The football world already has it all planned out: fans, players, ex-players, pundits and journalists alike all want Harry Redknapp to replace Fabio Capello as England manager, following the Italian’s resignation yesterday evening.
Some were already looking beyond Euro 2012 – Capello had already planned to retire after this summer’s tournament – to the Redknapp era, convinced he would be the man for the job at some point. Now that Capello has walked out, leaving the England team in limbo just months before a major tournament, the feeling is one of excitement rather than panic, as everyone’s favourite manager can be brought in right away.
England never warmed to Capello, just as they never really warmed to Sven-Göran Eriksson. The feeling is that the England manager should be English and that a foreigner, no matter how experienced or successful, can’t ever really get to grips with the complexities of English football.
Admittedly with Capello the language barrier was a real issue; he never seemed to get a very comfortable grasp of English, and in a sport where rousing team talks can prove so pivotal, this was bound to lead to the feeling that there was a gap there that he could never fill.
Still, he had a win percentage second only to World Cup-winning boss Alf Ramsey, despite the side’s poor showing at the 2010 World Cup. Some things the English really need to accept is that a) the England players really aren’t that good, and b) that the foreign influence in the Premier League has made it the best league in the world, and the same could happen for the national team if people would be a bit more open-minded. Even under Sven, when the team reached two quarter-finals, people weren’t happy. Then the English Steve McClaren failed to even qualify for Euro 2008 with basically the same set of players.
We could talk about the problems with the England set-up all day, but this is an Arsenal site and my main interest is the supposed chain reaction Capello’s resignation may trigger off, and how it will affect things closer to home.
As I’ve mentioned, people aren’t really looking beyond Redknapp for the England job. Perhaps rightly, they feel he will be unable to say no to the post, and would happily leave Tottenham, despite building something very promising at White Hart Lane.
So promising in fact, that within hours of Capello’s resignation, ‘Mourinho to Spurs’ was trending on Twitter. Yes, they’d jumped that far already. It is well-known that Mourinho is not happy in Spain and wants to leave Real Madrid at the end of the season for a return to the Premier League, his spiritual home.
But would Mourinho REALLY go to Spurs? Since his exceptional work with Porto, he has managed Chelsea, Inter Milan and now Real. These are big names (well, maybe Chelsea aside) with big money to spend. Spurs have been known to splash the cash in recent years, but not nearly to the same degree. Harry has made some shrewd signings in Rafael van der Vaart and Scott Parker, but they’re not likely to be able to afford the likes of Mesut Ozil and Diego Milito any time soon. Hell, they can only get someone like Adebayor on loan, and their January spending was suprisingly unambitious, going for cheap and old options in Louis Saha and Ryan Nelsen.
As I said, Mourinho did work wonders with a worse Porto side, but that was a long time ago and he might feel he could do better than Spurs, even if they do finish as high as third. To be honest, with the way things are going for his understudy Andre Villas-Boas at Chelsea, a return to Stamford Bridge might not be out of the question, if he and Abrhamovic are happy to work together again. If Manchester City eventually succumb to the pressure of Manchester United, maybe Mancini will be shown the door and there will be a place for the Special One at the Etihad, a job more akin to his tastes.
Regardless of where Mourinho chooses to go, there will be a vacancy at Real Madrid, who will no doubt look once again in the direction of Arsene Wenger; the difference this time is that many fans at Arsenal would not be so grief-stricken to see the once-great boss go. It doesn’t quite seem like the ideal job for Wenger – he would not enjoy the kind of control he has at the Emirates – but if he remains unpopular here and fails to secure Champions League football, maybe the board will even push him on.
Time for change at Arsenal
These are all hypotheticals, of course. Redknapp might not fancy the dreaded England hot-seat and continue his project at Spurs, and Mourinho might seal the title with Real and endear himself to the Bernebeau faithful. This possible game of musical chairs might never get started.
However, there is no denying that things look bleak for the Gunners this season. Wenger’s lack of ambition off the pitch and variation on it has taken the club backwards for years now. Continued Champions League qualification masked this to some extent, but a lack of trophies at the end of various promising seasons was really starting to grate with large sections of the fans – especially those facing rising ticket prices.
We now finally look set for a wake-up call. We are in a real fight to finish in the top four and I just don’t see us making it. Even 5th or 6th place cannot be guaranteed. Wenger’s collapse would be confirmed: no trophies, sliding further down the table, and his best ‘players for the future’ from years gone by plying their trade at Man City and Barcelona.
He and his worshippers will point to a lack of money, but that’s not the biggest problem and I’ve never said it has been. You don’t need to spend millions to get a defence functioning better than Arsenal’s, as the league table will show. There are many managers with less money and inferior players who can get their teams to do the basic things right, and there is one I would dearly love to see get the chance to manage a big club, preferably ours. He is Martin O’Neill.
Despite having very little to work with, he got Villa to 6th for three consecutive seasons, playing good football and really pushing us for 4th in 08/09. He has just recently got off to a brilliant start as manager of Sunderland, who looked like facing a relegation battle under Steve Bruce. They’re now closer to us in the table than we are to Spurs, and will prove a difficult opponent this weekend, as his Villa sides always were.
He would be the perfect tonic for this Arsenal side, like Wenger was when he took over, teaching a side that knew how to defend how to attack as well; O’Neill would add a defensive steel to a team that is otherwise strong. He would also get us playing less of the slow tippy-tappy football that we have grown so tired of, and get the team counter-attacking and playing more instinctively as they used to in Wenger’s early years.
He will no doubt have some part to play in this whole managerial merry-go-round. He’d be a great choice for England if they don’t get Redknapp, and he’d be a great choice for Spurs if they need to replace Redknapp. Hopefully, though, he will end up at Arsenal.