As we saw with Ole’s initial impact at Old Trafford and the Lampard effect at Chelsea this season, legendary players returning as managers is very much flavour of the month at the moment.
Arsenal’s interim head coach Freddie Ljungberg is completely unproven at this level, but there’s a reason he’s in this list ahead of the likes of Patrick Vieira. Ljungberg has a great relationship with the younger players following his successful stint as U23’s manager last season, something that’s translated to the senior squad after his promotion to first team coach in the summer.
He would have seen exactly where Unai Emery was going wrong, what the players did or didn’t react to, and use that experience to fix obvious errors and forge a new approach with the squad.
The Spaniard had guided – or misguided, rather – Arsenal to their worst start to a season since 1982, and they are currently on a wretched run of just one win in nine games.
There is a chasm the size of the Grand Canyon between the club and its supporters at the moment, and having a legend like Freddie in the dugout could be the man to join the dots once again, assuming he hits the ground running and is now 5/1 to get the job outright in Paddy’s next permanent Arsenal manager market.
But football is littered with former playing legends who’ve ridden in on a chariot of goodwill to rescue a situation before the longer term demands of management have proven beyond them.
Here’s four names Arsenal’s “Football Executive Committee” shouldn’t be deleting from their search engines as Emery’s permanent successor just yet.
Without doubt the superstar appointment that would scream “ambition” the loudest (not literally, obviously, that’d be weird). During his time at Juventus, Allegri won five straight Serie A titles, as well as a clutch of cups, and guided the Old Lady to two Champions League finals.
He’s been out of work since the summer and is widely known to want to give Premier League management a shot. However, Allegri is far more used to dealing with genuinely competitive teams, and money will have to talk both in salary and the transfer market if he is to be tempted to the Emirates.
Given the current (absolute) state of affairs at boardroom level, that’s unlikely, but if Arsenal got Allegri over the line it would genuinely excite the fans and players alike. He’s got a winner’s personality and that’s something Arsenal need more of.
A lot more of.
The Lego-haired former Arsenal captain came within a hair’s breadth of inheriting Arsene Wenger’s space in the dugout in 2018, before the club plumped for Emery at the very last moment. How different things may have been at the club today had he been given the nod.
Since then Arteta has added the experience of yet another trophy-laden season as Pep Guardiola’s assistant at Manchester City. He’s highly regarded by everyone around the club as an extremely gifted coach – one who Guardiola says already works and behaves as if he’s a manager already. High praise indeed from arguably the best manager in world football right now.
If Arsenal go back in for Arteta, they’ll be recruiting a former skipper who so willingly embraced the club’s values and was popular with supporters. Despite his talent on the training pitch, however, his lack of actual management experience means this would still represent a major gamble from a club who simply can’t afford to cock this up. But it could well be the forward-thinking, shrewd appointment the club needs to freshen things up for the long term.
Can you imagine? On the face of it, Pochettino would be stepping into a club who find themselves in a similar position to the one Spurs were in when the Argentine joined in 2014: chronic underperformance, a distinct need to push youth players and sheer desperation for Champions League cash. Sound familiar?
There’s no denying Pochettino’s approach transformed Spurs, having them punch well above their weight for several seasons – capped off with their remarkable run to last season’s Champions League final. He was also hugely popular with his players and idolised by Spurs’ supporters – which is exactly why this could also be one of the most ingenious, hilarious moves the Gunners could make.
Imagine how much fun fans will have singing that Poch is one of their own when they outplay Spurs in the first North London Derby at their new home later this season?
For all the mocking his catchphrases receive, Brendan Rodgers would bring the tremendous character and spirit Arsenal are so desperately crying out for. After completing Scottish football during a three-year spell at Celtic, he’s now having an incredible impact on Leicester City.
Nine wins in 13 league games so far in this campaign has put Rodgers’ Foxes second in the Premier League table, whilst playing some of the most attractive counter-attacking football you’re likely to see in this or any season. His teams are easy on the eye and designed to attack, yet defend well with a clear gameplan. Most importantly, they have a defined footballing philosophy – something Arsenal so sorely lacked under Unai Emery.
And just to tick a couple more boxes, Rodgers is also a proponent of developing talented youngsters, plus there would be no language barrier which hindered Emery. He would inevitably get Arsenal’s rudderless squad back on track.
Yes, he would come at a great cost, with his compensation package alone rumoured to be around £14m.
But this is a decision Arsenal simply cannot afford to get wrong.
*Prices on next permanent Arsenal manager correct at time of publishing