Monday, January 24, 2022

Zeljko who? Another name in the hat to take over from Arsene Wenger

A very good and very early morning to you. I’m heading for Madrid, it’s an feasibly early flight but I am going to eat Jamón ibérico when I get there, and when I’m finished the Jamón ibérico I might have some more Jamón ibérico.

Arsenal will travel to Spain later today, and we should get fitness updates on a couple of players who might have be doubts. After the Manchester United game on Sunday, Arsene Wenger spoke about Henrikh Mkhitaryan picking up a blow to the knee he injured earlier in the month. We should keep fingers crossed for his availability, even if he’s only fit enough to come on from the bench for the final half hour or so.

With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s ineligibility, our attacking options to change a game if we need to are pretty limited. Alex Iwobi can produce, but doesn’t more often than not, and beyond that we’re looking at youngsters like Eddie Nketiah or Reiss Nelson (if he’s even involved).

Anyway, we can discuss that and possible team selection a bit more in tomorrow’s preview blog which, I can assure you, will be written with a definite Jamover (that’s the Spanish ‘ham’ sound ‘jam’ and not like strawberry preserve).

Meanwhile, the names continue to pile up in the papers about who might succeed Arsene Wenger when he goes in May (hopefully on the 17th with a trophy lifted above his head). Max Allegri chatter picked up considerably this week, without there ever being a truly credible source, but there’s no doubt the Juventus boss is someone whose appointment would, I suspect, be met with general approval.

Not so that of Zeljko Buvac, who was linked to the job yesterday. If his name is unfamiliar to you, he’s Jurgen Klopp’s right hand man. Or at least he was until something happened between them recently and it was announced that he would be out of action until the end of the season.

In a statement, Liverpool said:

Zeljko is spending some time away from the first-team environment, between now and the end of the season, for personal reasons. The club considers the matter to be private and therefore will not be making any further comment. Zeljko remains a Liverpool employee and his position at the club is not affected by this absence

It’s a strange time for a parting of the ways. Liverpool are on the brink of a Champions League final, so either something serious has happened in his 17 year relationship with Klopp, or something else is going on. Certainly, sections of the Bosnian press believe that to be the case, as he was yesterday tipped to take over from Wenger when the time comes.

It would be very Arsenal to appoint somebody nobody expected – just think back to 1996 when we eschewed Johan Cruyff to bring in ‘some French bloke’ who was currently working in Japan. ‘Arsene who?’, and all that. In fact, it’s been part of our history. Bruce Rioch was brought in from Bolton, even George Graham had only managed second division Milwall when he was made manager in 1986.

That said, it feels like we need an appointment that’s a bit more unifying than this. There’s been so much division over the last couple of years, I really think the board have to consider that when they make their decision. Ultimately, they have to choose who they think is the best man to take over from Arsene Wenger, and to help move the club forward, and often that’s something you need to do without worrying about how fans are going to react.

The circumstances at Arsenal are a bit special though. We’re losing a manager who has been at the club for 22 years, it’s been stale for a while, and they need to win back supporters who have voted with their feet and stayed away – despite having paid for their tickets. I’m not sure that Zeljko Buvac, having not managed a club since a spell at SC Neukirchen between 1998 and 2001 is that man.

Given the stature and experience of some of the other candidates, plus the connection some have to the club, I’d be very surprised if this was the one we went for. I think they’ll want somebody who can’t backfire on them in as big a way as this would if it went wrong, but Arsenal are often a surprising club, so we’ll find out soon enough.

Right, it’s very early, I’m at the airport now and in real need of coffee. We’ll have all the press conference news and the team updates over on Arseblog News throughout the day, and I’ll be here tomorrow to preview the game.

Have a good one.

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