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09th Feb 2018

Paul Merson’s pick for the next Arsenal manager is an out-there one

Merse sees the Gunners' new signing as Wenger's last piece of business

Darragh Murphy

Paul Merson wants his former club to take advantage of the pressure Antonio Conte suddenly finds himself under.

In spite of the fact that Conte delivered the Premier League trophy to Chelsea just last season, the Blues boss is currently the bookmakers’ favourite to be the next top flight manager to be sacked.

Consecutive heavy defeats to both Bournemouth and Watford have left Conte in danger of being relieved of his duties at Stamford Bridge and former Arsenal midfielder Merson wants the Gunners to pounce on the Italian if he finds himself without a job.

Merson, who spent 12 years at Arsenal, considers Conte the ideal replacement for Arsene Wenger.

“The day Conte leaves Chelsea, if I was Arsenal, I’d be straight on the phone,” Merson told The Debate on Sky Sports.

“Managers like Conte don’t come along too often.

“Arsenal need someone that is going to go in there and upset people. Conte upsets people. He wants you to play a certain way and he’ll make you rock solid at the back. As soon as Arsenal get rock solid at the back, they’ll be a force.

“I think Arsenal would say: ‘we’d have you next season’. I think they’d be mad if they didn’t.

“I think it ticks all the boxes. Arsenal can’t keep missing all these managers. You can’t tell me Pep Guardiola wouldn’t want to have managed Arsenal? If he had that opportunity, he’d have gone to Arsenal in my opinion.

“Jurgen Klopp, Jose Mourinho, they all went to Arsenal’s rivals because Wenger was sat there in the manager’s seat instead of saying the time was right to leave.

“There are other top managers like Massimiliano Allegri at Juventus, but he might come in and it would take him a year to get used to the Premier League – like it did with Klopp.”

Pressure has mounted on Wenger in recent years, with the #WengerOut campaign continuing to gather legs amid the side’s failure to mount title challenges.

Despite the fact that the Frenchman signed a contract extension last May, it has been suggested that Wenger’s days at the Emirates are numbered and Merson has posited that the signing of Borussia Dortmund forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for a club-record £55.5 million could amount to one last attempt from Wenger to reach the top four this season before bowing out at the campaign’s end.

“These don’t seem like Arsene Wenger signings to me,” Merson added.

“When has he ever bought a 29-year-old for £60m with no sell-on clause? Never ever.

“Sir Alex Ferguson did it a few years ago. He said he needed to win the league and he got Robin van Persie to score him the goals to get above Manchester City.

“There was no sell-on, he got him to win the league, then he planned to retire. The Aubameyang signing says to me, ‘this is a top-four signing then see you later.'”