Big news on this Friday morning across not just the Premier League or English football in general, but all of Europe if not the world. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has announced he’s stepping down at the end of the season from the job he’s held since 1996. That’s 22 years of trophies, innovation, drama, stagnation, wins, losses, draws, memes, and memories at one single club. Wenger is one of the last of his kind; that length of tenure is unimaginable nowadays, especially at the top level of the game.
When I first saw that tweet, my instinct was to look for the subtle misspellings that fake accounts get away with. A ‘1’ instead of the lowercase letter ‘L’; extra underscores; etc.
But no, this is very real and very much happening.
“After careful consideration and following discussions with the club, I feel it is the right time for me to step down at the end of the season. I am grateful for having had the privilege to serve the club for so many memorable years. I managed the club with full commitment and integrity. I want to thank the staff, the players, the Directors and the fans who make this club so special. I urge our fans to stand behind the team to finish on a high. To all the Arsenal lovers take care of the values of the club. My love and support for ever.”
-Arsene Wenger statement; source: Arsenal FC
We shall see just how well Arsenal take care of Wenger’s “values” and legacy or whether they’ll do the more obvious thing and start conducting business like the rest of the top teams in the world. They already have a director of football, for example, and we can safely bet that the next man will not be there for 22 years. He will probably be lucky to be there for 2.
The identity of that next manager is where Chelsea come in, since we’re supposedly looking for one as well. And while there are targets whom we can probably safely rule out and Arsenal cannot (Rafa Benítez comes to mind immediately), most other targets will overlap. Allegri, Ancelotti, Tuchel (going to PSG maybe?), Jardim, Luis Enrique, Maurizio Sarri, etc — the biggest names will likely be linked with both London vacancies. Agents will delighted; the rest of us will just get annoyed with the constant stream of rumors, half-truths, and fabrications.
Either team could announce a replacement early, but that’s not likely to happen. Chelsea still have a trophy to fight for, while the transition from two decades of Wenger will surely take a minute or two for Arsenal, who have the Europa League in their sights as well.
A report in the Telegraph yesterday claimed that Chelsea are potentially looking for something new and different in a manager (i.e not necessarily an established, top-top name). Arsenal meanwhile will surely get plenty of winks from all the young hipster coaches (Nagelsmann, Wagner, Di Francesco) who are thus possibly in Chelsea’s wheelhouse as well. Could we be looking for the same person? It would not be inconceivable.
There’s also the off-chance that Conte jumps from West to North, which would be ... well, I’m not even sure if I can find the right word at the moment. Jaw-dropping?
So, brace yourselves. It’s going to be a very interesting summer.