With Mikel Arteta struggling to get results at Arsenal and his job under threat, The Hard Tackle looks at five candidates who can replace him at the Emirates.
Exactly a year after he took over the reins at Arsenal, Mikel Arteta finds himself staring at the exit doors. Brought in to usher in a new era after the malaise-filled tenure of Unai Emery, the former Manchester City assistant coach couldn’t have enjoyed a better start to life in his first-ever managerial appointment.
Arteta fired Arsenal to the FA Cup triumph in the 2019/20 campaign, schooling his former mentor Pep Guardiola in the semi-final before beating a high-flying Chelsea side in the final. The Spaniard also oversaw the FA Community Shield victory early in the new season, beating Premier League champions Liverpool on penalties.
Just like that, in the space of less than a month, Arteta had led Arsenal to two trophies and everything seemed rosy. However, football can be a fickle business, as the Spaniard has found out in recent months.
Most Premier League points since Mikel Arteta and Carlo Ancelotti were appointed:
78 – Liverpool
66 – Man City
64 – Man Utd
61 – Southampton
59 – Chelsea
58 – Spurs
55 – Wolves
54 – Everton
48 – Arsenal
— William Hill (@WilliamHill) December 19, 2020
Fast forward from August to December, Arsenal find themselves just outside the relegation zone in the Premier League, having collected just 14 points from 14 games. The Gunners are without a win in their last seven league outings – a run that includes five defeats against the likes of Aston Villa, Wolves, neighbours Tottenham, Burnley and most recently, Everton.
While the underperforming players have to share the large part of the blame for the current situation that north London giants find themselves in, Arteta has always not helped himself a great deal with his team selection as well as questionable tactics in some matches.
The Arsenal board recently issued a statement in support of their manager, insisting that Arteta had the complete backing of the club. However, football is a result-oriented business and given the way things are going currently, the Spaniard is in danger of being axed. In fact, he is the odds-on favourite to be the next Premier League boss to be sacked.
With question marks over his future at Arsenal, The Hard Tackle takes a look at five candidates who the Gunners should look to replace Arteta with, in case they show him the doors in the coming weeks.
Massimiliano Allegri (673 Games, W362 D156 L155, Win %: 53.79)
The dream choice for Arsenal. Allegri has been without a job since leaving Juventus back in 2019 and has dropped hints in the past that he could be willing to test himself in the Premier League.
A manager known for his tactical nous, the Italian worked his way up from the lower divisions of Italian football, having had stints with the likes of SPAL, Grosseto and Sassuolo before getting his big break with Cagliari. Having impressed in his two years at the club, AC Milan came calling in 2010, from where he has not looked back at all.
Having led the Rossoneri to a Serie A title and the Supercoppa Italiana triumph in his first two seasons, Allegri soon established himself as one of the brightest young managers in Europe at the time, with Juventus eventually coming for him in 2014.
In his five years with the Bianconeri, the 53-year-old won the Scudetto every season along with six other trophies while also taking them to the finals of the UEFA Champions League twice. A hugely impressive CV laden with trophies, backed with experience at two of the biggest clubs in Europe and immediate availability, Allegri would be a dream appointment for Arsenal.
Maurizio Sarri (859 Games, W408 D245 L206, Win %: 47.5)
Might be a tad controversial considering his past association with Chelsea, but Maurizio Sarri could be another strong candidate for the Arsenal job should Arteta be axed in the coming weeks. Like Allegri, the Italian is also unattached after having been removed from the managerial post at Juventus last year.
The 61-year-old’s fairytale story of how he rose from being a banker to managing an eighth division club in Italy to going on to hold some of the most coveted jobs in Europe is well-known. Sarri put his name on the map during his time at Empoli, which earned him a move to Napoli, whom he turned into genuine challengers for Juventus’ monopoly in Italy.
A move to England in 2018 saw Sarri lead Chelsea to the UEFA Europa League triumph, with his team beat Arsenal 4-1 in the finals, while they also finished third in the Premier League. However, a fraught relationship with the fanbase coupled with overtures from Juventus led to him leaving just after spending a year in England.
