Latvia though he’s considered a legend with over 100 caps.

He’s now in charge of the nations under 17’s


Thierry Henry

First coaching role was working with our under 18’s.

If he had stayed part of the club set up maybe would have managed Arsenal by now.

Chose to leave when Mr. Wenger gave him an ultimatum, the manager not wanting Henry to work with Sky Sports at the same time.

Working with Belgium allowed him to do both, in the dugout for both a World Cup and Euros.

An example though of a manager needing to pick his first job wisely.

The world knew Monaco were in dire straits off the pitch, hence why a rookie was offered the role in the first place but Henry’s attachment to the club enticed him.

Henry lasted 20 games and was sacked with the club in 19th.

He admitted at Montreal he was naive not realising the issues Monaco were dealing with while being idealistic in his style of play.

Had got Montreal to the play offs in the MLS but COVID forced him to move from America to be closer to his family.


Sol Campbell

Has been very vocal that he feels the colour of his skin has cost him opportunities in management.

While the likes of Lampard and Rooney were handed Championship jobs to cut their teeth as managers, Campbell had to go all the way to Trinidad and Tobago to get work.

He was finally offered a vacancy in England in 2018 when Macclesfield were five points cut adrift in League Two.

After surviving Campbell left on a high with the club in financial trouble.

When COVID essentially relegated Southend (it was decided the season wouldn’t resume) they couldn’t afford to keep him.

He’s been unlucky that his only two jobs were with clubs flirting with going bankrupt.

Why that was, when the likes of Gerrard got the Rangers job, is a debate for another day.


Van Bronkhorst

When it was clear our recruitment team would be open to hiring ex-players, I was surprised we didn’t consider Van Bronkhorst.

In his first management job at Feyenoord he lifted both the Dutch domestic cup and then their title.

Like a lot of players from Holland his ethos is for the game being played in an attractive manner.

This earnt him rave reviews around Europe.

He was in China for a year, but COVID forced him to return home.


So, not many Gunners have gone on to be successful managers.

Will Vieira?

If he does, timing is everything.

With Arteta under pressure, if a club legend is on the other side of London making noise, then Arsenal would surely listen?


Be kind in the comments



Tags Tony Adams Vieira


  1. Great article! There’s a YouTube video about the differences between the famous English and German managers. I forgot whether it was produced by DW News or Tifo Football

    Basically most English ex-players became EPL managers just because they were successful footballers, whereas most German managers started from the bottom. This is why unsuccessful ex-players like Low, Klopp, Tuchel, Flick and Nagelsmann are superior to the English managers

    My one criticism regarding Arsene Wenger wasn’t about his effort to prepare his players for managerial jobs. But about his inability to adapt to new challenges in EPL and UCL, despite having a highly influential role at Arsenal due to his 20+ years tenure

    As for our ex-players turned managers, Arteta seems to be the most knowledgeable one. Henry, Vieira and Arteta are currently too idealistic for their own good, but hopefully it will change soon

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