Why Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe is a strong candidate to succeed Arsene Wenger as Arsenal manager
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Eight years ago this month Bournemouth appointed a 32-year-old Eddie Howe as manager. Five months later he saved the Cherries from relegation from the Football League – after starting the season on minus 17 points.
He got them promoted from the fourth tier the following season and, after a brief interlude at Burnley, the prodigal son – who also played more than 250 matches in two spells between 1994 and 2007 for the homely south-coast club – won two further promotions in three years to deliver them into the promised land of the Premier League.
Howe’s attention to detail is well-known, and his preparation against opponents is second to none. He speaks well, lives for the game and is highly respected within the sport.
So you can’t fail to see the comparisons between Howe, now 39, and an experienced manager who clearly respects him deeply – Arsene Wenger.
Many are already intimating that the way Wenger speaks so highly of the younger man, in whom he clearly sees something of his 30-something self, indicates the Aylesbury-born journeyman defender may be something of an appointment-in-waiting once Wenger does finally leave Arsenal.
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Despite his team being overrun – on the back of two hugely damaging defeats in the north-west before Christmas – the Frenchman appears no nearer to leaving any time soon, so Howe may well have to bide his time.
But that should be seen as a good thing for the current Bournemouth manager as it will give him the chance to prove himself at the next level.
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For if the hugely impressive Howe can get some experience at the top end of the table and in European football over the next few seasons – via a move to a club with far bigger resources than Bournemouth – then his CV will show he can cope with the demands of a large club peopled by large egos. And if he does so, he could and should be in contention to become Arsenal manager by the end of the decade.
For now, Cherries fans should enjoy him while they can – for his star is very much in the ascendancy. But at 3-0 up with fewer than 25 minutes remaining, and as the 1,243 frustrated travelling Arsenal fans started singing: ‘This is embarrassing’, Wenger’s men finally roused themselves.
Two quick goals – one from Alexis Sanchez and the other a sublime and perfectly executed Lucas Perez volley from an acute angle – set up a grandstand finish.
Even after Simon Francis’ harsh 82nd-minute sending off, when he wrapped a leg around Aaron Ramsey – who had switched to a more defensive role following a first-half injury to Francis Coquelin – you still couldn’t tell whether the Gunners would score a third or Bournemouth a fourth. It was that sort of game.
However, Olivier Giroud put a seal on his special week by netting another important goal, this time a glancing header from a Granit Xhaka cross deep into the six minutes of injury time to make the game 3-3.
The travelling fans understandably went bonkers – as did the players – and referee Michael Oliver blew moments later to end a memorable, if inexplicable, game.
The headlines will show Arsenal clawing back a three-goal deficit against an impressive Bournemouth side. Questions should of course be asked as to why Wenger’s men were 3-0 down in the first place, but they will wait for another day – as will the growing clamour for Eddie Howe to become a future Arsenal manager.