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20th Apr 2018

It’s obvious who Arsenal’s next manager should be

He's exactly what they need

Robert Redmond

Arsene Wenger has announced that he will leave Arsenal at the end of the season.

After 22 years with the Gunners, Wenger will walk away from the club despite having 12-months remaining on his contract. Reports on Friday claimed that there was a possibility that the Arsenal board may have sacked Wenger in the summer.  The Frenchman has chosen to leave on his own terms.

Unless they can win the Europa League, Arsenal will miss out on a place in the Champions League again next season. They are currently 14 points behind fourth-place Tottenham and fans have never been more disgruntled during Wenger’s long tenure as manager. It could be argued that his departure became inevitable once Arsenal appointed Sven Mislintat, a “head of recruitment”, earlier this season.

The Gunners boss previously had complete control over transfers but saw his power eroded at a time when results continued to dip. They are the only team in England without a point away from home in 2018.

The focus will now turn to Wenger’s replacement. Thomas Tuchel has been touted as a possible successor to the Frenchman. However, Tuchel reportedly fell out with Mislintat when the pair worked together at Borussia Dortmund and is set to become Paris Saint-Germain coach anyway. Brendan Rodgers, Massimiliano Allegri, Patrick Vieira, Carlo Ancelotti are the other candidates mentioned.

Yet, one manager who hasn’t been widely touted for the job would be an ideal successor to Wenger – Antonio Conte.

The Italian appears almost certain to leave Chelsea at the end of the season. He has openly aired his frustrations with the club’s recruitment process over the past year, and Chelsea have failed to successfully defend their Premier League title. Currently fifth, like Arsenal, the Blues appear certain to miss out on qualifying for the Champions League, and Conte has long seemed destined for the exit door.

However, Conte proved last season that he is an elite coach. In the 2015/16 Premier League season, Chelsea finished 10th. Conte took a team low on confidence and guided them to the title, ending the season with 93 points, and an incredible 30 wins from 38 games. He’ll most likely be available in the summer, and will arguably be the best manager the Gunners could appoint.

Before Chelsea, Conte took a limited Italy team to the cusp of the semi-finals at Euro 2016. They beat gifted sides such as Belgium and Spain and only lost on penalties to Germany. That same Italy side failed to qualify for this summer’s World Cup.

Conte’s last job in club management before Chelsea was with Juventus. Italy’s most successful club had finished seventh before Conte arrived. By the time he left in 2014, Juventus had won three Serie A titles in a row and re-established themselves as the country’s most dominant team. He has revitalised two clubs and evidence suggests he could do the same for Arsenal.

Conte would bring some desperately-needed qualities to Arsenal. Firstly, he has displayed a degree of tactical flexibility and team organisation that goes beyond anything we’ve seen from Arsenal over the last decade. The Gunners would n0-longer go onto the pitch looking lost and unsure of their duties.

Eden Hazard has spoken about how detailed Conte’s instructions are. “There’s a lot of tactics,” the Belgian forward said about Conte’s training sessions.

“It’s not always nice as a forward as you have to run, defend and everything, but at least at the weekend, you know exactly what to do, you can even close your eyes and play. That’s good.”

Hazard said that Conte improved him “after a week.” No Arsenal player can say the same about Wenger over the last 10-years.

Conte’s teams are well structured, tactically flexible and difficult to beat at the best. It may have gone pear-shaped this year, but we shouldn’t forget how good Chelsea had been under Conte. Last season, they won 13 games in a row. He was also ahead of his rivals tactically, moving to three at the back with two wing-backs before most other Premier League teams, and he over-achieved in his first season with Chelsea.

The team have fallen from those heights this season, and his abrasive style probably hasn’t helped matters. Yet, Arsenal could also do with someone to push them, to bring some much-needed intensity to the side. Wenger’s greatest failing in his final years was arguably his loyalty to certain players who had long-proved unworthy of such trust. The team settled into comfortable mediocrity and experienced the same shortcomings time and time again.

Conte could break that cycle and re-energise Arsenal the way he did at Chelsea and Juventus. He would make Arsenal defensively sound, providing the structure for talented attacking players such as Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to flourish. His blunt, intense and no-nonsense manner, wedded to his coaching prowess, makes Conte an ideal candidate to replace Wenger.