The speculation began before the official announcement came. Jurgen Klopp is leaving Dortmund at the end of May and the football hipster’s favourite manager will be temporarily unemployed. It won’t be long, although most seem to think he will end up at Manchester City rather than my hunch that he is to replace Martin Kemp in Spandau Ballet when they play Ibiza Rocks this summer.
Everyone else has punned their way through his surname to the extent that I only get a slow hand Klopp if I follow suit. If I do, Jurgener regret it.
Immediate speculation focussed on which Premier League manager he was going to replace in the summer. Most believe it will be Manuel Pellegrini who, whilst not yet relieved of his duties, is the bookies clear favourite to vacate his chair for the German’s sake. One thing was certain – or as certain as football allows speculation to be – is that he won’t be taking a sabbatical. Using the renowned football formula of 2 + 2 = nothing like reality, to me that rules him out of taking over at Arsenal this summer. Wenger is a couple of players away from having a title squad and seems unlikely to walk away from The Emirates.
Nothing can be ruled out but unless winning back-to-back Premier League titles and the Champions League in the next two seasons convinces Arsène to extend his deal once more, Jurgen has a couple of years to kill. It fits together quite nicely. So nicely that some might call it a plan. Others, a flight of fancy based on a set of unlikely circumstances that would need more than the stars aligning to happen. Or as you and I look at things, the same foundation upon which transfer gossip is built.
Some wondered if, ignoring any timings or outcomes, Klopp taking the City job ruled him out of managing Arsenal. The consensus seemed to be ‘yes’ on the basis that success would price him out of the market, ignoring that success meant he wouldn’t be on the market anyway.
Ruling out a former City manager for the Arsenal role on the basis of him having managed City is cutting off your nose to spite your face. The logic basically was that he would lack the class required to manage Arsenal. Whether that is still needed in Premier League football – or is still a criteria – is debatable.
Football’s incestuous nature means that the pool of managers is small and the ones who have the experience that Arsenal needs is even shallower. I don’t think the board can be that picky when it comes to replacing Wenger and no matter who replaces him, their shortcomings will not satisfy some. Arsenal needs a manager with Champions League success and that stock is low although increasing if Julen Lopetegui’s Porto finish the job and beat Bayern over the two legs of this year’s quarter-final.
Porto in the last four. Pffft. What price beating Monaco now?
All of which proved something of a distraction to the upcoming FA Cup semi-final. The build-up to Saturday’s meeting with Reading has been low-key to say the least. Almost comatose. The main focus seems to be the clash of TV schedules, with The Telegraph positing the theory that Sky took a punt of scheduling Manchester United’s visit to Stamford Bridge at the same time and lost.
Criticism of the FA on this one seems wide of the mark but any levelled at the Premier League or Sky is spot on. It underlines the mess football has got itself into the television companies. If football were a dog, the RSPCA would be quickly involved as the real owners of the game have emerged from the shadows and are inflicting unspeakable mental cruelty on the poor creature. It makes Disney’s storyline in 101 Dalmations pale by comparison.
The players are beginning to trundle out in front of the cameras for a few words but the question is whether any of those who have spoken be involved. What changes will Arsène make to the side which won at Burnley? Almost certainly Wojciech Szczesny will start and it seems the perfect opportunity to bring Mathieu Debuchy back into the fray for a bit of match sharpness prior to facing Chelsea next weekend.
Beyond that, you do wonder with surely no more than two other changes, forced or voluntary. Welbeck and Gibbs perhaps? It’s a tricky situation because Arsène will want to continue the momentum built on the winning run in all competitions since Monaco’s victory at The Emirates. The motivation for returning to Wembley at the end of May is clear; silverware, successfully defending the FA Cup and joining Tottenham as the only club to achieve that feat twice with Wenger becoming the only manager to do so in the process.
Those are all sideshows; the motivations are clear – winning and maintaining confidence for the next game. Defeat? A crushing blow, not even being contemplated by Steve Clarke, Reading’s manager, even though his side are most likely safe from relegation. Not mathematically so but what are the chances of Millwall, Brighton, Rotherham and Fulham all winning their remaining games whilst Reading lose theirs? Not quite as slim as Klopp to Arsenal this summer, that’s for sure.