Arsenal have begun their twentieth and potentially final campaign under the direction of Arsène Wenger and fans’ eyes are already on a replacement.
Since arriving at Highbury in 1996, the Frenchman has overseen one of the club’s most successful periods in it’s history. Three Premier League titles, six FA Cups and six Community Shields leaves the 66-year-old as the second most successful manager ever in the Premier League.
Worryingly for Arsenal however is the now 12 year drought for a league title. Not since 2004, the season of the ‘Invincibles’, has the Premier League trophy been draped in the red and white of Arsenal.
Since then Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City have dominated the English top flight landscape, all the while, with increasingly frustrated Gunners’ fans looking on.
A steadily increasing chorus of ‘Wenger Out’ has featured in stands and on social media for a number of seasons and even now, following the signing of both Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez, the sentiment persists.
Not impressed with Wengers new 'signings', but then again I stopped being impressed by Wenger 10 years ago. #WengerOut
— FPJ (@MissingApples) August 25, 2016
We all thought the signing of Ozil was the start of a new era at Arsenal but ever since its been one step forward 3 steps back #wengerout
— Le Wonga (@capitalgooner) August 25, 2016
Wenger is currently into the final year of his latest extension with the Gunners and though it is understood another extension is on the table, it remains unsigned for now.
This summer has seen the arrival of Josè Mourinho to Manchester United, Pep Guardiola to neighbours, Manchester City and Antonio Conte to Chelsea with each side seeing a marked improvement in their respective performances this term.
Gunners’ fans will have watched this, many with wringing hands, thinking just when they will see such a step change in performance of their own. Too many spring time slumps under Wenger have left title ambition in ruins.
So with the world’s best managers going to their rivals, who can Arsenal turn to next term? Simple, Atletico Madrid kingpin Diego Simeone.
Simeone has guided the smaller of the two Madrid clubs to the Champions League final twice in the last three seasons and now sees his side spoken of as one of La Liga’s big three, with city neighbours Real and Barcelona.
While the former Argentina international was loosely linked with the Emirates earlier this summer, nothing materialised and leads Atletico into his sixth season at the helm.
This term however, the Rojoblancos have only managed two points from their first two games and there is already talk of change in the air following the worst start to the league in their history. While still far too early to write them off yet, any disquiet among fans could be to Arsenal’s benefit.
Vamoss Cholo Simeone #Cholista
— Mahmoud Scholesy (@MahmoudBah12) August 21, 2016
An unhappy club could well see the replacement of a manager and Gunners fans will be hoping for just that with Atletico. Simeone is the style of manager they want, Animated, ambitious, unafraid.
— Squadran Mustachey (@notjustlong) August 26, 2016
Now for the clincher. Were Simeone to leave Atletico, it seems that his star player would follow. According to Antoine Griezmann, that other Arsenal target this summer, if Simeone goes, he goes too.
Griezmann: "If Simeone leaves, would I go? Yes surely because I love the coach, I learn a lot with him." (Canal+) #Atletico
— ChelsTransfer (@ChelsTransfer) August 29, 2016
This is surely music to the ears of Gooners everywhere. Replace Wenger with Simeone and be in pole position, along with a huge wad of cash, to sign perhaps the most sought after attacking midfielder in Europe.
Arsenal fans everywhere will be dreaming of a side with Simeone on the sidelines and Griezmann scoring the goals. While much respect for Wenger does endure despite the disappointments of the last decade, sentiment would not stretch so far as to pick the 20 year Premier League veteran over Simeone if the choice arose.
So for many, this season will hopefully be Wenger’s last in charge at Arsenal. Hopefully it will be a successful one. Hopefully, this time next season, it will be Diego Simeone that leads them into the future.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena