In yesterday's Life After Arsene, we covered another in-house candidate to replace Arsene Wenger as manager of Arsenal. Today's spotlight goes outside of the club - slightly - to review the merits of a close friend of Wenger, Dragan Stojkovic.
Brief managerial background: Managed Nagoya Grampus, of the J-League, from 2008 until his departure in 2013. Stojkovic, a fan favorite in Nagoya after spending six seasons as a player for the club, led the club to their first-ever league title in 2010 (not even a certain manager we know around these parts accomplished such a feat).
Prior to dipping his toes into the managerial waters, Stojkovic started out his retirement as a player as president of the Yugoslavian FA for four years before becoming president of Red Star Belgrade in 2005, the club where he first achieved international acclaim as a player. Under Stojkovic's brief reign, the club won the the league title and cup in his first season, stepping down during their eventual league title-winning 2006-07 season.
Is there an Arsenal connection? No. Stojkovic is technically someone who has no prior history to the club, whatsoever, but...
Does he have a connection to Arsene Wenger? Yes. Wenger, managing Nagoya Grampus at the time, took advantage of Olympique Marseille's troubles following their conquest of the 1992-93 Champions League to purchase Stojkovic at a cut-rate and bring the talented, often-injured, playmaker to Japan. It was during this time Stojkovic began a close friendship with Wenger, and Wenger himself has stated that he would be the perfect fit for Arsenal when he eventually steps aside.
Pros: In addition to largely being successful in previous managerial/administrative positions, his philosophy and tactics closely mirror Wenger's preferred style of play. The transition would, theoretically, be one that is relatively smooth if he replaced Wenger. Further, out of the ten candidates we're profiling, only Stojkovic can claim to have pulled this off:
As great as he was during his playing career, Thierry Henry's resume lacks such an effort and one wonders if he'd be capable of duplicating this feat. Consider me one that would love to see this pulled off during an blowout away match at Stamford Bridge.
Cons: While Stojkovic has success managing clubs to titles and cups, his hire would probably befuddle the majority of Arsenal fans and critics in the same manner his mentor's hire had the London Evening Standard proclaiming "Arsene Who?" shortly after his arrival. The thought is that Arsenal could just about hire anyone they'd like and going for an Arsene Wenger clone - one who is admittedly great friends with him - wouldn't push Arsenal towards a new era.
While his failure eventually boiled down to other factors, many Manchester United fans were worried when David Moyes was brought on to replace Sir Alex Ferguson. Ferguson moved up to a director level following his departure from the dugout, but he didn't completely move far enough away from having a say in how the club was managed; Moyes, it was assumed due to being Ferguson's personal choice for his replacement, at least gave the former manager a listen when confronted with player and staffing decisions. If Arsenal end up hiring a manager that Wenger's openly vouched for in the press, the same concerns United fans had two summers ago about moving on from the Ferguson era would most assuredly appear within the fan base of Arsenal.
Overall Assessment: Stojkovic wouldn't be the worst manager to replace Arsene Wenger. After all, I trust Arsene Wenger more than most others in the sport. So if he says Stojkovic would be the perfect man to follow in his footsteps then I'm more or less inclined to believe what he says.
But the bigger doubt would be how Stojkovic could move the club forward in a way that Wenger has yet to accomplish since Chelsea and Manchester City came back into the league flush with cash. While they are different men, with different ways of motivating and pushing their charges, the fact that Stojkovic's clubs have generally played in a very similar manner to Wenger's squads wouldn't necessarily bring about a different look to the league and officials. If Arsenal's looking to bring someone in from the outside to change the identity of the way they play the game and the type of players they recruit - a true "moving on" from Wenger - then a Stojkovic would just about be the least-likely candidate. The last thing a new manager needs is to be looking over his shoulder for his tacit approval.
Even though Arsene Wenger's word is gospel within the Board and ownership at Arsenal, a move for a manager that's closely-affiliated to him - whose only experience is managing Wenger's old club to a singular league title and cup - seems very unlikely. This isn't 1996, and the stakes are much greater for Arsenal than when they were looking for a manger to replace Bruce Rioch.
In tomorrow's Life After Arsene, we cover a manager who's quickly gaining a reputation around Europe for on-the-pitch success and youth development.