This article is in no way a reference point to my Wenger orientation. It’s just a glance at a future option for the Arsenal. Once a professional reaches the age to get a free bus pass its negligence not to look at replacements and it seems the gunners are already looking out for their next manager. Given RB Leipzig managers, Ralph Hasenhuttl, comments early in the season all but confirming the north Londoners had made light contact. When he implied stories linking him to being Arsene’s successor had been “well-researched”. Now the dreamer in me ebbs between the safe hands of super manager Carlo Ancelotti coming in and taking us to the next level or giving the plucky young Englishmen Eddie Howe a chance to build a dynasty at one of English footballs power houses. The reality is ones far too bigger risk and the others probably unattainable from a monster club in Bavaria. However, a third protagonist has entered my thoughts having watched a sizeable chunk of Ligue 1 this season and that’s Leonardo Jardim of high flying Monaco.
Born in Venezuela to Portuguese parents Leonardo Jardim never played football professionally and has been a career coach. At the age of 24 he became the youngest Portuguese coach ever to obtain a UEFA A licence. He started his managerial career aged 30 at Portuguese third Division side Camacha where he was previously assistant manager for two years. Jardim then spent four and a half seasons there honing his skills before jumping to fellow third division side GD Chaves. And this was where he had his first success, getting them promoted too Portugal’s second division in his only full season at the club. Leonardo was then appointed manager of fellow second division club Beira-Mar and it was here where he finally made it too the Portuguese top flight achieving promotion in his first season. He stepped down in the February the next season following a string of bad results, the side did stay up though following his departure. This managerial misdemeanour did little to dampen Portuguese club’s appetite for him and was appointed manager of Braga that summer where he led them to third in the top division, the Europa League round of 16 and an incredible record breaking 13 successive league wins in his one and only season at the club. A row with the chairman led to a parting of ways.
The next season he found himself at Olympiakos where he was again sacked for a row with the chairman with the club ten points clear at the top of the league. He returned to Portugal at the start of the next season, 13/14, as manager of Sporting Libson. He guided them to second place in Liga Nos compared to sixth the season before and then in the summer he was appointed manager of AS Monaco succeeding Claudio Ranieri.
In the years running up to Jardim’s appointment AS Monaco were splurging Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlevs cash on an array of foreign talent getting them promoted and then buying such stars as Falcao, James Rodriguez, Moutinho and so on. However, if the Portuguese manager thought he was going to get unlimited funds to build a super squad to rival Qatar backed PSG he was soon in for a shock. And set a task of a different nature. The owner seeing there was going to be no stability in the sugar daddy model decided to focus more on youth development and buying rough diamonds. To get to grips with the size of the task he’s undertaken and the level of change you only have to cast your mind painfully back to Arsenal’s 3:1 home defeat to the principalities club back 2015.
Only six players from that 18 man squad that destroyed us were in there line up for a recent monster clash with PSG. Whereas from Arsenals squad that evening everyone’s still on the club’s books bar Tomas Rosicky, raising questions about us as sellers and accountability for failure but that’s for another day. It is not just ageing deadwood they have disbanded in the last three seasons it has been some of Europe’s hottest talents; James Rodriguez, Martial, Kondogbia, Kurzawa, Carrasco and many more. And they’ve maintained a good level during this cycle’ two 3rd place finishes and a run to the champions league quarter finals and now half way through this season, his 3rd, they sit top of Ligue 1, in the Coupe de Ligue final and looking forward to facing City in the last 16 of the champions league where they topped a group including spuds and Leverkusen. Most impressively, Leonardo’s band of youngsters are the top scorers in Europe.
Its more than just clever recruitment that make the 43-year-old a good fit for Arsenal, in my opinion. It’s the team he’s built. When I watch Monaco I see pace from the full backs in Sadie and Mendy, Power and strength in the middle with Fabiano and Bakayoko and ingenuity on the flanks in the form of Silva and Thomas Lemar. I see early Wenger teams and that is what I pine for, this is probably the closest team I have seen to the Invincibles, an ability to stride from one end of the pitch to the other so quickly. The Venezuelan born coach has also shown versatility and a willingness to adapt his methods depending on the situation. For instance, in his first two years he made Monaco a more defensive outfit and now this season they’ve exploded into the most exciting team in Europe. I could try and explain the thing that got me salivating the most during my research but it’s easier for me to give you the link to the transcript of his first Monaco press conference. The way he precisely talks tactics, vision for the team and how to get there is what I want next. If he wins Ligue 1 it would be an amazing achievement given PSG’s super star squad.
Obviously Jardim hasn’t rebuilt Monaco on his own he’s had Antonio Cordon, Claude Makelele and Luis Campos as technical directors at different points of his reign and its certainly an area Arsenal are going to have to make an appointment in going forward into the post Wenger era. Arsene truly is the last dictator in top level football and no new man is going to take on all Arsene’s responsibilities. Even if Jardim wins League 1 this season and le prof hangs up his gloves he would still be considered an outsider for the role. We always used to be ahead of the curve as a club, foreign manager, diet and fitness, recruitment from the continent, televised matches, kit numbers etc. Even in managerial appointments we’ve been different, there was a Scotsman who had one promotion with second division Millwall who came in and bagged a couple of league titles, 3 domestic trophies and a cup winners cup. Then there was a Frenchman from japan who delivered 3 League titles, 6 FA cups and a gold trophy and he also had a Ligue 1 title with Monaco. So let’s be ahead of the curb again and get Europe’s next super coach.