Arsene Wenger’s time as a footballing coach officially comes to an end

Arsene Wenger hasn’t admitted it but he might as well and that is, he will never coach a team again.

Since leaving Arsenal in the summer of 2018 Wenger has been tipped to join various clubs and national sides, some of those stories have been nothing but rumours and some Wenger has lent his words too. He has said from time to time that he would definitely be interested in managing a club again.

Just recently it looked like he was a shoe-in for the Bayern Munich job after the German giants sacked Niko Kovac. Wenger even spoke to the club and things seemed to be moving forward and then out of the blue he landed a job with FIFA. Wenger will the head of global football development, or in other words he has been put out to rest after a career in football.

One doesn’t just land such a job, not even Arsene Wenger and it is clear that Wenger would have had talks with FIFA over a few weeks possibly months before he took on such a role. Why then when being interviewed would be continually show an interest in managing a football club again?

The reason is Wenger can’t let go of the past and because of that the past won’t let him move on. In a nutshell Wenger cannot manage another club because his emotional ties to Arsenal are too great. It’s almost romantic but makes little sense. In taking a FIFA job that Wenger will be able to do blindfolded he is simply taking steps into a comfort zone. At 70 and with a huge career behind him can he really be blamed? In a way no, but it is the way that he left coaching clubs that leaves a feeling of, was that it?

Make no mistake for his first 6 years at Arsenal, Wenger should be seen as one of the greatest coaches. But for the majority of his time at the club the Gunners could not keep that level. By the time Wenger left, Arsenal looked in tatters, does a couple of FA Cup wins really make it better for Wenger? No league title in his last 14 seasons as a manager, and in many people’s eyes he was an elite one.

Had he shown more interest and taken the Bayern job he could have had one last hurrah. People might argue but he’s too old now, he deserves his rest. The reality is that Wenger could have stayed at Bayern only until the end of the season. Trophies are there to be won. What better way to end a career with a winning memory.

In taking the FIFA job it just seems that Wenger has opted for the easier role, but will it really, in the end, give him the satisfaction he craves?

 

 

Why Arsene Wenger needs one more managerial job and why that club should be Bayern Munich

Arsene Wenger will of course go down as one of the great managers of the modern game, but the way in which he left it with his time at Arsenal was on a sour note, a feeling of is that it? And Wenger deserves more, he owes it to himself.

The highly respected Frenchman has been without a job since the summer of 2018. He needed time away from football and that made sense. He’s made trips abroad, been invited to football gatherings and looks like he is genuinely enjoying life. But even at 70 in every interview he has had he has always maintained that he misses the game, and that he would love to coach again. And yet as the time passes by it looks inevitable that he never will. Well it did up until Bayern Munich sacked Niko Kovac, suddenly for Wenger there is an opening.

If reports are to be believed Bayern have now approached Wenger and made him their number 1 choice. Wenger himself has said that he would be interested, so surely it is just a matter of time? Wenger would be thrust into a very competitive Bundesliga season and of course Bayern are in the Champions League.

Not many managers out there have such loyalty as Wenger and his one worry returning as manager would be having to face his former club and the one he will always be remembered for coaching, Arsenal. Bayern does not represent that problem and it is unlikely the teams would meet in Europe, with Arsenal being in the Europa League and Bayern in the Champion League. The only way would be if Bayern were to finish 3rd in their Champions League group and that doesn’t look like happening anytime soon.

Wenger usually so secretive has spoken freely about what could happen and has been in contact with the club in the last few days. He has confirmed that brief talks have commenced and that more will follow next week. If all things go well Wenger could be the new manager of Bayern by the end of the month.

However there is still that feeling that Wenger wants to keep old memories and that his love for Arsenal would be tarnished if he didn’t make his time with the Gunners his final job in football. He needs to distance himself from that because he will be remembered as a great manager but we also tend to remember a manager’s final days in the game too. With Bayern he has a realistic chance of ending his glorious career on a high, and he needs to do everything he can to get that job.

