It has been exactly one day since Arsene Wenger announced that he was stepping down from Arsenal football club and in the 24 hours since there have been so many hot takes that I fear for the global ice caps this summer*. However, unlike climate change and the imminent melting of the global ice caps, these Arsene Wenger hot takes aren’t actually hot.
This is not a hot take: Brendan Rodgers should be considered for the position.
I’ve looked in the four blank envelopes that I’m holding and they each read: No. He. Should. Not. No top club in world football would seriously consider Brendan Rodgers for manager. Real Madrid wouldn’t fire Zidane and hire Rodgers. PSG isn’t going to drop Emery and hire Rodgers. He’s not going to get Conte’s job at Chelsea. He won’t be considered for Mourinho’s job at Man U. Arsenal aren’t going to interview Rodgers.
The thing people (Oliver Kay from the Times) mostly bang on about is how he “developed” young players. No, not true. Sterling was considered a failure by most until this season under Pep Guardiola. Emre Can was taken by Klopp and moved from error-prone CB to world class CM. What Rodgers did do, was get Luis Suarez and almost win the League because he had the best striker in the world on his team and his team only had to play once a week at most.
Even if I’m generous and say he “developed” Suarez*, the problem with Rodgers wasn’t the fact that he never really developed talent. Rodgers’ problem was that he was exposed in his last two seasons at Liverpool for tactical ineptitude.
First, he struggled in matches against big teams. Against Man U, Man City, Arsenal, and Chelsea he has just 7 wins in 41 matches. If we include Everton, it’s just 8 wins in 50. That’s a 16% win rate.
Wenger is often criticized for “not having a plan B” but Rodgers had that problem in spades. He insisted on the back three after it was clear that it wasn’t working. After matchday 29 in the 2014/15 season, Rodgers lost 2-1 to United, 4-1 to Arsenal, 2-1 to Aston Villa, 1-0 to Hull, 3-1 to Crystal Palace, and 6-1 to Stoke City. That summer, he didn’t go back to the drawing board and reinvent his team, he simply went back in with the same approach. Before Liverpool finally cut him, his team conceded 15 goals in their first 11 matches.
He also has a weird record in the transfer market. Benteke cost Liverpool a £15m loss, Lazar Markovich £25m, Balotelli £20m, and there have been some other very strange purchases. He did buy Coutinho from Inter (who was eventually sold for 10x his purchase) but I can’t help see names like Benteke, Balotelli, Lazar, and Rickie Lambert and wonder what Rodgers was thinking.
And most importantly, Rodgers was fired in 2015 and Jurgen Klopp was brought in. Klopp has struggled his first two seasons but came in with a vision and has executed that plan to stunning effect. I haven’t revealed my predictions for next season yet but I will say now that I have Liverpool challenging for the League title.
When Rodgers was fired (after a 1-1 draw with Everton) they were in 10th place, they had a struggling defense, they were playing a back three, and they had a poorly constructed football team in need of an overhaul both on the practice field and in the transfer market. Arsenal are in nearly that exact same situation right now and they have to do something similar to what Liverpool did in 2015.
It would be an insult to Wenger’s career at Arsenal to replace him with Brendan Rodgers.
This is not a hot take: will the fan base change once Wenger is gone?
One thing I look forward to is having a rational discussion with reasonable humans about Arsenal football club and I think Wenger’s departure is going to help that.. a bit.
What drives me nuts about Arsenal supporters is that if I say “Ramsey was out of position here for this defensive play and often leaves a hole in midfield because Wenger wants him to play forward in order add to Arsenal’s attack” people respond with “well your agenda against Wenger is clear”.
I can’t wait for that to stop. Not only is it a logical fallacy, it’s annoying. Maybe they will say “I see your agenda against (insert next manager)” or “I see your agenda against (insert player)” but at least I won’t have to hear this factually ridiculous statement again for a long time.
The other thing I can’t wait to see are the people who are supporters of Arsene FC, the people who have told me that “real” supporters never criticize anything, start criticizing the next manager. I wonder how they will react if Ramsey isn’t allowed to play center forward next season? Or if Bellerin is dropped because he’s not up to par.
I think we are in for a change in the way that a lot of people talk about Arsenal.
This is not a hot take: you can both love Wenger and want a change
When I have an agenda against someone (Brendan Rodgers), I think I make it pretty clear (Brendan Out). I’ve never said that I WANT Wenger fired. I wanted him to retire years ago, that’s different. I never said I WANTED Wenger fired this Spring, but I did predict the board doing just that.
I’ve always said that I want Arsenal to succeed and that I like Arsene Wenger as a human. I’ve also said that our marriage, here, at Arsenal, wasn’t working anymore. We went to counseling, we tried some expensive gifts, but in the end we couldn’t make it work.
Even Wenger himself once said, “I always say that a manager has a love story with a club and he has to behave like it will be a love story forever but not be stupid enough to believe that it will never end. It could end at any minute, but you have to behave like it will last forever.”
The marriage between Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal is over. That doesn’t mean I hate him or wish him ill. I hope he goes to Real Madrid and manages them to four consecutive Champions League titles.
*He didn’t. I’ve written about Suarez many times over the years and Suarez was fundamentally unchanged as a player and human from his time at Ajax until he signed for Barcelona. His stats are remarkably consistent across his career.