If there were ever a path in football that could be described as well worn, it would the one from Arsenal to Barcelona. From Henry to Hleb, Overmars to Vermaelen or Song to Sylvinho; many a man has transferred from North London to their footballing big brother.
Some of these moves have been more surprising than others, but the latest to be touted would probably be the least logical. The bookmakers currently have Arsene Wenger as third favourite for the vacant managerial role at Camp Nou. This would have been a rational development 10 or 15 years ago, but now?
The current woes being endured by Arsenal, whether exaggerated by fans or otherwise, suggest that Wenger is no longer at the peak of his powers. He seems a man obsessed with perfection, a meticulous neurotic whose career has been haunted by Barcelona legend Johan Cruyff’s quote:
“Playing football is very simple, but playing simple football is the hardest thing there is.”
There is a chance everything could work out well for Wenger in Catalonia, with the resources to finally build the team he has always dreamed of, but the Frenchman simply doesn’t seem pragmatic enough to cope with the soap opera of such a role. Being Barcelona manager is all about adaptability, having an aptitude for seeing problems and switching things round to prevent a crisis at a club where the word seems to hide underneath the stadium’s chairs, waiting to pop out at any moment. After such prolonged stability at Arsenal, it would be like Wenger getting off a carousel after 20 years to try out the park’s scariest and most turbulent rollercoaster; that isn’t a good idea for a 67-year-old.
It is also important to remember that this is a coach who has never won the title in two consecutive seasons throughout a long career. Would such a statistic be tolerated by an infamously demanding Catalan board?
For all the doubts over Wenger’s ability to succeed should he get the job, and indeed decide to take it, it is probably not the club who would suffer most from the deal, but the Frenchman himself. Wenger has called himself a masochist, and this would probably need to be true should he last any significant period of time with the Blaugrana.
Just look at the more youthful and energetic managers, Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique, if you want to see what being manager of Barcelona does to a man. Both announced that they needed sabbaticals after their time at the club, exhausted by a myriad of demands. How would Wenger cope with this? The job would be even more impossible for him than the aforementioned two, without the shield of having been an important player for the club.
The biggest problem of all, though, would be an idea already touched upon. Wenger has been used to complete autonomy over Arsenal for a long time now, playing in the style he wants with the players he wants. Barcelona would not allow this, and it would be problematic. It’s probably time Arsene left the club he is so synonymous with, but his next move should not be to Barcelona. It would be for no one’s better sake.
Wenger is off – hopefully not to Barcelona – but who should replace Le Professeur at Arsenal?