The Heir Apparent to the Wenger Era (and the odds)

We all know that Arsene Wenger is going to move on eventually. Whether that happens this summer or a couple of years from now, nobody truly knows except for Wenger himself. So when it comes to the managerial position, who are the possibilities of becoming the next great manager of Arsenal? Since 1986 (nearly three decades), Arsenal have only had three hired managers (not including Stewart Houston and Pat Rice as interm managers). George Graham, who led Arsenal to a number of successes throughout the late 80's and early 90's, he was eventually dismissed for taking bribes to sign certain players. Bruce Rioch came in for the 95-96 season, but left after one year, which led to the the hiring of Wenger, and history speaks for itself. So who could possibly take over the reigns for the greatest manager in Arsenal history?

Dragan Stojkovic (4-1) - Who the hell is this guy you ask? This is the one man that Wenger has stated himself that he wants to succeed him at Arsenal. He currently holds the same managerial job Wenger had at Nagoya Grampus before being appointed the manager the Arsenal. As the manager of Nagoya Grampus, he has won a J-League title (something Wenger never even accomplished) and the Manager of the Year for that title winning campaign. His tactics and strategy are identical to that of Wenger's, and even though our board now looks much different than it did a few years ago, the support of Wenger himself probably gives him an advantage over everyone else.

Pat Rice (7-1) - Wenger's second in command at Arsenal, he's only managed a few games in Wenger's place (holds a very decent 4-0-1 record), but he also follows the same managerial ideals that Wenger does. A former Arsenal player himself with 400+ starts for the club, he originally joined the Arsenal coaching staff in 1984 as the youth team coach, winning a couple of FA Youth Cups. He was then appointed as Wenger's assistant coach when Wenger joined the club in 1996, being a vital part of Arsenal's success in the late 90's and early 2000's. I personally think that Wenger's support of Dragan would put Pat behind him, but the odds of Pat Rice becoming the next manager are still pretty good in my mind, he has plenty of managerial experience behind Wenger, and has been with the club for nearly three decades.

Andre Villas-Boas (10-1) - Currently the manager at Chelsea, his position has been under fire during his first year as he's failing to meet expectations from Chelsea's fans. Abramovich has supposedly given Villas-Boas his word that he will retain the job, but this is also the same man who fired Jose Mourinho after he won the Premier League twice for him. Villas-Boas, although young, has quite a resume. He started his managerial career at Academica de Colmbra, rescuing them from relegation in the Portuguese Liga and guiding them to the Portuguese League Cup Semi-finals. He was then hired for the manager job at FC Porto, where he won the Portuguese Liga title, the Portuguese Cup, and the Europa League title. My guess is that if Chelsea don't make the Champions League this season, he is out of a job, but he would also be a highly sought after manager, possibly with offers from Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Inter Milan as well as possibly going back to his hometown club FC Porto. But the English Premier League offers a lot of valor, and it's not a far move across town to the Emirates, he's my first guess as a possible heir after Dragan and Rice.

Jurgen Klopp (12-1) - The current manager of Borussia Dortmund, he has improved the club's Bundesliga standing every year that he has been in charge. Under his management, Dortmund has finished 6th, 5th, and 1st respectively in the Bundesliga table, and he also managed Dortmund to a DFB Supercup victory over Bayern Munich in 2008 and won the German Football Manager of the Year in 2011. Klopp is a highly sought after manager from many world class clubs, and depending on the possible managing vacancies at Chelsea, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Inter Milan, he may be hard to come by, he may even decide to stay in Germany with Dortmund, but given the right proposal he may just happen to come to Arsenal to succeed Wenger.

Walter Mazzari (18-1) - The current manager for Napoli, he guided them to their first Champions League inclusion for the first time since the Maradona era. He began his coaching career as an assistant for Napoli in 1998, and then proceeded to bounce around with Sicilian and Serie B teams, eventually bringing Livorno promotion to Serie A in 2004. He then managed Reggina for three seasons in Serie A, before taking the manager job at Sampdoria, where he would guide them to a 6th place finish in Serie A and qualification for the Europa League. He also managed Sampdoria to a Coppa Italia Final, losing to Lazio in penalties. Napoli hired him as manager for the 09/10 season, and guided them to a 6th place finish and Europa League qualification. The next season, he managed Napoli to a 3rd place finish and Champions League qualification. The odds of pursuing Mazzari are kind of slim, he is currently under contract until 2013 with Napoli, and Inter Milan and Barcelona have also expressed interest in him.

Jose Mourinho (25-1) - Currently the manager of Real Madrid. Known as the "Special One", he has noted success as manager with FC Porto, Chelsea, and Inter Milan. Joining FC Porto in 2002, he won the Portuguese Liga, Portuguese Cup, and UEFA Cup in 2003, and in 2004, he guided FC Porto to a Champions League title, defeating AS Monaco. In 2004, he joined Chelsea, where he would amass many successes, including winning Abramovich his first two EPL titles in the 04/05 and 05/06 seasons. He also managed Chelsea to consecutive League Cup titles and a FA Cup victory in 2007. Unrest with Abramovich eventually led to his dismissal before the 07/08 season, and he took the year off. In 2008, he joined Inter Milan, where he would go on to win another Champions League title and a Coppa Italia Cup in 2010, and successive Serie A titles in the 08/09 and 09/10 seasons. In 2010, he took charge of Real Madrid, where he currently manages, and he guided them to a Copa del Rey victory over Barcelona in 2011. The Special One's status with Real Madrid is currently questionable, and based on previous trends, he may be out of Madrid within a year or two. What better project to take on, and to take on Abramovich with, than the Gunners themselves. Mourniho himself though has also stated that he wants to manage a national team at some point during his career, the likes including Argentina, England, and the United States.

Pep Guardiola (40-1) - The current manager of Barcelona. The man has won nearly everything you could possibly win in club football. He was a part of Johann Cruyff's "Dream Team", winning the La Liga title six times, the Copa del Rey twice, and a Champions League title in 1992 as a player for the club. Having only managed for Barcelona, he first started off as Barcelona's B-squad manager in 2007, gaining them promotion into the Spanish Division B by winning the Tercera Division playoffs. He was then appointed the heir to Frank Rijkaard and succeeded him as manager of Barcelona for the 08/09 season. As manager of Barcelona, he has won the La Liga title in all three of his managing years (08/09, 09/10, 10/11), the Copa del Rey in 2009, and Champions League titles in 2009 and 2011, both against Manchester United. Pep arguably has the deepest resume as a manager (next to Mourinho), and has nearly won everything he possibly can as a Spanish manager, so he may just possibly retire and end his managing career, but his free-flowing attacking tactics that represent "perfect football" are exactly what Wenger has been trying to perfect for years at Arsenal, and why not take the chance to try and add some English silverware to that already extensive resume.

Dennis Bergkamp (60-1) - Currently an assistant manager at Ajax under Frank de Boer. We all wonder whether or not the legend himself could come back to North London to manage the Gunners, and while I personally think that one day he will, the odds of him coming in as the successor to Wenger are pretty slim. He enjoys his job at Ajax in his home country, and if anything, he's the successor to de Boer at Ajax, whom de Boer himself could be a candidate for the Arsenal job (I should have added him). He's already turned down a scouting role for Arsenal, but given some time and coaching experience, he could be a potential candidate in some years to come.

Obviously there's going to be more candidates out there that will be looked at by the Arsenal board (Martin O'Neill, Ian Holloway, Sven Goren Eriksson, any other generic English managers out there, etc.), but these are the main ones that I currently see as major candidates for the job of filling Wenger's shoes. Feel absolutely free to provide input, criticism is a critical tool of learning, or at least that's what my education head of dept. told me...

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