Next Arsenal Manager: The Case for the Brits

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 21 April 2018, 08:14

Carlo Ancelotti, Thomas Tuchel and Patrick Vieira are among the early contenders to be the next Arsenal manager: but what about the British managers out there?

The Sack Race looks at the claims Brendan Rodgers, Sean Dyche and Eddie Howe have to be the next Gunners boss.

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Brendan Rodgers

Why he should get the job:

It’s easy to perceive the Celtic manager’s job to be an easy one, but Brendan Rodgers’ record still stands out. While overseeing gradual if not seismic progression in Europe, his side have lost just two of their 88 domestic games under his guidance; for predecessor Ronny Deila, that record stood at 10 in 92.

Lest we forget Rodgers’ achievements before that: he became only the second man to turn Liverpool into serious title contenders in the Premier League era in 2013-14. Sublime, fast-paced football saw the Reds score 101 goals; only two other teams in the last quarter of a century have got into treble-figures in that metric and Arsenal aren’t among them.

Steven Gerrard has described the Northern Irishman as the best man manager he has worked with while Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez – now world-class forwards - owe much to the manager for their development. Exciting academy graduates like Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah would benefit hugely from playing under Rodgers – and imagine what he could do with already refined attackers like Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil?

Why he shouldn’t:

In 2013/14, supposedly Rodgers’ finest season as a manager, Liverpool had a defence that struggled to deal with the most basic balls into the box. They were punished by conceding 50 goals – more than 11th placed Crystal Palace – and ultimately missing out on the title.

Rodgers’ chopping and changing at Celtic has meant that their defence hasn’t necessarily improved from the Deila era; and in a more competitive league, the back-line is of greater importance. With injury-prone centre-backs Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny coming to the end of their careers, Shkodran Mustafi yet to convince with Calum Chambers and Rob Holding still developing, Arsenal badly need a revamp in this area. Is Rodgers the man to prioritize sorting out the rear-guard?

Sean Dyche

Why he should get the job:

When Dyche first walked through the doors at Turf Moor in October 2012, the only player he inherited that was anywhere near Premier League quality was Charlie Austin. The striker's 21 league goals that season were perceived as the only thing keeping Burnley away from a Championship relegation battle, so when he left for QPR the following summer, regression was widely expected.

What followed was the opposite: relegation from the Premier League in 2014/15 was sandwiched by two emphatic Championship promotions, before 2016/17 saw top flight survival secured for the first time in over four decades.

Incredibly, Burnley are now battling Arsenal for a top six berth with only two points separating the two sides. Arsene Wenger had been deemed good enough for Arsenal for consistent qualification for the Champions League, yet Sean Dyche achieving Europa League football with Burnley’s resources is surely a far greater achievement.

There’s two sides to Dyche: on the one hand there’s the down to earth speaker – at a time when the gap between club and fans has widened, somebody of the 46-year-old’s likeable demeanor wouldn’t go amiss.

Under the surface though lies a stealthy, intelligent man with a strong competitive drive. He has had the vision to take Burnley to the highest-possible place: demanding improvement of the club’s sports science equipment at the expense of short-term budgets, before having the adaptability to get his side playing on the deck more this season.

In short, you don’t achieve what Dyche has in East Lancashire without being a remarkable manager.

Why he shouldn’t:

In six years, Dyche has signed just six players from outside the UK and Ireland, of which only Steven Defour is still at the club. In fact, even in Defour’s first season, he was often benched because the Burnley boss was unwilling to switch from his favoured 4-4-2 to the 4-5-1 that would get the best out of him.

That suggests Dyche is the type of manager that needs to get a feel for his players before maximizing their strenghts. He has perhaps been fortunate that at Burnley, he has been afforded both the time and the power to build a squad and a club to his taste.

Arsenal meanwhile, have plans to modernize their recruitment process in the post-Wenger era – with Sven Mislintat appointed chief scout – so Dyche would have to work with more people and under more pressure.

Eddie Howe

Why he should get the job:

There have long been suggestions that Eddie Howe is a name Arsenal are considering in their succession plan.

A hardworking but affable man with a strong sense of loyalty to his club who remains stubbornly true to his attacking principles, it is easy to see why.

What is most impressive about Howe’s record is the attacking quality he has nurtured on the south-coast. In 76 Premier League games against teams outside the top six, Bournemouth have scored 123 goals; that’s 1.62 per game. In the same period, Arsenal average 2.01 goals per game against non-top six opposition.

That’s a relatively small gap, considering that Arsenal have been able to afford stars like Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, while Bournemouth gambled on Josh King – unwanted by Blackburn – in their first season at this level.

The Cherries have scored 13 goals in the last 15 minutes of matches – the same number as Arsenal – this season and won four games after conceding the first goal. Howe has made countless match-changing substitutions: Jordon Ibe against Brighton back in September, Benik Afobe and Harry Arter in respective December clashes with West Ham and Everton, Lys Mousset against Stoke in February, Jermain Defoe at Watford in March, Josh King against Crystal Palace in April… we could go on.

Quite simply, this is a man who would bring fresh energy to the club whilst staying true to the core principles.

Why he shouldn’t:

While Howe embraces change on the field, there is a possibility that he doesn’t like too much change off it. Since Bournemouth came into the Premier League, there are few examples of players who have been an instant hit: Nathan Ake being the most obvious.

King needed a year to adjust before top scoring in 2016-17 while Lewis Cook, who is now impressing in midfield, was initially sidelined when fans had called for him to start. Lys Mousset has been excellent from the bench this term but he has needed 12 months to adapt while Jack Wilshere put in mixed performances on loan.

With the Cherries, Howe had the insurance of falling back on the players he knew and trusted from the 2014-15 Championship title-winning season, whilst he figured out what made the new boys tick.

Should he move to North London, any hint of comfort would be extinguished and Howe would have to adapt to a completely new group.

The Sack Race’s Verdict

As much as it would be great from a neutral perspective to see Dyche or Howe get a deserved chance at Arsenal, Rodgers’ experience of the European scene makes him a more likely contender.


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David Wagner
(Huddersfield Town)
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