Football Manager stories: From Allegri to Henry – how nine possible Wenger replacements would fare at Arsenal

Football Manager stories: From Allegri to Henry – how nine possible Wenger replacements would fare at Arsenal

Who can possibly replace Arsene Wenger at the Emirates should the Frenchman depart at the end of the season? To find out Squawka simulated nine of his potential successors in the hot-seat for three years at Arsenal to see how they would do.

From bookies favourite Max Allegri and popular candidates Joachim Low, Jorge Sampaoli, Diego Simeone and Thomas Tuchel, to more left-field options such as Eddie Howe, Lucian Favre and Leonardo Jardim, plus Marco Silva, flavour of the month due to his work at Hull City, and former player Thierry Henry, the list of names tested was suitably eclectic.

Rather than dumping him out of the club, Wenger was given a cushy directorship working alongside the Arsenal board, overseeing matters above the dugout. Interestingly, in every single simulation, the Frenchman’s presence at the top lead to a shakeup of the club hierarchy, with figures such as Sir Chips Keswick replaced by new faces with more relevant football experience.

Retiring from the touchline was never likely to lead to full retirement for the three-time Premier League champion, even if in the real world he is adamant he will continue on as a manager, even if he has to leave the Emirates to work.

Yet how did each of the appointments made to take over his position in the game do? Read on to find out.

Max Allegri

FC Juventus v Atalanta BC - Tim Cup

Current club: Juventus

League finishes with Arsenal, year-on-year: 7th, 2nd, champions

Cup wins: None

Highest Champions League finish: Runner-up

Biggest signing: Kevin Volland (£46.5 million)

Allegri did well to hang on after a disastrous first season in the Premier League as Arsenal tumbled out of the top four, falling all the way down to seventh, as the Italian led the club to another Champions League final loss to Barcelona. However, he recovered and set about taking the Gunners not only back up into Europe’s top tier club competition but also all the way to another English league title – their first since 2004.

Over the course of his three seasons in charge, he reshaped his side, dispelling with wingers and instead playing a 5-3-2 formation that eventually saw Alexis Sanchez and big money signing Kevin Volland dovetail as two hard-working, free-roaming forwards behind a midfield that paired Mesut Ozil with Santi Cazorla or Aaron Ramsey.

Sitting in front of a back three, Granit Xhaka, Francis Coquelin, or later signing Victor Lindelof, provided the platform for all this creative talent to combine to make Arsenal champions once again. Mohamed Elneny and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain meanwhile were cast off after immediately after Allegri took over, with the Italian looking to other players for stability in midfield and drive out wide and in attack.

Joachim Low


Current club: Germany

League finishes with Arsenal, year-on-year: 3rd, champions, 3rd

Cup wins: EFL Cup

Highest Champions League finish: Semi-finals (twice)

Biggest signing: Divock Origi (£67 million)

A common shout to take over at the Emirates due to his steady management over Germany’s latest golden generation to win the World Cup in 2014, Low more of less matched expectations after replacing Wenger, winning the Premier League in his second season, retaining a spot in the top four and winning the EFL Cup.

In Europe, he twice took Arsenal into the last four only to be denied the chance to go all the way into the final, while the transfer market saw an enrichment of the squad, although not always in the area that fans may have expected – nor with the sort of players or sums they necessarily wanted, either.

Jack Wilshere was sold to Chelsea while Divock Origi arrived from Liverpool in Low's third season.

Jack Wilshere was sold to Chelsea while Divock Origi arrived from Liverpool in Low’s third season.

Mauro Icardi was signed to lead the line with Divock Origi a surprise club record capture in Low’s second year, with the Belgian’s career in north London unsettled by injuries almost immediately keeping the striker out of his manager’s plans despite the huge outlay made to sign him from Liverpool. The German’s side played in a 4-2-3-1 shape with familiar faces in Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Shkodran Mustafi, Granit Xhaka, Laurent Koscileny, Petr Cech, Aaron Ramsey and Hector Bellerin all retained.

Jorge Sampaoli

Sampaoli has lead Sevilla into the knockout stages of the Champions League: something Emery never managed to do.

