Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger: Mikel Arteta or Patrick Vieria as next boss? ‘Even better’ he says
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Arsene Wenger was in playful mood at London Colney, the heart of the kingdom he has ruled for 22 years, on Wednesday.
Perhaps the weight of expectation has been removed from his shoulders, along with his beloved job, a role, he said at lunchtime, he really didn’t want to leave.
Of course the powers-that-be at the club refused to allow his statement to stand unhindered, so offered an official response this evening, contradicting the Frenchman. To paraphrase the Profumo Scandal’s Cristine Keeler, they would, wouldn’t they?
Yet between the relaxed jokes – at one point he joshed with Danny Welbeck, sitting alongside him, that he had to praise him, in a question he was answering about Sir Alex Ferguson and Wenger – the departing Arsenal boss, made it clear who he thought could be in the frame to assume his role.
Or at the very least, three names that he would be happy with, if not anoint.
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Former Arsenal captains Mikel Arteta and Patrick Vieira are both on the club’s shortlist as potential candidates to take over this summer.
And when the names were put to the long-serving Wenger he did not demur.
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“[There is a] need to make the right decision, even if you have to be bold.
“Is it former people that worked here? That is even better. But there are many players who had qualities. Some of them are in the job. I don’t influence that choice but I will stand behind the decision.”
Vieira, the manager of New York City, said earlier this week he was flattered to have been linked with the job, saying: “It’s not something which will stop me doing what I am doing at the moment.
“I don’t want this to be perceived that I want to go because I don’t want to leave.
“But if the question is as simple as: ‘Are you ready to manage any teams in Europe?’ then I would say: ‘Yes. I am ready.’”
Wenger was relaxed as he discussed Thursday night’s Europa League semi-final first leg at home against Atletico Madrid – even joking with a Spainish reporter, asking her: ‘Don’t they speak English in Spain anymore?’ on the issue of translating a question.
His laid back attitude even allowed him to speak of another potential candidate in glowing terms – Luis Enrique.
Arsenal’s head of football relations Raul Sanllehi was director of football at Barcelona when Enrique was in charge at the Nou Camp.
He said of the former Barcelona boss: “I have a high opinion of him, I do not want to influence the job for the next manager but of course I have a high opinion of Luis.”
Wenger also admitted he will continue to work after leaving the Emirates even though he added he was not ready to commit to anything else at the moment.
When asked if he would take a year off he responded: “It’s long, a year. 365 days. I don’t know. I leave myself a little bit open and freedom to decide what I want to do with my life.”
In the meantime Wenger focuses on the tie with Diego Simeone’s Atletico – a clash he believes he was to win to avoid an anti-climax to his 22-year reign.
Danny Welbeck added: “Winning the Europa League would be the icing on the cake [in terms of Wenger’s career].”
However, one mangerial candidate who has ruled himself out of the job is Atleti boss Simeone, who when speaking at the Emirates before Diego Costa trained with the side on Wednesday evening, denied Arsenal had approached him to discuss becoming the next manager.
“I have not any contact from Arsenal” he said emphatically.