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Rumor: Carlo Ancelotti is top candidate to replace Arsene Wenger

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Not even managers can escape the silly season.

Arsenal Pre-Season Tour
Carlo Ancelotti is rumored to be the preferred replacement for Arsene Wenger.
Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

The rumors about who could replace Arsene Wenger have been flying fast and thick the last few days, and Carlo Ancelotti’s name is the latest to be added to the list. According to the Evening Standard, the Italian is “a serious candidate” to succeed Wenger.

Wenger is signed through the end of the 2018-19 season, but his contract contains a clause that allows both him and the club to review the deal at the end of this season. Based on reports from the past week, it seems likely that review will happen.

Ancelotti most recently managed Bayern Munich but was sacked in late September after the German giants lost 3-0 to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League. Dissatisfaction among the players may have also played a part in his dismissal. Before Bayern, he managed Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, A.C. Milan, and Juventus.

The Standard piece also mentions that Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis “admires” Max Allegri but notes that the Italian is signed with Juventus through 2020.

Despite the criticism aimed at him by several Bayern Munich players after his sacking, Ancelotti is generally seen as a players’ coach, a strong motivator, and a good builder of team unity / spirit. He is known more for his flexibility in selecting formations to suit his players’ strengths than he is for his tactical sophistication. He also has a tendency to not trust younger, inexperienced players with significant playing time.

Is he the right man to guide Arsenal post-Arsene Wenger? Probably not. Right now, Arsenal’s roster is split between young, up-and-coming players and aging, past-their-prime veterans. Ancelotti would be more likely to use the older guys, which could slow the development of players like Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Reiss Nelson, and others. That’s not what the club needs.

That said, Ancelotti is the right type of manager to follow Wenger. The club would be best served by an experienced hand to guide it out of the current era, manage for a season or two, and then step aside for a long-term replacement like Mikel Arteta. Replacing a club legend is difficult - see e.g. Manchester United and David Moyes. Arsenal would do well to avoid making those same mistakes.

Taking a step back, it is not surprising that the chatter about an end-of-season managerial review and who might replace Wenger has picked up recently. A few days ago, Arsene Wenger commented on some growing pains in developing his relationship with new Head of Recruitment Sven Mislintat.

Mislintat is a “Gazidis guy” hired as part of a plan to restructure the footballing operations at Arsenal to be less centered one man, namely Arsene Wenger. As the Standard notes, Gazidis’ goal is for the next Arsenal manager to be more of a head coach and less of a head of all things football like Wenger is currently.

These manager rumors may be the latest manifestation of the ongoing power struggle at Arsenal between Arsene Wenger and Ivan Gazidis, and until Arsene Wenger steps down as manager, we’re likely to see more back and forth between the two.