“Shouting into the abyss”; a phrase read yesterday which struck a chord. That is, after all, what we are doing. Arsenal have muffled Highbury House and London Colney with everyone walking around gagged and wearing headphones over balaclavas. No-one is saying a word because they cannot hear the noise outside.
Amid all the reasons for Emery’s removal is the usual list of suspects to replace him. The appointment, when it eventually happens, will tell us a lot about how The Muppet Show views the remainder of the season.
Are they ambitious, determined to give a top-four finish their best shot or is this campaign toast, with the new head coach coming in to reorganise and reinvigorate a beleaguered squad?
The latter will see an experienced man come in. Raul could banter us by appointing Sam Allardyce or Tony Pulis; maybe even ‘Appy ‘Arry. If Tottenham can appoint Mourinho, anything is possible this season so why not Redknapp? Or Pochettino, even.
That’s too hipster for Raul, I think. The Argentinean is easily dismissed for the glaring omission on his CV but let’s be honest, every unemployed manager looking for a new job failed in his last one so not having won any trophies is hardly a sin in footballing terms.
OK, not every manager looking for a job is a failure. Max Allegri, overlooked at the last round of interviews, has taken a season out since leaving Juventus. His sin is a familiar one, shared with Arsene: not one Champions League trophy between them.
Reportedly, he is learning English during his time out from the game, preparing himself for the possibility of a move to the Premier League. Could it be Arsenal? I wonder if we have a big enough chequebook to interest him?
It’s always harsh to dismiss a manager for that reason and in Allegri’s case, doubly so. However, Juve were never strapped for cash and while we’re not short of a bob or two, our transfer pot isn’t big enough to p*ss in by comparison.
Nonetheless, he is a serial winner with a well-organised philosophy. The sort of clear thinking which makes him an ‘attractive’ appointment. A big-name to galvanise the troops and certainly earn their immediate respect.
Nuno Espirito Santo brings the same organisational quality and knows our weaknesses like the back of his hand, having yet to see his Wolves side lose to us since returning to the Premier League.
His side are well-organised, drilled and know what they are doing. It’s this aspect which Arsenal are sorely lacking and which hopefully, he would bring. The criticism is that Wolves are punching above their weight without a flamboyant style.
Which brings about an interesting philosophical question: what is the Arsenal way? To me, it is a strong defence, well-organised midfield and an attack which knows where the goal is. All the double-winning sides in the club’s history fall into this category.
The argument that Wolves don’t play attractive football is sheer snobbery and let’s be honest, we haven’t for several years either. The obvious problem is that I doubt Wolves would let Arsenal talk to him although that’s never been a problem in the past for any football club ever. Even Arsene admits to talking to Real Madrid without the club’s permission.
Whatever the pros and cons of experienced bosses – and you can make similar cases for Eddie Howe, Rafa Benitez, Brendan Rodgers although why he’d leave Leicester for us is beyond me – the elephants in the room are always Mikel Arteta and Freddie Ljungberg.
At which point, we must decide what to do with this season. Is it a write-off to allow them the chance to get sorted and the experience for next year? To feed off the obvious goodwill which comes from being a (relatively) popular former player? Why not throw in Dennis Bergkamp as a coach whilst we are at it? An old boys reunion with Patrick Vieira the frontman?
There is one danger here. Any former player risks their reputation and their popularity by taking the reins. If the Arsenal captaincy is a poisoned chalice, that’s nothing to what the head coach’s job is for a former player. Let’s be honest here, it isn’t going to end well. It never does.
For a start, will everyone buy into the nostalgia and for how long? A season? Two? If things do not go well in 2020/21, how soon before the former player is deemed another dud coach?
I wouldn’t have an issue if the appointment was made for the long-term with either Ljungberg or Arteta. It must, however, be accompanied by an uncharacteristically frank admission from The Muppet Show: We’re writing off this season, rebuilding, reorganising and coming back twice as strong next time.
Is that something people can buy into? It’s nothing more than an admission that we’re taking a punt. OK, it’s a well-qualified punt, but a punt nonetheless.
Having said I don’t have an issue with such an appointment doesn’t mean I don’t have doubts about it working. In Arteta’s case, did he play in the same squad as anyone still at the club? Bellerin is the only one I can think of. He’ll come in with no experience and only the ‘kudos’ of being Pep’s assistant. Is that enough to get the squad on his side?
Wrote For Luck
Ljungberg is known as a coach to the players but his role in this season’s debacle is questionable. How much input does he have? He’s vocal on the sidelines but how deeply embedded is he in the mire?
Raul says Freddie impresses everyone with his coaching and attitude. Is that enough? Doesn’t that make him too much of a ‘safe’ appointment in the sense that he’s ‘in-house’, he’s ‘one of us’? Or ‘them’?
As an interim, Freddie fits the bill but I’m struggling to think of an interim since Bertie Mee who cut the mustard as manager. None of Burtenshaw, Rice or Houston made the grade as the top dog when their chance came, although I don’t think Pat had any ambitions in that sense. I can’t remember if Steve Burtenshaw went on to manage anyone.
In many sense, Freddie is reminiscent of Don Howe. Great coach, not cut out for managing. Maybe that’s the difference between then and now. The admin which Don had to deal with is now farmed out; the head coach is all about the first team. Is that the change which will make Freddie survive and then thrive?
I will say that I believe the mess we’re in demands an experienced set of hands to resolve. One who is clearer in their thinking than Unai and who can command the respect of the players immediately.
One of football’s great romantic dreams is succession planning. It never really works long-term. Other than the Liverpool ‘boot room’ which saw Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and to a very much lesser degree, Roy Evans enjoy success, I cannot think of a managerial production line which worked in football.
The club’s current situation is such that we’re desperate for a ‘feelgood’ factor and it seems Freddie Ljungberg is designated as the embodiment of that.
I cannot see that as being enough to justify his appointment and in a way, damns Ljungberg. What happens when it ends in tears, as it surely will because everyone managerial appointment does?
We’re in desperate need of strong leadership and I don’t see an inexperienced coach bringing that to the table. Can they organise Sokratis and Sideshow Bob? Do they have the cojones to drop either? Mind you, if we’re talking cojones, should we be considering Troy Deeney as head coach…
All of which presumes The Muppet Show is sharpening the axe. There’s little sign that they are amid the radio silence so let the speculation continue…