Unai Emery has been sacked as Arsenal head coach so who could become the Spaniard’s permanent successor at the Emirates Stadium?
Emery, who replaced Arsene Wenger in the sumer of 2018, was relieved of his duties on Friday morning after the Gunners’ 2-1 home defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League – a result that means Arsenal are on their worst run since 1992.
Norwich vs Arsenal
December 1, 2019, 1:00pm
Arsenal, who travel to face Norwich live on Super Sunday, are winless in seven games and sit eight points off fourth-placed Chelsea.
With Emery’s departure comes a new chapter – but while Freddie Ljungberg has been named interim boss, who will be next to take the top full-time at the Emirates Stadium? We assess some of the frontrunners…
Nuno Espirito Santo
Nuno Espirito Santo, who sealed European football last season and has guided Wolves to fifth in the Premier League table so far this term, emerged as the favourite for the hotseat as Emery’s reign drew to a close.
Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson thinks the Portuguese manager is good enough to manage one of the Premier League’s top six teams, and even went as far as suggesting him for the job at the Gunners on Soccer Saturday.
But would he be tempted to leave high-flying Wolves for Arsenal? When pressed about the speculation earlier this week, the Wolves boss swerved the question. “You know me well enough and you know I’m not going to answer that,” he said.
Moved into the first-team coaching set up in the summer, Ljungberg has already been confirmed as interim boss and is a short price to take the job on a full-time basis.
The Swede, who won two Premier League titles and three FA Cups as a player with Arsenal, led the club’s reserves last season and it was his work with the younger players that prompted his promotion into Emery’s first-team coaching set-up.
And with the likes of Joe Willock, Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Reiss Nelson enjoying breakthrough seasons at the club, Ljungberg’s relationship with the younger members of the squad could be a decisive factor.
Handing Ljungberg the top job at the Emirates would be a huge risk, but he is someone who knows the values of the club. If he was to impress on a short-term basis, Ljungberg could be handed the reigns on a permanent basis in much the same way as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United.
Before the appointment of Emery, Arteta was heavily linked with the top job at Arsenal.
Since hanging up his playing boots and leaving Arsenal in the summer of 2016, the Spaniard has been learning his trade as an assistant manager under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.
He has helped City win two Premier League titles, two League Cups and an FA Cup, while he was also credited in helping bring out the best in Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane during the title win in 2018.
There is a question mark about his lack of experience as a number one, but as a former Arsenal player he knows the club well and he has been backed to be a success in a top job one day by his current boss. “He is already an incredible manager and he’ll have incredible success in his future,” said Pep Guardiola.
It would have seemed far-fetched – and maybe it still does – but Mauricio Pochettino is among the favourites to be the next Arsenal boss. The Argentine is sure to be a man in-demand following his sacking by Tottenham, but could he really cross the north London divide?
It would be a hell of a story and – rivalries aside – it’s easy to see why Arsenal might be interested. Pochettino may have fallen short of trophies at Spurs, but he transformed the club’s identity, leading them to four consecutive top-four finishes – not to mention a Champions League final – on a shoestring budget.
Arsenal are sure to face competition if they do go after him. Bayern Munich are said to be eager to hold talks with him over the vacancy at the Allianz Arena, and he has also been linked with Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United.
If Arsenal want someone to shore them up at the back and make them more difficult to beat, they could do a lot worse than turn to Benitez. The Spaniard, who famously steered Liverpool to Champions League glory in 2005, is currently working in China but a return to England would surely be attractive to him.
The 59-year-old, a two-time La Liga-winner with Valencia before that Champions League win with Liverpool, has also won silverware with Inter Milan, Chelsea and Napoli. His brief Real Madrid tenure did not go to plan, but he rebuilt his reputation in difficult circumstances at Newcastle.
Allegri is another who was reportedly considered as a potential replacement for Wenger in 2018.
Now out of work after leaving Juventus at the end of last season, the 52-year-old has an excellent track record, winning the Serie A title in all five of his seasons in charge at the Turin club and leading them to two Champions League finals during his tenure.
Reports suggest the Italian, who also won the Serie A title with AC Milan, was interviewed by Arsenal with a view to taking over at the Emirates Stadium before eventually losing out to Emery. Sky Sports News understands there has been contact between Allegri and Arsenal.
The Arsenal legend would be a popular choice with the club’s supporters.
Vieira followed Tony Adams as captain in 2002, leading the team during the 2003/04 Invincibles season, and many Arsenal fans would argue that he has never been replaced.
A natural leader, Vieira’s presence on the touchline would be a welcome addition to a squad that has been accused of lacking characters. But does his managerial CV match up to that of other potential candidates?
The Frenchman began his coaching career at Manchester City, leading the reserve team before departing for America where was named head coach of New York City FC. He is now in charge at Nice but after a strong first season where they finished seventh, they have struggled for form during the current campaign, leaving them in the bottom half of the table.
However, if the Gunners wanted to follow the Chelsea model and appoint someone in a similar vein to Frank Lampard. then Vieira could be the man.
Rodgers has been a big hit since his arrival at Leicester from Celtic with the Foxes already mounting a strong challenge for a Champions League place and playing some brilliant football along the way.
The former Liverpool boss was reportedly left off the shortlist of potential candidates to replace Arsene Wenger in 2018, but after a hugely successful spell at Celtic and his instant impact at the King Power Stadium, he will surely be under consideration this time around.
But would the 46-year-old leave high-flying Leicester for Arsenal?
It’s a question that would have been easy to answer five years ago, but Leicester appear to be a team on the up while the Gunners head in the opposite direction.
Could Arsenal go for Premier League experience? With Rodgers unlikely to leave high-flying Leicester midway through the season, Howe could be the next cab off the rank.
The Englishman, who is in his fifth season as a Premier League coach, guided Bournemouth from League Two to the top-flight. He has since established them as a stable Premier League side.
A lack of managerial experience at a big club could play against the 41-year-old, as could Bournemouth’s current struggles, but there’s still plenty of room left for improvement should the Gunners see him as a long-term option.
He caused Arsenal plenty of problems as a player but could he solve their issues as a manager?
Gerrard’s name is a surprise inclusion among the bookmakers’ favourites for the job having impressed during his time in charge of Rangers. His side sit level on points with Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premiership and they are going strong in the Europa League as well.
Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone and RB Leipzig’s Julian Nagelsmann have plenty of admirers but, like former Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti, are long-shots with the bookmakers.
Chris Wilder steered Sheffield United to recent victory over Arsenal and is earning plenty of plaudits as he mixes a slick football style with defensive solidarity, but would he leave the Blades? Wilder is another long-odds candidate, as is France boss Didier Deschamps.
What’s next on the pitch for Arsenal?
Arsenal travel to Norwich on Sunday at 2pm in the Premier League, live on Sky Sports, while their last Europa League group-stage clash is at Standard Liege on December 12 at 5.55pm.