Arsene Wenger is the longest serving manager in the Premier League, having helmed Arsenal for 18 years now. That takes a lot out of a person, and the Frenchman is reaching the end of his career in top tier football management. Maybe not this year or the next, but the veteran manager will eventually retire from his post. And Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis knows the Gunners will face a huge task to move on from Arsene Wenger when he decides to leave the Emirates.
Speaking to arsenal.com, Gazidis made it clear that the upheaval caused by the departure of a long serving manager is tough to recover from in a single season:
So much of the attention on a football club is around an individual and that’s very understandable at Arsenal because we have a giant who’s managing us.
Arsene has been a fantastic driver and has put the club in a great, great position.
The biggest challenge we’re going to face as a club is that, when the transition from Arsene to the next manager of our football club happens – and I don’t know what that’s going to be – that we come through that strongly
Where we are currently is off the shoulder of the world’s top teams. I don’t think we’re at that level yet, but that’s where we’re aiming to get to. We want Arsenal to be in that elite group of football clubs around the world.
And Arsene Wenger has been the driver of that success. The manager was in charge when Arsenal’s famous ‘Invincibles’ claimed the League title by remaining unbeaten for an entire season. His trophy cabinet also boasts FA Cup victories and a runners up medal from the Champions League 2006 Final.
He has created the philosophy and the mindset that has become associated with this club, and as personally tutored a host of world class players. Despite coming in for severe criticism over the past few seasons, he still remains one of the most respected figures in World football.
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And Gazidis is right to worry; look at what happened to Manchester United when long serving manager Sir Alex Ferguson chose to retire. The most successful team in the Premier League era, they went from being Champions to finishing seventh in just one season. Even after bringing in the experienced Louis van Gaal and spending over £150 million in the past couple of years, they are nowhere near the level of confidence and fluency that was displayed in the Ferguson era.
Arsenal meanwhile are not as successful, but what Wenger has done probably no one else could do. With almost no budget and severe constraints after the stadium change, he nevertheless ensured top four finishes year after year and Champions League football for the Gunners. Whatever the more vocal fans may say, when Wenger leaves the Gunners will also suffer a slump; it is an inevitable result of losing someone so experienced and central to the club. Whether his replacement will be able to do a better job is a question for another day, hopefully three or four years in the future.
Who do you think should replace Arsene Wenger when he departs?