Now that Emery’s out, what should the next Arsenal manager be like?
I can’t tell you how relieved I am that this has happened. Yes, it’s never nice to see someone lose their job, unless that someone is called Jose Mourinho (being the obnoxious and petty man that he is). But it was clear for some time that Emery and Arsenal were just a wrong fit for each other, and the Spaniard’s position at the club eventually became untenable following a seven game winless streak – the club’s worst run of form in 27 years.
The search is already on for the Gunners’ next permanent head coach, with the club’s management team – namely, director of football Raul Sanllehi, technical director Edu, and chief contract negotiator Huss Fahmy – set to carry out a thorough recruitment process for the role, with club legend Freddie Ljungberg taking over as caretaker head coach in the interim.
There are already several high-profile names being linked to the Arsenal vacancy, with the likes of Massimiliano Allegri, Nuno Espírito Santo, Mikel Arteta, and the recently sacked Mauricio Pochettino being touted as possible replacements for Emery.
On a personal level, I’d like to see Pochettino installed as the new head coach, if only because that’ll send Siao Mate and Spurs fan Edwin into an epic meltdown, which will be fun to watch.
I do hope, however, that the Arsenal management team have more stringent criteria for choosing the next Arsenal coach than just hilarious rival meltdowns.
Because in reality, it’s not important to have a high-profile, established name take charge of the club. Emery was just that – a league winner with Paris Saint-Germain, with multiple Europa League successes to his name – and look how badly that turned out.
No, what’s more important is that the new head coach must embody the sort of qualities and values – both on and off the pitch – that the club prides itself in. So, without further ado, I present to you the seven criteria that I think the next Arsenal manager must fulfil.
For more than 20 years under then-manager Arsene Wenger, Arsenal were a club that attacked. That gung-ho, free-flowing style of football was a huge draw for fans and players alike, and it led to some of the most beautiful goals in history. Under Emery, however, Arsenal began to treat the concept of attacking like it was the ERP during peak hours – they seemingly tried to avoid it at all costs. That dour, cautious style of football was ineffective, and only served to alienate the fans. The next head coach therefore must have an attack-first philosophy, not only because the current squad is top-heavy, but because that’ll be the best way to win the fans back.
At the end of his Arsenal reign, Emery became a figure of mockery amongst fans, players and the media alike. Sadly, he was unable to earn the respect from the dressing room, and it showed in the players’ performances, which were often more abject than the acting in Netflix’s Singapore Social. So, it is imperative for the next head coach to have the force of personality to command respect from everyone at the club, or risk being ridiculed by all and sundry, not least by us at FBS.
Arsenal are in a state of turmoil at the moment. And while Ljungberg might (hopefully) be able to stabilise the ship for now, we don’t know how long it’ll last, especially with Arsenal fans notoriously being as demanding as…well, Singaporeans. To deal with that, the club needs a head coach who can remain firm, calm and steady at all times, even when under AFTV-esque pressure.
It might sound frivolous, and it probably is, but a head coach who is entertaining might be no bad thing for Arsenal. Wenger, for example, was known for his sharp wit in press conferences, and was often animated on the touchline, especially when doing battle with the fourth official or his coat zipper. Being entertaining adds to the flair and drama of football, and could endear the new head coach greatly to the fans and pundits alike. Of course, there is such a thing as going overboard, like Mourinho, but he’s over there at the creatively-named Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, so we don’t need to worry about that.
It would be fair to say that Emery turned out to be a bit of a soft touch. He tried to be authoritative, but whenever results didn’t go his way, that firm stance would disappear as quickly as my salary on Black Friday. The new head coach can’t afford that sort of wishy-washiness. Adopting a fair, but no-nonsense approach would serve him well, and show everyone in the dressing room that he means business.
If there’s one thing that Emery tried to do for Arsenal that I approved of, it was his efforts to make the players more tactically versatile. While Emery’s endeavour to do so ultimately proved to be as successful as the Singapore government’s attempts to get PMD-users to ride responsibly, I do hope the new head coach will continue trying to coach the players to be able to adapt to any situation. The coach himself should be adaptable as well, and be unafraid to ring the changes whenever needed. After all, the failure to adapt quickly enough to the changing footballing landscape was what brought Wenger down, and the new coach would do well to learn from the Frenchman’s mistake.
Finally, can the new head coach just be likeable, please? Someone who will connect with the players and fans, who we can all get behind. Someone who is engaging and personable, and who can motivate players to give that extra 10 per cent on the pitch for him. Someone who can inspire fans to cheer the team on even when they’re down. That likeability factor – both as a person and a coach – intangible though it may be, can actually mean the difference between victory and defeat.
Well, that’s it. That’s my seven criteria for the next Arsenal head coach. I know, it may take a while to get the right candidate for the job, and things may get worse before it gets better for Arsenal.
But it’s crucial that Arsenal appoint the right coach this time round. And so, if it requires more time to be thorough, I’m OK with that. In the meantime, I’ll just support my new favourite second EPL team, Leicester City, in this year’s title race, and I welcome all my fellow Gooners to do so as well.