For Arsenal the concluding fixtures of this season have become less about who wins and loses, and more about the imminent departure of their manager Arsene Wenger. The usual combustible end of season affairs morphing into a farewell tour – extended procession of well-wishing.
Coming after years of sustained calls for his abdication, the one hundred and eighty degrees turn of many supporters has been saccharine enough to rot the teeth from your head. The outpouring of emotion has been enough to lull you into thinking Wenger has retired, despite the fact he has yet to utter a word to back this up. Put simply, the man remains addicted to the game.
With this in mind, where is Wenger likely to get his next spherical fix? For my money the most likely avenue would be that of international football and a stint with his native France. Odds of 4/1 represent decent value and can be enhanced when you scream ComeOn.
As France head to this summer’s World Cup, bursting to the seams with dazzling talent, it is almost inconceivable that ‘Les Blues’ would want to change their manager, but delve an inch or two below the surface and you can see some problems bubbling away.
Current France manager, Didier Deschamps, is far from universally adored. While the gripes fans cling to are too numerous to list, the major issues boil down to two main faults.
The first is a reluctance to jettison poor performers. Time and time again Deschamps has shown an unflinching loyalty to a select few. This phenomenon is best illustrated by Newcastle and Spurs flop Moussa Sissoko. Despite failing to set the heather alight in the Premier League in any of his six seasons, Deschamps has still allowed the rangy midfielder the opportunity to rack up over fifty caps.
Such a rigidity in selection has lead to problem number two, a failure to blood youngsters. France’s rapid ascension in betting odds is largely founded on the vast quantity of blindingly talented youngsters making their impact felt in Europe’s top 5 leagues. Worryingly for France fans, domestic brilliance hasn’t translated into international recognition. Ousmane Dembele, Thomas Lemar, Kylian Mbappe and Corentin Tolisso have all made a seismic impression on European football in the last two seasons but have not been assimilated into the national team.
Given the hype around the squad, failure to win this summer’s tournament will probably force Deschamps to fall upon his sword, leaving the door ajar for Wenger.
Wenger’s foibles have been covered ad nauseum over the last half decade or so, leaving many to assume is fit for nothing but the scrap heap, yet his remaining assets could gel phenomenally with his national team.
Where many see Wenger as too mild mannered to compete in the cut throat world of the Premier League, the more reserved world of international football meshes well with his protective, grandfatherly management style. His ability to coax the best out of a burgeoning generation of young talent could see him replicate the works of Spain’s similarly matured gaffer, Vicente del Bosque.
The curtain has closed on Wenger’s twenty-two-year Arsenal reign and while many have risen to applaud a career well worked they will miss the bespectacled manager solemnly heading for the side exit, getting ready to begin his next adventure.