 

Unai Emery’s job is under threat at Arsenal

The Arsenal fans have made it clear that Unai Emery is now under severe pressure with some wanting him sacked as manager after just 18 months in charge. This comes after the Gunners have recorded just 2 wins from their past 9 games.

Emery has struggled with Arsenal overall and despite coming to the club with a good resume, winning the Europa League on a few occasions with Sevilla and the French league with PSG it has been difficult for the Spaniard to find the right balance with the team he has. Players on long contracts that he couldn’t sell like Mesut Ozil isn’t his fault and that remains some of the fall out from former manager Arsene Wenger. But fans believe that Emery simply isn’t getting the best out of his players and they could well be right.

What let down Wenger in his final years with the club was not qualifying for the Champions League and their dismal away record and that has continued under Emery. Reaching the Europa League final last season felt like a step in the right direction but what did it matter when they lost 4-1 in the final? No Arsenal fan wants to remember that run after that.

A glance at the Premier League table would see Arsenal in 5th place and wanting your manager sacked for that would seem harsh. But the bigger picture is that the club have slipped 6 points behind Chelsea who have a new young manager in Frank Lampard and have had a transfer ban this past summer.

Whilst the Gunners have only lost two games they have only won 1 game in their past five matches and have gone 3 games without a win. The other damning fact is the way they are losing points at home. Take the Crystal Palace match where they found themselves 2-0 up within 10 minutes. The old Arsenal circa 2005 would have gone on to win that match 5-0. This one let Palace back into the game. Of course one will argue that VAR stopped them from winning 3-2 with a bizarre decision but Arsenal should never have been in that situation in the first place.

Then there was the Wolves game again at home and again winning the match. Wolves were let back in the match and actually could have won it.

This is an Arsenal team who look hollow and without Pierre-Emerick Aubamyang they look devoid of ideas and goals.

The Arsenal fans may want Emery out but the board won’t panic yet. However if the club continue this form he may well be in trouble come the end of the year. Arsenal have a lot of thinking to do as the clubs ‘transition’ period continues for another season.

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Lyon in crisis as they sack Sylvinho after just 141 days in charge

Lyon have sacked coach Sylvinho after just 141 days in charge as the club have made their worst start to a Ligue 1 season in 23 years.

The news of Sylvinho’s sacking was a shock given that he had just taken the job in the summer but Lyon have been very poor by their standards in the league. The problem for the ex-Arsenal player was that he did not have a resume to back up that everything will work out well, this was his first proper managerial job- and to be fair it showed.

Tactics went out of the window and chaos ensued as he directed the defenders not to cross the halfway line and then wouldn’t let star players such as Memphis Depay and Moussa Dembele play together.

Pre-season results were also poor barring an away win against Arsenal. Although Lyon looked to be PSG’s strongest challengers at the beginning of the season as they opened up the campaign with 2 wins, scoring 9 goals and conceding none, that has dramatically changed since then.

Lyon have won just 2 games all season and at the time of Sylvinho’s sacking the club are in 14th place with 9 points a huge 12 points behind PSG. But has the club jumped the gun and not thought through this properly?

In truth given time Sylvinho may well have found the right system and there has been encouraging moments but keeping him would mean giving up European football for next season and seeing the club possibly finish out of the top 10, that would be too much for a proud team like Lyon. It does seem early to pull the trigger but a wider thought would have been taken on, and this could be the right decision. For Sylvinho this will come as a big blow, but at the end of the day Lyon could well be to blame. Is it correct to appoint a manager with no first tier experience in the game? That is why sporting director Juninho could be next to go.

The next question turns to who will replace Sylvinho? Laurent Blanc has been made the favourite and that could be a good solid choice. Arsene Wenger’s name has appeared once again, but the former Arsenal great looks unlikely to coach again, although he has admitted that he misses the game. Another name being linked is Jose Mourinho, with the money the club have maybe he would be tempted, but in the past he has dismissed coaching in Ligue 1.

