Following the sacking of Unai Emery last week there has been a lot of chatter about who could, or should, be stepping into the vacant managerial role at Arsenal, with the leading candidate currently being Brendan Rodgers. It’s a subject that can often spark a wide debate and it is also something that a number of professional pundits will weigh in on, which is exactly what former Arsenal player Paul Merson did in a column for Sky Sports this week.
Merson is of the opinion that Rodgers “has” to take the job at Arsenal, thinking it would be better in the long term for the Northern Irishman, rather than the short term blinkers that he may be wearing currently at Leicester. It’s easy to understand where the Magic Man is coming from with this one. Arsenal is a club with a rich history and a proven pedigree, meanwhile it is hard to tell how long Leicester can keep up the success that they are seeing currently. However it is also a worrying sign for Arsenal, that they can no longer tempt the manager that they want to the club, simply by having the spot available.
Brendan Rodgers has been linked to the Arsenal job a handful of times at this point, with the Gunners reportedly turning down the chance to interview the then Celtic manager before they appointed Emery last season. However since then, Rodgers has returned to English football and set the league alight with Leicester City, with the team arguably playing better football than they did in their title winning season. The Foxes seem to be on course for a very deserved top four finish, barring any catastrophes or an injury crisis and a large chunk of that success will be rightfully attributed to their manager. So why would he leave now, for a team that may not even make the top six this season based on current form.
In his column, Merson makes the argument that it’s important for Rodgers to look at this long term. While acknowledging Leicester’s amazing form, he goes on to say “Do not look at the next six months though, you have to look at the all-round picture and the next five years.”This could certainly be a valid argument, all you need to do is look at Leicester’s form following their title winning season as an example of how difficult it is to sustain long term success in the Premier League. The issue is, football doesn’t really work that way anymore.
If Rodgers was to join Arsenal, I doubt he would be doing so with a five year plan. The club is in such a state currently, that the immediate focus is far more important than the long term focus, as has been proven by the reign of Unai Emery. Any manager that takes that job, must begin producing results quickly, otherwise they will lose the faith of the fans and the board. It is not club to which you can go with a long term plan and no immediate turnaround. But alongside this, how many managers get the chance to manage a club for up to five years in modern football? While thinking that far ahead may be advantageous, many managers are lucky if they can think too far beyond the next transfer window.
Arsenal are still, very much, a big club. They are one of the biggest brands in Europe and that isn’t something that is going to change anytime soon. However they’re also on track to finish outside of the top six for the first time in 25 years, it is possibly the worst time to take over at the club since the beginning of the Premier League era. Why would Rodgers leave a team that is set to qualify for the Champions League, playing some of the best football in the league, with one hell of a squad, for that?
It isn’t like Leicester have been a flash in the pan this season, they have won 10 of their last 11 games in all competitions and they sit second in the league. As I mentioned above, they are playing some of the best football in the league and that certainly isn’t down to luck. They have a deeper squad than most fans seem to think and the manager has unlocked the full potential of players like Jaime Vardy, Caglar Soyuncu, James Maddison and Youri Tielemans.
No disrespect to Claudio Ranieri, what he did with Leicester City will go down as one of the greatest stories in sporting history, but Brendan Rodgers has proven that he can sustain success at a football club. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see Leicester City become a mainstay in the top six, if they can maintain this level of form while competing in Europe next season.
Arsenal may be the ‘bigger club’ but Leicester are the club in a far better position, both in the league and with their personnel. They have the fans on side and look to be set to make one of the best runs in their history. At this point, it’s looking like it could take years just to get Arsenal back into the top four, let alone back into contention for the title. Leicester are already there, it makes so much more sense for Rodgers to stay put.
Rodgers has seemed to echo this sentiment, speaking in a pre match press conference earlier today. “Why would I want to leave Leicester City at this time? I am very happy so would have no need to look elsewhere.”
It is likely that Arsenal will have to look elsewhere to fill their managerial gap this time, with Sky Bet currently listing Max Allegri as the favourite for the job.