Arsene Wenger signed a new three-year-contract with Arsenal last summer. The Frenchman has been under plenty of pressure during the last decade due to the absence of trophies and some Gooners haven’t stopped asking for Wenger’s departure despite the fact he has won two trophies in the last ten months and “removed the snake out of his wallet” (yes, Olivier Giroud is not the only one to have problems translating idioms from his mother tongue) by signing world-class players like Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez.
Now, there are two names that have been mentioned many times as prime candidates for Wenger’s place in the future: Carlo Ancelotti (currently of Real Madrid) and Jürgen Klopp (currently of Borussia Dortmund). Let’s not forget that there are two things that all Gooners don’t want to see in the future – the bloody injury crisis that seems to repeat over and over again and a melt-down in the last third/quarter of the championship.
The Italian manager has been usually labelled as one of the finest gentlemen in the game. Ancelotti doesn’t have a big mouth like a certain Portuguese who had been Real’s manager previously. Instead, Ancelotti prefers his work to speak for itself. He is one of the rare managers that has managed to win the Champions League with two different teams and the only boss that has won it three times since the competitions inception.
Ancellotti made Andrea Pirlo the Italian genius he is now, discovered Pippo Inzaghi and Hernan Crespo…
His first big job was at Juventus in 1998-99. He came close to reaching the Champions League Final with a rather lackluster Juventus side – they ended ninth in Serie A despite having players like Zidane, Inzaghi, Van der Sar and that young French striker Thierry Henry that Ancelotti had used on the wing. Juventus played the Champions League semifinals against Manchester United and had a good result from the first leg at Old Trafford – it ended 1:1 after Ryan Giggs’ late equalizer. The Old Lady scored two thanks to Pippo Inzaghi’s brace but Alex Ferguson’s United turned the game around and won 3:2.
Then, in 1999-2000, Juventus found their feet in the league and had a fine nine point lead over Lazio with eight games to go and had a direct clash with the Roman club at home. It sounds like a piece of cake, right? Well, not exactly. They lost to Lazio at home 1:0 (the fact Diego Simeone scored the winning goal is very symbolic) but were still five points ahead of the Romans with three matches to go. They lost two games out of their last three including the last one against Perugia.
Ancelotti was handed another chance to right the wrongs. Juventus were fighting with Roma for the title and in another clash against the Romans had a 2:0-lead. The resilient side managed by Fabio Capello didn’t roll over and thanks to Van der Sar’s poor form Roma managed to equalize in the second half. Juventus lost the title thanks to poor results against their biggest rivals again and Ancelotti was sacked.
While in charge of AC Milan, Ancelotti turned out to be a great cup manager. However his league campaigns – aside from the brilliant 2003-04 season – were rather poor. He assembled arguably four of the best defenders in the world in their respective positions – Cafu, Nesta, Stam, Maldini – but he won just one championship with Milan. In 2004-05 he lost the title to Juventus due to the defeat in the direct clash at home. Ancelotti also managed to lose the impossible in the Champions League…twice. In 2003-04 his Milan were knocked out by Deportivo despite winning the first leg 4:1. In 2004-05 Djimi Traore’s Liverpool famously overcame a three-goal-deficit and won the Champions League Final on penalties.
Ancelotti did win the double with Chelsea and his side scored over 100 goals in the league but his second season was a massive failure. He opened it with six victories and a goal-difference of 24:1 but had to settle with second place. He lost three times to Manchester United in the decisive moments including both ties in the Champions League quarterfinals. Ancelotti was sacked by Abramovich at the end of the season.
The Italian has been at Real Madrid for almost two years. He has won La Decima (the illusive tenth European Cup/Champions League for Real Madrid) and Copa del Rey but lost the league to Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid. Ancelotti has lost three out of four El Clasicos in the league and Diego Simeone has been haunting him again since his playing days as the Argentinian’s Atletico Madrid haven’t lost once in six matches against their arch rivals this season.
Ancelotti’s Real had scored over three goals per game in the first half of the season but after a couple of injuries they haven’t been able to return even close to that level.
What’s my point? If we want a manager that doesn’t bottle it, that doesn’t suffer weird defeats and melt-downs and doesn’t lose a lot of big games against the biggest rivals, then Ancelotti is not an upgrade on Wenger. Give Arsene Wenger a team consisting of players like Stam, Nesta, Pirlo, Seedorf, Maldini, Gattuso, Kaka’, Inzaghi and Shevchenko or players like Ronaldo, Bale, Sergio Ramos, Casillas, Xabi Alonso and Benzema, and he’ll win the Champions’ League at least once. Would Ancelotti have reached the Champions League Final with a defence of Eboue, Toure, Senderos, Flamini without conceding against Real, Juventus and Villarreal? I don’t think so.
The German manager has been top of most Gooners wish-lists that want to see Wenger leave. Now, Klopp has won consecutive titles with Borussia Dortmund and reached the Champions League Final in 2012-13, his style of play is very exciting and a lot of Gooners would like to see his players like Hummels, Reus and Gündogan at Arsenal. He is a young manager who doesn’t lack experience and spirit. Which is all very fine.
Klopp hasn’t had the best season with Borussia Dortmund despite the fact they’ve won one trophy – the German Supercup against Bayern. Borussia have been closer to the relegation zone (they’ve spent some time at the very bottom of the league this term) than Champions League places. Actually, it’s very likely that Borussia Dortmund won’t participate in the Champions League next season for the first time since 2010-11.
What is the reason for that? Well, unlike Wenger who had cashed in Robin Van Persie before his contract ran out, Klopp decided to gamble with Robert Lewandowski. The gamble didn’t pay off and the Polish striker left Borussia for Bayern for free. Yep, unlike Wenger who got 25.5 million pounds (add-on included) for a 29-year-old striker with an injury-record thicker than Piers Morgan’s chins, Klopp got absolutely nothing for the 26-year-old goal-machine. According to some reports, Klopp had an offer from Chelsea that would have seen Borussia Dortmund receive Kevin De Bruyne in exchange but Borussia didn’t accept it.
Lewandowski now leads the Bayern München attack while Kevin De Bruyne is the key player of Wolfsburg, the second best team in the Bundesliga. Lewandowski was replaced with Ciro Immobile who hasn’t convinced anyone that he can ever reach the Pole’s level. The Armenian No. 10 Henryk Mkhitaryan is yet to justify his enormous price tag.
And, there is obviously an injury curse also at Borussia Dortmund. Ilkay Gündogan had spent the whole of 2013-14 on the sidelines and has failed to reach his best since making a return. The whole defence starting with Lukasz Piczszek has spent a lot more time in the treatment room than on the pitch. Finally, the biggest star Marco Reus has been injury-prone this season as well which has at times left Borussia bare to the bones.
What’s my point? If we want a manager who can prevent players suffering injuries all the time, someone that has an excellent transfer policy, has a history of constantly fighting for top spot and never missing out on Champions League football, then Jürgen Klopp is not an upgrade on Arsene Wenger.
Maybe we should just stop talking about Arsene Wenger’s replacements for the next two and a half years on his contract and hope that someone like Diego Simeone – whose contract with Atletico expires in 2020 – or even Josep Guardiola might pop out as a perfect replacement.