We should know the outcome in the next 10 days or so as Lyon try and save their season.

 

 

Everton are right to sell Theo Walcott if reports are true

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In all honesty when Everton signed Theo Walcott under Sam Allardyce, eyebrows were raised. It felt that the signing from Arsenal seemed too late in Walcott’s career and it also felt that Everton simply didn’t need the player.

Granted his pace has always be the No.1. factor in having such a player in the team and yet it felt that Everton were taking steps backwards to buy the then 29 year old player who ended up costing the club in excess of £20m.

Walcott never reached his potential with Arsenal instead starring in games that had already been won or scoring goals in meaningless cup matches that meant very little against weaker opposition. That’s not to say that Walcott isn’t a good Premier League player, after all he would never have made it at a club like Arsenal with Arsene Wenger in charge. It’s just that much more was expected from a player who looked so exciting when he was at Southampton.

Walcott was never a prolific scorer even for an attacking Arsenal side who were finishing in better positions than Everton so why would he be better for Everton and be older?

So the signing made no sense and he did sign for 3 and a half years, but it seems that he is not in Marco Silva’s long term plans and the club will be looking to offload the player at a loss in the summer. At least it would ease the wage bill at the club because believe it or not Walcott earns the most at Everton and is on a huge £110,000 a week wages.

This was another short sighted area from Everton where much of the blame has to be laid at Sam Allardyce’s feet for agreeing on these fees to get his man. Walcott has also scored just 7 goals in all competitions for the club. That’s from 44 games played and is a shocking return when you think of the money spent.

In selling Walcott Everton  are giving out a positive notice of selling ‘deadwood’ and bringing in younger players. Silva after receiving some pressure this season should be ok now and will have a summer transfer of spending to do. It’s a refreshing moment for Everton who will build their team around youth and aim for a European place next season. In selling some journeymen they are going the right way under Silva, and hopefully the club will not make the same type of mistakes again.

Unai Emery has been a success at Arsenal in his debut season

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While the Premier League still has 6 weeks to go it does seem that Unai Emery has done a very good job if not always brilliant one at Arsenal.

These are still strange times at the club, coming to terms with Arsene Wenger leaving after 22 years, the Frenchman was such a part of the club and its history. So having any new manager come in was always going to be judged, good or bad. But on the face of it Emery has done a great job considering this is his debut season.

Tonight Arsenal will play Newcastle and will start as the favourites to win. They are at home where they haven’t actually lost in the league since being beaten by Manchester City on the opening day of the season- that’s quite a record for a non title challenger. What is significant is that if the Gunners do win tonight they would go 3rd and 2 points clear of Manchester United and their great rival Tottenham, so this would be a statement win.

Emery has done well in the transfer market and has a calmness and assurance about him, which has at times frustrated the Arsenal faithful but he also garners there respect too. We shouldn’t forget that Arsenal also have a realistic chance of winning the Europa League and they have made it to the quarter finals. Emery is of course a specialist in winning the competition, it was his hat trick of successes in it which led PSG to sign him up. How ironic too would it be if Emery won in his first season a competition that Wenger couldn’t in 20 plus years.

What will also be assured this season is that Arsenal will easily past the 64 point mark that Wenger’s Arsenal achieved last season, evidently then an improvement. If Arsenal end up with no trophies at the end of the season but qualify for the Champions League and with more league wins under their belt, then this season has to be deemed as a successful one for the club. Little steps granted but going in the right direction which under Wenger they weren’t.

It will be fascinating to see who Arsenal buy in the summer and to be fair Emery should only be judged in his 2nd season with the club as he gets his feet under the table. The pressure to add to the trophy cabinet will be greater too. For now though Arsenal will be aiming for 3rd place tonight.

Strasbourg and Guingamp the two unlikely giant killers to play in Coupe de la Ligue final

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Strasbourg and Guingamp will contest the final of the Coupe de la Ligue on Saturday and nobody could have seen this as a final match up for France’s secondary cup competition.