Current club: Sevilla

League finishes with Arsenal, year-on-year: 3rd

Cup wins: FA Cup

Highest Champions League finish: Round of 16

Biggest signing: Roberto Firmino (£35 million)

The Argentinian was unceremoniously sacked in January in his second season in charge despite bringing the FA Cup to the Emirates due to being knocked out in the group stages of the Champions League and his poor league position – performance problems that made his position untenable after splurging £166 million in year two.

He moderated his methods for the Premier League, sticking to a 4-3-3 formation rather than attempting to regularly shape-shift his side as he has already become famous for in La Liga. Maybe he learned the lessons of watching Pep Guardiola struggle after arriving at Manchester City?

Arsenal FC_ History Best Eleven-2 (2)

Sampaoli also signed Edinson Cavani, Victor Ruiz and Ruben Neves in his second year shopping spree.

Regardless of the reasons, the former Chile manager was found wanting at the Emirates. A warning to those keen to see him take charge over Wenger in the summer?

Diego Simeone


Current club: Atletico Madrid

League finishes with Arsenal, year-on-year: 2nd, champions, champions

Cup wins: FA Cup, EFL Cup (twice)

Highest Champions League finish: Semi-finals

Biggest signing: Kenny Tete (£21 million)

Not only did the Argentinian bring the glory days back to the Emirates, he did so spending as little possible after his first season in which he spent a hefty sum on young Dutch defender, Kenny Tete. Over the course of the next two season combined, he spent just £13 million across four transfer windows.


Transfers in year two.


Transfers in year three.

Tactically, Simeone opted for a 4-4-2 formation, pairing Danny Welbeck or Alex Iwobi up front with Olivier Giroud as Alexis Sanchez returned to the left side of midfield, with Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey in the middle and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain becoming a key player down the right. Wenger’s first-choice defence of Nacho Monreal, Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscileny and Hector Bellerin remained a constant ahead of Petr Cech. Tete was merely cover.

Simeone merely tweak the existing formula to achieve immense success at the Emirates. Perhaps Wenger’s critics were right all along?

Thomas Tuchel


Current club: Borussia Dortmund

League finishes with Arsenal, year-on-year: 3rd, 2nd, champions

Cup wins: EFL Cup

Highest Champions League finish: Runner-up

Biggest signing: Piotr Zielinski (£58 million)

Denied a Champions League trophy in his second season due to a defeat in the final against Real Madrid, Tuchel was just an FA Cup win short of having conquered Arsenal’s domestic competitions by the end of his third year, though his spending was rather lavish at times.

After dropping £21 million on Barcelona midfielder Rafinha in his first summer in charge, he spent £89 million and then £87 million in his next two seasons, respectively, bringing in Alessandro Florenzi, Mauro Icardi and Pitor Zielinski for big money. Hector Bellerin was benched and Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were limited to playing rotational roles as a result.

Eddie Howe

Eddie Howe

Current club: Bournemouth

League finishes with Arsenal, year-on-year: champions, 3rd, 3rd

Cup wins: None

Highest Champions League finish: Runner-up

Biggest signing: Jordi Alba (£42 million)

Howe went for a hard-working 4-4-2 formation at Arsenal, maintaining the values he espoused as manager of Bournemouth but with higher quality players at the Emirates. Like Simeone, he only made minor tweaks in order to take the club to the top. His only signing in his first year was Vitolo from Sevilla, who played sporadically largely off the bench as the Gunners rose to take the title ahead of their rivals.

Year two saw the Englishman start to put more of his own stamp on his squad, although he failed to consolidate Arsenal’s position at the top of the table and fell away for a season without silverware. He would not win another trophy by the end of the simulation, although he did reach the final of the Champions League in his third campaign, losing to Barcelona 1-0 at the Amsterdam ArenA.


Despite spending £193 million on players, his best XI in year three still featured nine out of 11 of the players who regularly featured in Wenger’s starting line-ups; record-signing Jordi Alba and former Liverpool attacker Roberto Firmino the only additions.

