Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Klopp for Wenger: A Dream Move for Gooners?

Anyone who has read my rantings on Arsenal over the past couple of seasons knows that I have grown rather tired of Arsene Wenger. I appreciate his success in the early years and will always be a fan of him as a person. I think he should also be respected and revered for keeping the Gunners in the Champions League as they moved from Highbury to the Emirates, ensuring the long-term financial stability of the team. In the last two summer windows, he has even broken his long-term allegiance to a Shylock-inspired approach to the transfer market. And yet I truly believe that Arsenal will not take the next step until he steps aside.

For those who haven’t read my commentary on Wenger’s weaknesses in the past, a quick primer on why it is time for him to go: 1. Never seems to complete his business in the transfer window, particularly given the high profile departures over the past five years. I think one example will suffice – he sold Alex Song to Barcelona two summer’s ago without really needing to (he had three years left on his contract) and then refused to replace him with another DM. That mistake is at the heart of the Gunners failing to win the EPL last term and the even leakier defense this term. 2. Tactical Stubbornness: the new brand of manager tends to switch tactics based on the opponent, the available players and the circumstance. Wenger rarely ever does this and it shows. 3. Failure to Win When it Counts the Most: this is the biggest issue with Wenger, who has only won one big game since losing the Champions League final in 2006 – the FA Cup to end last season. Great coaches win the big games and Wenger hasn’t done it enough since the end of his best period in 2005. 4. Injury Record: injuries often come down to bad luck, but Arsenal have led the league in time off for starters over the past four or five years, and that has to have something to do with the training regime (once his strength), the treatment staff (supposedly addressed in the offseason, but things are even worse) and overworking players (a consistent Wenger trait). 5. Mourinho: the team to beat in the league this year is Chelsea, partially because Arsenal failed to resign Fabergas (though I’m not sure they should have unless they sold Cazorla or Wilshere, and maybe not even then). Wenger has built a decent team that is maybe only two players short of being contenders. But Arsenal will never win the league unless they can beat Chelsea, and Wenger has never done it. He also has a terrible record against the top 5 over the past 5 seasons, and that just isn’t good enough.

Some argue that Wenger deserves to be manager indefinitely because of his early success or that it isn’t his fault that the team didn’t have the money to spend. But while the departure of David Dein certainly saw a marked decline in the quality of their transfer business, much of the blame resides with Wenger, who has final say on all personnel decisions. And the idea that someone should stay in a position because they used to be good at it is so absurd as to be laughable. Tom Cruise was in some successful romantic action films in the 80s, so he should be cast forever! Or the CEO of company XYZ should keep his job because the company was profitable 8 years earlier. In any case, I think the arguments to keep giving Wenger another chance to screw things up has lost any currency it once had – particularly as he has had the money to spend the past three windows but has come up short each time. The last argument I often get is that there is no one available to replace him.

But could it be that one of the best managers in the world will be available at the end of the season? Rumours have surface that J├╝rgen Klopp’s time at Borussia Dortmund might be nearing its conclusion. Why would the coach leave a place where he won two league titles back-to-back over the juggernaut Bayern Munich (in 2011 & 2012), the DFP-Pokal (2012) and the DFL-Supercup twice (2008 & 2013), as well as ending up a goal short of a Champions League crown? The argument goes that Financial Fair Play has essentially gifted the Bundesliga to Bayern for the foreseeable future, as the other clubs in the league become feeder clubs for the behemoth. This is certainly the case with Dortmund, who have lost their two best players over the past two seasons to their rivals – and might soon lose others, to Bayern or other European powers. Klopp might realize that his chances of success exist only at the level of domestic cups and wonder if he could do more somewhere else. And Arsenal is an ideal location – a place where his aggressive, technical football would be greatly appreciated and embraced by fans.

Not only does he have the pedigree and skills to take over for Wenger, but the two appear to have a mutual appreciation for one another that could smooth over the transition. Will Wenger leave though? That is a question that is not easy to answer. Apparently Monaco are interested in taking him back and PSG have been rumoured to be interested as well. I think it would be a great move for all parties and set the Gunners up with a proven manager who has many years to build a team and win major trophies.

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