Should Arsène Wenger take the England job?

Agree to Disagree – where the argument you had at the pub last Thursday becomes a well mannered discussion.

WANTED – England manager to last more than 67 days. Gareth Southgate has recently taken over England duties and whilst he looks to be a safe pair of hands whispers of Wenger have surfaced stronger than ever. Is he the best choice for England? Is England a good move for him?

Sam Simmons argues…

Yes – The ideal manager of  the England team ideally possesses experience managing in the top-flight; knowledge of the English game; big game know-how; integrity and honesty.Crucially the above description bears no reference to the nationality of this person.

The events of the last week have seen the resurrection of an old question – should a foreign manager be in charge of the England team? It is a difficult discussion to have with patriotic supporters. The heart almost certainly says no. However, decisions made by the heart are often idealist, ill-advised, impulsive and frequently bad. Just ask poor Sam Allardyce. The England job is the biggest job in English football. It eclipses the jobs at Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and, dare I say it, Arsenal.

Arsène Wenger stands out as the outstanding candidate.That statement alone is likely to incense a large portion of England’s loyal following. Realistically though, Wenger has to be the FA’s no.1 target. If measuring it against the criteria listed at the beginning of this article, then there can be little doubt that the Arsenal manager is the best suited for the role.

For all of his faults, of which there are many, the Arsenal boss is undoubtedly a great manager. His arrival in north London two-decades ago heralded a footballing revolution. Whether he could have the same effect on the England team now is questionable, however, there is little doubt that he is the most qualified for the job.

Wenger is at the right age for the role. At 66 he it at the end of his career. Taking the England job is not a risk for him in the same way it would be for say, Eddie Howe. Why would the Bournemouth boss walk away from a stable job to take up a position that seems almost cursed?If Howe were to fail, then his career would be forever tarnished. If Wenger were to fail his legacy would still stand. If people insist upon the England football manager being English, then the pool from which to choose from is automatically narrowed. Whether we like it or not that pool lacks both depth and quality.

Whilst football romanticists may envisage a true and proper Englishmen, whatever that may be, lifting a World Cup or European Championship, the hard facts are that there aren’t any suitable candidates.

If people were to look beyond the rather jingoistic and prehistoric opinions of so called experts, then they would realise that the nationality of a manager means little if he is the best man for the job. Wenger certainly is the best man for the job. With 20 years’ experience managing in the Premier League, there is no man, English or otherwise, better suited for the role.

Wenger’s future is entirely in his own hands, He, and he alone, will decide when time is up at The Emirates. The sad truth is that Wenger has probably outstayed his welcome. The last few years have not gone the way we he would’ve liked.
Sometimes he has looked aged, downtrodden, and dishevelled.

Let’s be clear, the England job is not easier than the Arsenal job. Far from it in fact. But as a foreigner, Wenger would almost be detached from that pressure. Eriksson and Capello both failed, but neither felt the wrath of the British media like McClaren, Hodgson or even Allardyce. Both have managed to move back home or abroad and resume their careers elsewhere.

Wenger loves Arsenal, but the notoriously stubborn Frenchmen must realise that enough is enough. Longevity is only good if there is an evidential progression. For Wenger and Arsenal there hasn’t been; in fact, they’ve been stagnant for the best part of a decade.

For Wenger the time has come. With his contract up at the end of the season he will have a decision to make. His legacy at Arsenal will stand for an eternity. But now his adopted country needs him.

For England fans there has to be some realism. Whilst having a foreign manager in charge is not ideal, insisting upon having an Englishmen at the expense of the success of the national team would just be absurd.

Mike Franchetti argues…

No – Should Arsène Wenger take the England job? Erm, no – definitely not. I’m sure his appointment would reinvigorate the bumbling England fanbase – I’d certainly love it – but should Wenger walk away from this current Arsenal team to join the mess that is the national set-up? No way.

Let’s first mention the timing of the whole thing. Wenger’s in the ‘last year’ of his seemingly never-ending contract. This could be the perfect time for Le Professeur to cast a look beyond the Emirates and take the reins of the national side. However, on closer inspection, it’s the worst possible time for him to do anything of the sort.