Strasbourg will start as slight favourites and they did punch above their weight earlier in the Ligue 1 season, but have faltered of late and slipped down to 10th place. Indeed any chances of finishing in a European spot seem distant so winning the Coupe de la Ligue looks to be the only realistic chance for the club of qualifying for the Europa League. They last won a major trophy in 2005 and the famed club will be looking to secure their 4th title overall.

One man that will be looking on will be former Arsenal manager and great Arsene Wenger, who not only was born in Strasbourg but also played for the club and there is no doubt who Wenger will be supporting come the weekend. Wenger will be in official attendance for the game to be played in Lille.

Strasbourg have done brilliantly well to get to the final where they have had to knock out the likes of Marseille, Lyon and Bordeaux, that is no mean feat and whilst the club have had an average season to say the least they have really shone in this competition.

But if you think Strasbourg have got to this final against all odds, think again when we look at their opponents Guingamp. The club have been extremely poor this season in Ligue 1 where they have been rock bottom for the majority of the season. Resigned to relegation months back they are currently in the best form of their season and have decided to fight. They have climbed back up to 18th place but are still 7 points from safety and the next few weeks will be crucial for their chances of playing In Ligue 1 next season.

Guingamp have had to climb their own personal Mount Everest and incredibly went to Paris in the quarter finals and knocked out PSG in one of the biggest shocks of the season. Whilst sceptics could feel that PSG were not taking the competition seriously this is completely far from the truth as the Parc des Princes crowd were left in stunned silence.

Guingamp followed that up with a penalty shoot out win against a rejuvenated Monaco under Leonardo Jardim’s return and the rest as they say is history. In truth both clubs come into the final as winners and this should be celebrated. It is refreshing not to see the likes of PSG, Marseille or Lyon here.

Because of this the final remains wide open and we should see a very entertaining game of football where one clubs season could go from being average to great.

Will Arsene Wenger go out of football with a bang or a whimper?

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Arsene Wenger has been out of football management for nearly a year and there doesn’t seem to be any indication that the former Arsenal manager will be finding a new job in dugout anytime soon.

This seems like a sad state of affairs for the Frenchman who won countless trophies in his career, most famously of course for the Premier League side Arsenal. But is this how the script ends for Wenger or will he take one last management job?

Wenger has deserved his years break and has flown to Africa to support George Weah’s football projects, done some media work and this weekend he will present the Coupe de la Ligue trophy to either Strasbourg or Guingamp in Lille. This is all very well but surely there is a burning desire to get back into managing a team.

After all Wenger seemed all go for his next project six months ago, where he said that he would be back in management by the beginning of 2019- that came and went. There were also links to Bayern Munich, which hasn’t at present come off.

The fear is that with Wenger being 69 he will not manage again which seems unfortunate on a lot of levels. Not least because his time at Arsenal just faded from ultimate glory to a whimper, failing even to qualify for the Champions League, and whilst Wenger remains a successful manager it may just be that it is his final years with the Gunners that will be best remembered.

By taking the plunge to manage again he could reinvent himself and it would feel like a fresh move. By not his thoughts will be loyal to Arsenal which he served 22 years and it just could be his line of thinking. But it does feel as if there is unfinished business with Wenger- the problem is that he may not be able to see it.

In recent weeks Wenger has been linked with ‘upstairs’ technical roles at both UEFA and FIFA- again is this really what he wants? Taking such a job may sound prestigious and hands on but isn’t it just akin to putting a once great horse out to pastor?

Whilst Wenger is pushing 70 he is also a man who has kept good health and looks great for his age and mentally aware, that’s why it is also unfortunate if he is to spend his remaining days as technical advisor and not have one last crack in management, if he takes roles with UEFA and FIFA it will feel like a wasted opportunity.