Lucian Favre


Current club: Nice

League finishes with Arsenal, year-on-year: 5th, 4th, champions

Cup wins: None

Highest Champions League finish: Champions

Biggest signing: Mauro Icardi (£47.5 million)

Despite being one the less heralded names thrown into the mix, and initially struggling, Favre came out of his three years at Arsenal fighting winning the Premier League and Champions League in the last season to be simulated. In his second summer at the Emirates, he made Mauro Icardi his record signing after replacing Mustafi with Jeison Murillo and purchasing left winger Samu Castillejo to man the right flank, opposite Alexis Sanchez.

Favre stuck to a 4-2-3-1, giving Mesut Ozil the freedom to play behind the striker and finally getting the best out of Aaron Ramsey in a deeper-lying midfield role. He may have made Arsenal fans wait but by his third year, the Swiss managed to deliver the very trophy Wenger never could.

Leonardo Jardim


Current club: Monaco

League finishes with Arsenal, year-on-year: champions, 4th, 5th

Cup wins: EFL Cup

Highest Champions League finish: Quarterfinals

Biggest signing: Jose Gaya (£38.5 million)

Flying high in Ligue 1 with Monaco, Jardim was an instant success at the Emirates, winning the Premier League and EFL Cup in his first season only for the law of diminishing returns to kick in for the Portuguese coach whose big money signings failed to lift the Gunners back up to the level they achieved in his initial year in charge.

Romelu Lukaku arrived in his second campaign for £36 million followed by Valencia full-back Gaya in his third summer as Jardim slipped further away from the top spot he won directly after taking over from Wenger. In his third term, he even fell out of the Champions League places.

Jose Gaya at Arsenal.

Jose Gaya at Arsenal.

In terms of his tactics, Jardim played both a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-4-2 shape, achieving his greatest success with the latter only to try and move towards the former in his second year before reverting back to type. He too signed Roberto Firmino to partner Giroud up front, with the Brazilian replacing Lucas Perez who was a key player in Jardim’s first season.

Marco Silva

Marco Silva (Hull City)

Marco Silva (Hull City)

Current club: Hull City

League finishes with Arsenal, year-on-year: 2nd, 3rd, 2nd

Cup wins: EFL Cup

Highest Champions League finish: Quarterfinals

Biggest signing: Paulo Dybala (£86 million)

Arguably the most Wenger-esque appointment, Hull City’s manager of the moment steered Arsenal to three steady, top four league positions and a single EFL Cup win, taking his team closest to a trophy with a Champions League semi-final in his first year and an FA Cup semi in his second, losing to Barcelona and Middlesbrough, respectively.

Unlike Wenger, Silva spent lavishly in the transfer market, making Paulo Dybala one of the most expensive players in the history of the game in his second year at the Emirates, and sticking the Argentinian up front in a 4-2-3-1 system that saw Sanchez and Ozil remain on the left and in the middle with Rafinha out on the right. He wasn’t cheap either.


Arsenal’s best XI under Silva.

Alexandre Lacazette finally made his long-awaited move to Arsenal in the Portuguese’s third season, arriving for £58 million, but even that injection of pace and goals couldn’t fire the Gunners into trophy-winning positions.

Thierry Henry

Thierry Henry

Current club: Belgium (assistant manager)

League finishes with Arsenal, year-on-year: 3rd, 4th, 5th

Cup wins: FA Cup

Highest Champions League finish: Semi-finals

Biggest signing: Nabil Fekir (£47 million)

Could Arsenal’s former captain be the club’s very own Pep Guardiola? On this evidence, no. The French forward did a decent job but ultimately failed to keep the Gunners in the Champions League and was beaten in his two semi-finals in the Champions League with only an FA Cup win added to the trophy cabinet under his reign.

By the end of his third season, Henry was under pressure from the board after spending big on Nabil Fekir only to finish fifth, behind Tottenham Hotspur. He too preferred to play a 4-4-2 system with Theo Walcott or Danny Welbeck played alongside Olivier Giroud as his first-choice pairing in attack.

In midfield, he Henry looked for va-va-voom over sense, deploying Mesut Ozil next to Franco Vazquez. All the skill, all the flair and plenty of creativity, but where was the steel? It could be argued that the former frontman took after his old boss in more ways than one.

Arsenal FC_ History Best Eleven (1)

Henry’s best XI as Arsenal manager.