Wenger survived Sir Alex’s supremacy and clawed his way through more than a couple of seasons of Chelsea dominance. Right now, his Arsenal side are better than both of those clubs. They’ve just comprehensively swept aside Chelsea whilst Manchester United, though finally improving, haven’t looked convincing since 2013.

Don’t be fooled by the accent (which gets more French when answering difficult questions), Wenger is a lover of the English game. It’s for this reason that his name and the England job continue to be mentioned in the same sentence. But would the F.A really appoint a man so ingrained in the history of one club? Would England’s Spurs contingent thrive under the man who spent twenty seasons keeping north London red? It seems unlikely a man of Wenger’s professionalism would do anything other than select and nurture the best players, but it’s difficult to picture him with an arm around Kyle Walker.

In truth, the players would probably be fine – but how about the fans? It seems unfair for this to be a factor, but it’s exactly the sort of nonsense the F.A will be thinking about. Look at the recent England managers with their passive personalities and non-reputations; McClaren, Hodgson, Southgate, to some extent even Capello.

But back to the point at hand – why would Wenger do it?! He already cops enough flak from his own supporters; does he really need to be thrown in front of the entire nation? He has a strong reputation and the England job is poison. Even the hardiest of his detractors start their complaining with ‘he’s done well but…’ and there’s no denying his impact on club football.

Even if you are of the mindset that the England situation can’t get any worse, the job remains a gamble. Wenger won’t be able to freely overhaul a national system which is altered only slightly with every appointment. In the mid-90s Arsenal football club was ripe for change and Wenger was revolutionary. England’s needs are far messier. Wenger may still have a few tricks up his sleeve but what will he get out of the England job? Two years of mediocrity and a World Cup quarter-final? Anything longer or more successful than that is hard to imagine.

He’s 66 now and the current England team needs more than a quick fix. The idea of Wenger’s England is exciting to players, fans and probably the man himself – but the same could be said of Pep Guardiola’s Aston Villa. Even with Sam Allardyce doing his best to make it happen, the perfect storm needed to bring Wenger to our national side will pass by as a near-miss. Arsenal are too strong right now, Wenger too old, the risk too great.

Even if you don’t believe in Arsenal’s thirteenth straight attempt to recapture the Premier League, Wenger does – and that’s all that matters. Everything he does – the way he acts, the decisions he makes – reeks of commitment, calculation and maintaining his reputation. If he has one eye on another job, he’s doing a masterful job of disguising it.

There have been no ‘do-or-die’ purchases, no signs of player unhappiness and no interviews conducted in any way other than classic Arsène. If he does eventually take the England job it will have been triggered by a break in the status quo; he’d have just won the League or Champions League, or bombed to fifth and got sacked. It’s autumn now and he’ll be pairing that knitted navy V-neck jumper with a bright red tie long into 2017. I can’t imagine it any other way.

The Curious Incident of Jack Wilshere & Not Enough Game Time

Jack Wilshere’s move to Bournemouth on deadline day caught many of us by surprise. The 34-time England international has decided to try and rebuild his career at Dean Court. Simmo looks at how such a promising career has sadly fallen by the wayside. 

Jack Wilshere’s departure to Bournemouth was met with mixed emotions by Arsenal supporters. On the one hand, many fans agreed that the local hero needed games, something he was unlikely to get at The Emirates this season. On the other, Gunners aficionados were incredulous, believing that the manager, Arsène Wenger, had let their ‘Jack the lad’ down.

Wilshere has been somewhat of an enigma for many years. Since coming to national, and international prominence for some sparkling displays (including one particularly brilliant performance versus Barcelona at the Camp Nou) during the 2010-11 season, the ex-Arsenal no.10 has suffered a succession of debilitating injuries that have prevented his progress.

Since then, Wilshere’s career has never reached the heights that he seemed destined to reach following his breakthrough year. Injuries and concerns regarding his attitude have certainly hampered his development. Between August 2011 until the present day, Wilshere missed nearly 900 days, and 150 matches out of a possible 275 through injuries.

