A coup d’etat is in the offing at Arsenal. By stealthy means, Arsene Wenger is being squeezed and no longer calls the shots.
That includes the question of when his time comes to an end. He may no longer be able to write his own epitaph.
After over two decades of Arsenal being built in his image, Wenger now has to consult with the likes of chief scout Sven Mislintat, Raul Sanllehi, head of football relations, head of high performance Darren Burgess and freshly empowered CEO Ivan Gazidis.
It is also reported that majority owner Stan Kroenke’s son Josh has been on the scene. Arsenal’s recent failings will not have made pleasant viewing for the heir apparent. Sunday’s no-show in the League Cup final was a bitter blow to any Wenger designs of forging on.
Among well-sourced members of the UK press, replacements are being floated: Monaco’s Ligue 1-winning manager Leonardo Jardim; Germany’s World Cup winner Jogi Loew; former players Thierry Henry and Mikel Arteta; Carlo Ancelotti, a regular visitor to London; Shakhtar Donetsk’s Paulo Fonseca. And Brendan Rodgers.
Of that stellar list, Celtic’s manager rang out and drew a smile. Rodgers left an indelible impression on English football. At one turn, he was the footballing revolutionary so close to ending Liverpool’s Premier League title duck in the 2013-14 season with a team playing daring, dashing, devil-may-care football.
Visitors to Anfield during that title run-in would have heard him hailed to the Kop’s rafters in messianic terms.
On the other hand, his puffed-up personality generated multiple smirks. A status as a comedy character in the vainglorious ideas-above-his station fashion of David Brent or Basil Fawlty was sealed by his turn in Liverpool’s fly-on-the-wall “Being: Liverpool” documentary series, aired during his first season in charge.
“I think there’s three people who’ll let us down this year, and I’ve wrote them down already,” he announced, waving an envelope at a preseason meeting as a rictus-faced Steven Gerrard tried not to give away anything to cameras.
The technical discourse, the “character” mantras, the pidgin Spanish, the attempts to ape Bill Shankly were all part of a hugely watchable – and mockable – package.
But within all the bluster, there is a more than a half-decent football manager within Rodgers, and perhaps one who might suit Arsenal Football Club. At each of Swansea City, Liverpool and Celtic, he has put together one great season to capture the enthusiasm of fans.
After what feels like eons of Arsenal suffering through the same old season, a holding pattern where early disappointment is followed by a sliver of hope that is eventually dashed as the team flops in the league, such a flush of excitement would be a hugely welcome change.
Compared to the current dissatisfaction that simmers in the Emirates, where Arsenal fans’ impotent rage gives other supporters such amusement, a Rodgers revolution might even be fun to watch.
Where Wenger becomes crotchety as his powers fade as rival clubs now look down on him, Rodgers is one of life’s enthusiasts, someone with the charisma to lift both players and fans.
Since his time in English football, Rodgers, now 45, has done some growing up. In Glasgow, Rodgers has learned to win things, gained the mentality required on the grand occasions.
The cynics may point to the ease of life in the Scottish Premiership, with no credible contender to Celtic, but going 69 games unbeaten, including an entire league season, still represents a huge achievement. Rodgers has won every Scottish trophy possible since signing up in the summer of 2016.
Celtic’s European sojourns have not been nearly so successful, with last week’s Europa League defeat to Zenit St Petersburg a disappointment but Rodgers still retains hearts and minds. As at Liverpool, he has divined the spirit of the club, and talks the supporters’ language, something Wenger mislaid years ago.
Jamie Carragher, who played his final, Liverpool season in 2012-13 for the Ulsterman, has labelled Rodgers the “best British manager out there”.
Again, like the challenge of Scottish football, there is little competition in that category with Sean Dyche the best positioned of the English, Scotland no longer a conveyor belt and Chris Coleman and Tony Pulis, Wales’ best managers marooned at Sunderland and Middlesbrough respectively.
But as Carragher pointed out, “Rodgers came closer than anyone to winning a league title,” and he did so by harnessing attacking talent in Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling.
Arsenal have players of similar gifts in Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan as well as the likes of Aaron Ramsey from midfield.
Though that may be a relatively new attacking unit, with Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan January arrivals, Wenger has enjoyed the use of a glittering array of attacking talent, but never came as close as Rodgers since his imperial days ended with the break-up of his Invincibles team well over a decade ago.
If Arsenal want enjoyment to replace the despondency of Wenger’s fade, they could do a lot worse than Rodgers.