In yesterday's Life After Arsene, Dragan Stojkovic - close friend of Arsene Wenger, and owner of the coveted Seal of Arsene Wenger Approval - was spotlighted as a potential Wenger replacement at Arsenal. Today, we step out of the club and Wenger's shadow even more to a manager quickly gaining a solid reputation around Europe, and dissect A.S. Roma's Rudi Garcia.
Brief managerial background: Co-managed Saint-Étienne in 2001 to a relegation into Ligue 2, which subsequently saw he and Jean-Guy Wallemme, his co-manager, dismissed. Garcia quickly found a new home at Dijon in 2002, taking the club from Championnat National (third tier of French football) to Ligue 2 in his second season while also guiding them to the Coupe de France semi-finals. He left for Le Mans in 2007, staying for one season before joining the club where he made his name on a continental stage. At Lille, he heavily-relied on homegrown youth players to achieve the success they saw during his time there, but none helped him more than Eden Hazard.
Garcia stayed at Lille through 2013, at which point the Italian giants A.S. Roma came calling for his expertise. He took the i Giallorossi from a 6th place finish the season before he arrived, to a 2nd place finish and a berth in the Champions League group stage this season.
Is there an Arsenal connection? No.
Does he have a connection to Arsene Wenger? No.
Pros: Garcia's known for being a supreme manager of different personalities from different backgrounds, often relying on a small group of well-respected players to get a temperature of the squad on various team issues. This practice, first started at Lille that he referred to as "Conseil des Sages", allowed Garcia to hand over leadership to more than just the club-designated captain while also making the rest of the squad feel valuable - he made it a point to those outside of the Conseil that they just as important. It is widely-assumed he brought this practice from Lille to Roma.
Tactically, he generally prefers to employ a 4-3-3 and/or 4-2-3-1, depending on his squad makeup and opponent. He also prefers his teams to play in an attacking, attractive style, which would very much be welcomed at Arsenal, so the thought of Garcia having to drastically-remake the squad to implement his style wouldn't be much of a concern.
Cons: As successful as he's been (outside of Saint-Étienne), he's largely achieved this in leagues that one doesn't normally associate with strength and depth. As much as people focus on PSG, Juventus and the rest of the old guard in Italy, there's no denying those leagues are very much in a down period. How Garcia's able to make the leap from Italy to England and the choppy, competitive waters of the EPL is a question that might not have the answer everyone wants. Not to say that he and Andre Villas-Boas are the same manager, but AVB arrived at Chelsea from Porto after having gone through the Primeira Liga undefeated in his first season in charge, followed up by winning the domestic title, cup and UEFA Europa League in the next.
Further, there's no indication that Garcia's looking to move away from The Eternal City. And why would he? Serie A's current title aspirants, as it stands now, are Juventus, Roma, and the rest. Milan and Inter are currently suffering as a result of persistent financial problems, and Napoli's struggling to duplicate their Champions League-qualifying form they had from a few seasons ago. Garcia's clearly got a great thing going for him at a big club in a league that, while down, is still revered and followed around the globe.
Overall Assessment: If Arsenal were to hire him as Arsene Wenger's successor, they'd be bringing in a manager with prior history of youth development, winning domestic titles and cups, and European cup runs. On that basis alone, Garcia would be an excellent choice. Of all the prior candidates profiled, he's by far the most qualified in terms of club management and on-the-pitch success.
He captured the Ligue 1 title at Lille while fending off PSG during the start of their Qatari investment while hamstrung with a pretty tight transfer budget (sound familiar?). He's currently into his second season at Roma only, at the time of writing, three points adrift of first place Juventus. How he would translate these prior accomplishments into the EPL obviously remains to be seen, but leave it to a club that tends to march to the beat of their own drum like Arsenal to push all-in on a guy like Rudi Garcia.
In tomorrow's Life After Arsene, we cover a manager known for his fiery temper and ability to beat two of the top clubs in the world at their own game.