Prior to requiring ankle surgery in the summer of 2011, Wilshere had enjoyed his most successful season to date. He had played 49 times for his club, won 5 England caps, and looked to be making a stellar impact on the English game. The future really did look bright.

Since that operation on his ankle, Wilshere has appeared in a paltry 85 Arsenal games at an average of just 17 a season. Despite winning a further 29 England caps, the early promise and optimism that surrounded this mercurial talent has somewhat subsided and been replaced by a regretful sense of what might have been.

Yet to blame Wilshere’s lack of progress on injuries alone would be wrong and would tantamount to blind ignorance. There are others who have perhaps contributed towards Wilshere’s sad, almost pitiful demise.

Injuries can blight any footballer’s career, however, it seems that those who play under Wenger at Arsenal suffer more than most. Indeed, whilst Wilshere’s injury absences have been the biggest hindrance on his career, other factors have also significantly prevented his development.

Wenger has long professed to being a fan of Wilshere’s; just last week the Frenchmen went as far as to describe the 24-year-old as “world-class.” This begs the question as to why a world-class player is now plying his trade for a team enjoying only their second season of top-flight football?

The answer is quite simple; Wilshere was prepared to bide his time at Arsenal believing that he would get his chance over, what promised to be, a long season. However, when Sam Allardyce, England’s new manager, announced his first squad, Wilshere was one of many noticeable absentees.

Knowing that his England career was going to suffer, Wilshere demanded a move in order to salvage his declining career. The reality is though, Wilshere is more than good enough to be starting week in, week out for this Arsenal team.

Wenger has simply not shown enough faith in Wilshere. We can never be sure whether this has been down to a reluctance to use him due to concerns over either his ability or fitness, yet when faced with the facts, the evidence is utterly compelling. During the previous 5 seasons, and even when fit and available, Wilshere appeared (and often only in bit-part roles) in fewer than 70% of the games he had been available for.

Things came to a head this season; fit, bar for a small and unfortunate knee injury suffered in late July, Wilshere was keen to stamp his authority on the team. Yet despite this, the Stevenage-born midfielder was surprisingly left out of the starting XI for the first three games of the season. Players such as Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny were initially preferred to him, neither of whom even come close to matching Wilshere’s ability.

If those two had been the only obstacles in Wilshere’s way then he may well have decided to ride out these early disappointments. However, Wenger invested heavily in Granit Xhaka during the summer, seemingly pushing Wilshere further down the pecking order. Add to this the return of Santi Cazorla, and the consistent, if not sometimes bewildering insistence on picking Aaron Ramsey in a central role, Wilshere faced a situation where he could have feasibly been Arsenal’s sixth choice central midfielder.

For Wilshere, enough was enough. Being overlooked by players so clearly inferior to him, seeing his England place suffer, and not having any guarantees regarding consistent playing time, all contributed to his decision to leave for the South Coast.

At Bournemouth, it is highly likely that Wilshere will receive the playing time he longs for and so badly needs. The Cherries’ youthful manager, Eddie Howe, has employed a variety of innovative training methods in order to ensure he understands the way each of his players best operates.

This is likely to benefit Wilshere. Too often in the recent past Arsenal players have suffered severe long-term injuries. Whether this is down to training methods or simply just bad luck will likely remain a mystery. However, Raymond Verheijen, a fitness conditioning expert who worked for the Welsh national team, certainly believes it to be the former. He has been outspoken in his criticism of Wenger and his medical staff, suggesting that their methods are outdated and too severe.

Verheijen’s point is an interesting one, and if Wilshere does manage to avoid injury for the rest of this season people may begin to take his point more seriously. Nevertheless, Wilshere has to ensure he gives himself the best chance to stay fit.

In recent times pictures have emerged of him chuffing on cigarettes outside seedy nightclubs or in swimming pools while on ill-advised holidays with the ‘boys’. This behaviour is hardly symptomatic of a professional athlete.

For Wilshere, this is very much last chance saloon. If he wants to make use of his indisputable talent, then this is the year he has to do so.