It was the elephant in the room. Having more or less consigned themselves to UEFA Champions League elimination after losing 5-1 to Bayern Munich this Wednesday, many expected Arsène Wenger to utilise his pre-match press conference ahead of their FA Cup tie with Sutton United to lay down the official word on his Arsenal future.
With his Gunners contract up at the end of the season, the under-fire manager prolonged the anticipation until “March or April,” but the Frenchman did allude to a differing scenario from what many had envisioned.
Common predictions pointed towards Wenger’s retirement after what’s so far been a 21-year-reign at Arsenal, potentially moving into the club’s hierarchy to carry out different functions in the same way Sir Alex Ferguson has done at Manchester United, but, staying true to his managerial abilities, the 67-year-old has stated he will continue to be a manager after this season, “with or without Arsenal.”
This had us thinking, just where will we find Mr. Wenger next season?
1. AS Monaco
The first muse of Arsène after joining from penniless Nancy, the Arsenal boss went on to win the Ligue 1 title and the Coupe de France during seven hotly-contested seasons up against Olympique Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain. His time in the principality came to a bitter end, however.
Allegations of bribery around the league tarnished its integrity, as Monaco suffered at the hands of the alleged cheats, and having been eliminated in the Champions League semi-finals to eventual winners AC Milan in 1994, Wenger was given the axe months later after leaving the Monégasque outfit 17th in the league table.
But times are different back in his homeland. Monaco have gone down and returned back to the upper echelons Ligue 1 football, this time led by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev and his ever-impressive coach Leonardo Jardim, currently flying high in first place.
Such has been the success this season that the ex-Sporting and Olympiakos boss is sure to be one of the many names touted at other big clubs this summer, perhaps even at Arsenal as Wenger’s successor, which would open up the prospect for an intriguing switch.
Monaco’s project is unique, dedicated to developing young players with a means to be successful, which could be right up Wenger’s alley in territory he knows so well. Could a return be on the cards?
Well, it could be, except for the French club currently holds close ties with super-agent Jorge Mendes, famous for farming large quantities of his footballing clients (good or bad) to associated clubs, which probably won’t fly under Wenger, whereas it’s also reported that there’s bad blood between the two due to the move that saw Cristiano Ronaldo sign for Manchester United, as opposed to Arsenal, back in 2003.
2. Paris Saint-Germain
From one Ligue 1 title hopeful to another, the Paris Saint-Germain suggestion might sound alien to you given their recent 4-0 demolition of Barcelona on Tuesday, but it’s not impossible.
The Parisians turned to former Sevilla boss and three-time Europa League winner, Unai Emery, to take over Laurent Blanc and steer the PSG project to desired heights. Tuesday’s win takes an important step towards their goal, but the Spaniard’s start to life in France hasn’t quite been as smooth as intended, which won’t be forgotten in times of renewed pressure.
PSG have come unstuck against the likes of EA Guingamp, Toulouse and Montpellier this season, as they trail league leaders Monaco by three points in a title race they were overwhelmingly favourites for to start with.
The use of summer flops, such as Hatem Ben Arfa and Jesé Rodríguez, has been another stick to beat the Basque manager with, but the arrival of Julian Draxler has gone a long way into amending that.
PSG’s form has also improved over the past couple of months, setting them up for a potentially strong finish, but should they falter, let Blanc’s departure after a treble-winning-season serves as a warning to Emery.
In that case, would Wenger, so often associated with move to the French champions in an alternative life, finally make the jump to the capital?
There’s always been something about Luis Enrique and the quality of his Barcelona side that hasn’t quite sat right with many Culés.
An ex-player for the Catalans, as well as for bitter rivals Real Madrid, Enrique created waves with Barcelona B when earning promotion to the second tier of Spanish football in 2011, subsequently landing himself a gig with AS Roma the following season.
His time in Italy was far from spectacular, however, and before he knew it, Enrique was back on Spanish shores in command of Celta Vigo, who finished midtable under him in 2014.
It’s this that took him to the Barcelona job, but the 46-year-old silenced fears with a treble in his first season at the Camp Nou, followed by the league and cup double a year later.
All those critics have come flooding right back again, as Barcelona stare in the face of Champions League elimination and battle hard behind Real Madrid for this season’s La Liga title. Could it be that the magic of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez were the only driving force in Enrique’s reign after all?
Here, Wenger might well be a nice fit. The Frenchman has an eye for developing talent, of which Barcelona pride themselves on, whereas expansive football also coexists within both parties’ DNA. Although he’s not a favourite for the job, I wouldn’t overlook a man who’s elevated the careers of players who’ve gone on to fail to replicate such form when pinched by the Catalan giants.
Press the navigation below to view the rest of this article, and 4 more potential destinations for Arsene