Good morning Insiders, and we have the opportunity during this International break to talk about many subjects. Some of you may have noticed that I have been away for several days. Well upon my return I was relieved to see that the site has been well looked after by our contributors. Thank you all. I also see that we did not lose to Sunderland, and even happier that the Scum lost to Hull City yesterday. hahahahahahaha!
OK, I would like to debate the topic that can only be talked of in hushed whispers in dark corridors. This is the stuff of nightmares, the thought of Arsenal football club without Arsene Wenger. When Arsene Wenger becomes 60 in two years time, he promised his wife that he would seriously consider whether he ought to be giving up football management. This is now being openly talked about following a news item on the Arsenal website.
I would remind you all that this is not new news, I have previously already written several times on the subject firstly in May when I broke the exclusive “Back page round up: Wenger to leave Arsenal in 30 months?” admittedly with the point of view that he would leave for either the French National side, or to take a Board appointment at Paris St Germain. What has changed is that the end of this era is now being spoken about in rather frank terms on the official site of the Arsenal. The first official hint has come with his comments in an article entitled “My big career decision in 2011”
The article to remind you all read thus:
Arsčne Wenger admits that the end of his current contract will be a “serious check-point” in his career.
The Arsenal manager’s current deal runs until 2011. By then he will have been in charge for 15 years. This weekend he celebrates the 12th anniversary of his appointment. The 58-year-old admits the issue is not high on his agenda right now – but it will be.
“I’ve not thought about my contract,” he said. “I will give myself to the end of my contract in 2011 and then have a serious check-point. You don’t want as well to go on too long.
“I don’t want to walk away at the moment, but in two or three years things can change in any job.
“To be honest I would have laughed if someone had said I’d be here for 12 years.
“I was lucky in my career. I stayed for seven years in Monaco which is a good record in France, so in 19 years I had two clubs. Just to be a manager for 19 years needs luck.
“But I said to my wife ‘at 55 I stop, I promise you’. And at 55 I said ‘60’.
“Now I just don’t speak about it any more!”
I interpreted the last line as an expression of frustration for having broken a promise to his wife. Imagine the scenario, Arsene aged 55, having just guided the Invincibles into Arsenal and Premiership history. To retire at the summit would have been right, yet he could sense that the often spoken of Arsenal dynasty had arrived. The prospect of two or even three successive Premiership titles was now at hand. Then Roman Abromovich came on the scene and all was dashed.
Three years later he then lost his good friend David Dein following a Boardroom battle. Arsene’s future at Arsenal was in the balance despite the denials. Privately sources confirmed that Arsenal was considering his future. Even then Peter Hill-Wood on behalf of the Board spoke in terms that did not inspire confidence at the time.
“It’s well known that Arsene and David have got on very well over the past 10 years, and I’m certain that Arsene will miss him.
“However, I believe that the relationship that Arsene has with the rest of the board is good and he’s on contract with us until 2008. We very much hope that he will extend his contract beyond that, but we haven’t got into talking details on that yet.”
Well Arsene signed a contract through to 2011, by then he will be almost 61yrs old. To sign another contract seems unthinkable given the tone of the article referring to a future big decision, so if we must talk of the succession, then logically Arsene will also depart from having any hands on influence at the club. For one who could never agree to the Director of Football model, he is hardly likely to impose that upon his successor.
The Successor to Arsene Wenger must be someone who can deal with the youth setup, and also deal with many nationalities. It would be helpful if they have an affinity with the club, and being an ex-player would be an advantage. They must possess a sound brain with regard to football strategy and clearly accept the Arsenal principles of managing a club within it’s own resources. It was even more curious then to see last Friday again on the official club site the next article in floating the notion that all good things must come to an end eventually.
Here the potential of ex Gunners is discussed in general and one, Steve Bould in particular
“I believe all [my ex-players] have the qualities to do it,” said Wenger. “For example David Platt went for it, Paul Merson went for it and stopped again. I believe that Nigel Winterburn, Lee Dixon, Martin Keown, Steve Bould, Tony Adams can do it. I expect them to do it.
“They have the qualities but do you want to sacrifice your life for this job? It’s as simple as that because there is no in-between. Sometimes people who have played for their whole careers do not want to do it anymore.”
“Steve Bould is at the moment a very good coach but at the moment maybe the life is more convenient for him,” said Wenger.
“It is not always a sign of quality to be a manager, it is more a sign of craziness. It is a choice of life, for me it is a job for a single man. You have to be single, single-minded as well, you have to sacrifice a lot of your life and not everyone wants to do it.
“If you take a guy like Steve Bould, he has played from the age of 18 or 20 to 37, 38… and he has children. In our job you must be ready to take your luggage and go from one country to the next, to Greece, to Japan. It is not a family life.”
Ok is this an article ruling Steve Bould out of the reckoning because of his family commitments? But how many single ex Gunners do we know in football management? Perhaps the statement being single minded is the key. I think that Arsene meant that his successor must be obsessed with a vision, to be determined to win success at all costs, to have experienced and given of the best that football has to offer. For me there would be only one candidate, Dennis Bergkamp. He is currently coaching at Ajax under the wise counsel of Marco Van Basten. His early coaching experience occurred whilst still a player, and he also branched out to coach a youth team called Hadley Rangers, where his son Mitchel played.
Bergkamp’s views have varied from denying any interest in club management or coaching in 2006 to accepting the position at Ajax. He said the following shortly before departing to Holland.
“Wenger discussed a lot with me. Specific things. Tactics, roles, tasks on the pitch. About decisions he’d need to make. He really saw me as an experienced players and the last years I was able to think as a coach.
When you’re young, so look at the pitch as if you’re looking at a tunnel, you know. I wanted to see the goal of the opponent. Nothing more. Last years, my view broadened. First on the pitch but later also off-pitch stuff. Preparation, nutrition, quality of grass, different shoes and material… I became more all round I suppose.
When I was young I was focused at my own game. I didn’t need to defend and I was only interested in how I played. Later on that changes, you look what your team mates do and why they do it and how… And I learned to plan my peak performances and plan my preparation and all that.”
Dennis is not single, he is married to Henrita Ruizendaal with whom he has four children, daughters Estelle, Yasmin, and Saffron; and his son Mitchel. However few among us could argue that he was not single minded and he is definitely Arsenal, he finished his career with the club, and he still has a Box in the stadium. I was interested to see that Arsene Wenger specifically omitted any reference to Dennis in his article, and that for me is a good sign. If he is contention and that’s a big if, then the club and Arsene must not draw attention to him. That is not the Arsenal way.
Pictured above on the 18th of July Dennis began his traineeship at Ajax joining Marco Van Basten, John van ‘t Schip, and Rob Witschge.
I wish to stress that my own thoughts expressed here are purely speculation and they are not based upon any tip offs or sources. Dennis knows the trauma’s of being at a club that has to live within it’s means. How many of us recall the emotional chants at Highbury of “One more year!” as we urged Arsene to extend Dennis’s contract. He is loved and respected by fans and the media. In two years he could be ready to take up a new challenge, and I for one would encourage the powers that be to persuade him to come home to The Home of Football.
Not having the experience of having won a major trophy with a club should not be a bar to him coming. The age of the current squad of players demands someone who would be able to work with and be respected by the youth players here at Arsenal. Having an Arsenal legend take over the reins at such a big club for his first appointment would be a risk, but hey if we could appoint the likes of George Graham’s assistant Stewart Houston, who himself was responsible for bringing The Iceman to Arsenal then why not?
Fabregas the King.