Arsenal don’t want Mesut Ozil anymore as PSG loan deal falls through

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When PSG reportedly came in for Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil to take on loan until the end of the season, whisper it but The Gunners and in particular head coach Unai Emery would have been delighted, but Ozil turned down the chance to play for the Ligue 1 champions.

It is clear that Emery does not feel the need to keep Ozil and the ex German international who quit the national team has played just 13 games in the league this season. Ozil simply doesn’t work in an Emery team and it seems only a matter of time before Ozil is put up for sale, Arsenal want rid, but therein lies the problem.

Just how can Arsenal shift Ozil who is on a whopping £350,000 a week? Former manager Arsene Wenger made an error it seems in giving Ozil a new contract a few months before he retired, the result is that Ozil is tied to the club until 2021. Why would Ozil leave knowing that most clubs will not match his wages?

Having said that it does feel that Ozil has made an error not accepting to play for PSG until at least the end of the season. He would have been playing more regular time as Neymar is side lined until at least March and he would have won his first league title. PSG are currently 13 points clear at the top with 2 games in hand. So it does seem odd that Ozil didn’t join up with PSG. If the worst came to the worst, he could go back to Arsenal for the beginning of next season.

For Arsenal this is a frustrating time. On one hand they can’t justify paying a player that much money when he sits on the bench, on the other they have to respect the manager who doesn’t see Ozil in his long term plans. The PSG loan deal falling through is a bitter blow to The Gunners. Had Ozil played and shined, interest would have been rekindled in the player and perhaps a transfer to PSG or another European club could have been completed this summer. Instead Ozil won’t go and Arsenal do not want to fully admit that he isn’t needed with the club.

Ozil’s best years are past him, and whilst he is an incredibly talented player, he never really reached his own personal achievements. Bottom line is that he won’t be thought of as one of the Arsenal legends, sorry Mesut but a statue outside the Emirates will not be forthcoming.

For now Emery and Ozil cannot be parted, but one senses that one will be gone in the summer, and it won’t be the Spaniard.

After 19 games unbeaten, has Emery stepped out of Wenger’s shadow?

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Unai Emery is being hailed as the new messiah by Arsenal fans after the club convincingly beat their arch rivals Tottenham 4-2 at the weekend.

The Gunners have now gone 19 games in all competitions unbeaten after losing their first two matches of the season. But still question marks remained over the club because they had not beaten a top 4 side- at the weekend that changed with victory over Tottenham, and it was a win to saviour for the Arsenal faithful.

Not only did Arsenal beat the team they most want to beat every season but they also leapfrogged them into 4th place on goal difference, which has been richly deserved this season. This version of Arsenal, Emery’s version is slick, attacking and determined. Sure there is still some naivety at the back which allowed Tottenham back into the game but the team had fighting spirit circa Arsene Wenger’s team from 2004 and it showed this past weekend.

Every fan at the Emirates seems to have forgotten about Wenger, well at least the last couple of seasons version of him and all praise has rightly been aligned to Emery who has been a massive success for the club given that this is his debut season. The fans wanted change and were finally given it and Emery for now seems like the perfect coach to have been chosen. But have the club really improved this season from last?

It may be surprising to note that at least statistically almost nothing has changed at the club from last season. This time last season after 14 games Arsenal had 28 points under Emery they have 30. If this trend was to continue then Arsenal may finish the season with 5 points more than last giving them 68 points and perhaps missing out on  a top 4 place. But this is simply talk and this Arsenal team look like they will kick on.

But of course it is in how the Gunners are playing, and there is a massive change in how the team approach their games under Emery. The belief has been reinstalled and it was interesting to see how they reacted once going 2-1 down after leading the game. That should tell you everything that we needed to know about how Arsenal are playing now under Emery.

The real tests are yet to come, games such as playing Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United away from home. But for now considering Emery is just 4 months into the job, the man deserves respect and 10/10 for effort. Arsenal look like they are going places and that can only be a good thing for a team that have suffered from a lack of confidence for the past decade.