LONDON — Whoever succeeds Arsene Wenger at Arsenal won’t be allowed to amass the same power.
"Arsene earned his position at this club over 22 years," Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis said on Friday. "I don’t think that there will be other managers, if you look forward, who will have kind of authority at the top of the game with the biggest clubs.
"Obviously, it is the most important appointment that any club makes and the most important employee that any club has so I don’t diminish the role. I just think it would be unrealistic to think that anybody comes in with the breadth and scope that Arsene had at Arsenal."
Hours after the 68-year-old coach announced he was stepping down at the end of the season, Gazidis was not giving anything away about the identity of the next occupant of the Arsenal dugout.
The qualities desired were listed, though.
"Our fans want to see somebody who will continue to play progressive, exciting football that gets people interested and excited in the games that we play," Gazidis said. "I also think there is a significant piece in Arsenal Football Club in how the candidate represents the club and I think it’s important to Arsenal fans."
The turbulent last five years at Manchester United should act as a cautionary tale to the board at Arsenal as the club hires a new manager for the first time this century.
Just as Alex Ferguson had his fingerprints all over Old Trafford after nearly 27 years in charge at United, Wenger and his philosophy is ingrained at Emirates Stadium.
United has had three managers since Ferguson quit in 2013, with Jose Mourinho finally looking like a good fit following the underwhelming tenures of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal.
"We have to be open-minded and brave in the decision," Gazidis said. "When Arsene was appointed, I don’t think he was on many people’s radar. That doesn’t mean we have to repeat that but it does mean we have to be bold in the appointment."
Can Arsenal get its succession plan right? Here are the main contenders to take over from Wenger:
Regarded as a brilliant tactician and owning a reputation for giving young players a chance at the top level, Tuchel has been without a club since getting fired by Borussia Dortmund last May. His links with the German club might affect his chances of succeeding at Arsenal, given the presence of head of recruitment Sven Mislintat at the Emirates. Mislintat had a similar role at Dortmund for a decade until he left for Arsenal in November and reportedly clashed with Tuchel. The 44-year-old German has also been linked with Paris Saint-Germain.
Rodgers has rebuilt his reputation at Celtic, where he is on course to win the Scottish domestic treble for the second straight season. Before that, he had a three-year spell at Liverpool where he came close to winning the Premier League before enduring a dramatic fall from grace and getting fired 18 months later. The 45-year-old Rodgers worked under Jose Mourinho for more than three years at Chelsea but is more like Wenger in his philosophy in that he favours an attacking approach, often at the expense of his defence. He would be viewed as something of a gamble.
Whenever a vacancy arises at a top European club, Ancelotti’s name is mentioned — and for good reason. The 58-year-old Italian has won league titles in four different countries — Italy, England, France and Germany — and won the Champions League with AC Milan and Real Madrid. He is also out of work, having left Bayern Munich in September. Ancelotti has experience of the Premier League from a spell at Chelsea from 2009-11 and will not be fazed by the task of replacing Wenger.
The favourite with British bookmakers, the 41-year-old Vieira was one of Wenger’s first signings and went on to become one of Arsenal’s greatest ever players in a nine-year spell. He is currently in Major League Soccer as coach of New York City FC, one of the partner clubs of English champion Manchester City. He has been touted as a future City manager, but is very ambitious and likely would welcome a return to the club that turned him into a star.
An outside bet, but Jardim’s stock has risen after he turned Monaco into a French champion and a Champions League semifinalist last season, playing an attacking brand of soccer that would be appreciated at Arsenal. The 43-year-old Venezuela-born coach doesn’t have the profile of some of the other possible contenders — his most recent clubs before Monaco were Sporting in Portugal and Olympiakos in Greece — but has tactical nous as well as an eye for young talent, just as Wenger had.
Arsenal has reportedly made informal contact with Luis Enrique, the former Barcelona coach who led the team to the Spanish league-Copa del Rey-Champions League treble in his first season there in 2015, and a domestic league-cup double the following year. The 47-year-old Spaniard has been out of work since leaving Barcelona in the off-season of 2017.