While he led the Old Lady to the Serie A title, a lack of progression in Europe saw him getting booted out by the Italian champions earlier this year. Despite his critics, the 61-year-old demonstrated that ‘Sarri-ball’ worked well to a large extent at Chelsea and Juventus, while his experience of working in the Premier League would be a bonus.
Julian Nagelsmann (203 Games, W94 D61 L48, Win %: 46.31)
Widely regarded as the best young manager in Europe at the moment, Julian Nagelsmann has been making all the right sounds since starting his senior management career with TSG Hoffenheim in 2016.
The 33-year-old spent a little over three years at Hoffenheim, with the highlight of his tenure coming in the 2016-17 campaign, when he led the club to a fourth-place finish in the Bundesliga, helping the team go on the verge of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League group stages for the first time ever before being beaten by Liverpool at the final hurdle.
Since taking over at Leipzig in 2019, Nagelsmann has continued to enhance his reputation as he led them to a third-place finish and the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League last season, while his side are third in the league table this term heading into the winter break, just two points behind leaders Bayern Munich.
Under Nagelsmann, RB Leipzig have developed into one of the most exciting teams in Europe with their fluid, attacking brand of football, all the while remaining fairly solid at the back. That is something that will certainly appeal to the Arsenal hierarchy as well as the fanbase. However, his relative lack of experience at the highest level does make his appointment a bit of a risk.
Ralph Hasenhuttl (443 Games, W185 D120 L138, Win %: 41.76)
From the current RB Leipzig manager to their former head coach, it was Hasenhuttl who helped the club establish themselves in the Bundesliga upon their promotion in 2016, leading them to the second-place finish in their first-ever campaign in the top-flight and sealing qualification to the Champions League.
After spending two years with the Saxony-based outfit, the Austrian took over the reins at Southampton in December 2018 and despite having had some major roadblocks, has done a commendable job with the south coast club. Having taken over at a point when they were facing the threat of relegation, Hasenhuttl guided them to safety before leading them to an 11th-place finish last season.
While a mid-table finish may not exactly be a huge achievement, the manner in which Southampton turned things around after a 9-0 trouncing at the hands of Leicester City was mighty impressive, to say the least. The Saints collected the fifth-highest points in the league last season from the point Arteta took over the reins at Arsenal – more than the Gunners themselves.
The Saints have built impressively upon their last season, emerging as genuine contenders for a top-six finish. At the time of writing, they are sixth in the table, just seven points shy of leaders Liverpool and ten better off than Arsenal. He may not have won any major trophies in his career, but Hasenhuttl has shown his pedigree in the Premier League and can be a solid choice for the Gunners.
Patrick Vieira (179 Games, W75 D44 L60, Win %: 41.9)
With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Frank Lampard doing quite well for themselves at the helm of their former clubs Manchester United and Chelsea respectively, Arsenal might consider bringing in a club legend of their own to turn the tide around, making ex-captain Patrick Vieira a viable candidate.
Someone who spent the best years of his playing career at the club and left a great legacy, Vieira was the captain of the legendary ‘Invincibles’ and went on to win three Premier League titles with Arsenal. A vastly popular figure among the fanbase, the Frenchman’s managerial career hasn’t taken off as of yet, but joining hands with Arsenal could work out well for both parties.
Vieira started his senior management career at New York City FC in the MLS and enjoyed a couple of impressive campaigns leading them to fourth and second-place finishes in 2016 and 2017 respectively before taking over at OGC Nice in 2018. In his first two years in France, he guided them to seventh and fifth places but was sacked earlier this month after a disappointing start to the campaign.
As iterated earlier, Vieira’s managerial career hasn’t quite taken off yet, but, if he can bring back the ethos that he helped establish at the club during his time as a player, things could certainly take a turn for the better at the Emirates Stadium. Certainly a left-field choice, but maybe that’s what Arsenal need right now.