Arsene Wenger has been touted as the next England manager, but Brian Glanville thinks he would be a terrible appointment.
And the next England manager will be… Arsene Wenger? In the immortal words of John McEnroe, “You cannot be serious!”
Yet various usually reliable football correspondents have been treating the idea as though it were fully serious. Suggesting that England’s job can wait out the year of Wenger’s Arsenal contract which remains.
Many years ago Wenger was offered the role of manager of his native French international team but turned it down. I am sure he would have made an excellent job of it. But for the last couple of years at least, he has seemed a manager whose best days are a good way behind him. Apart from that recent FA Cup final victory, what have the Gunners won in recent years. Being finalists in the European Cup is no more than a remote memory. Nowadays, the Gunners find their way through the group stage but that tends to be that.
Last season, Arsenal it is true were runners up in the Premiership. Yet they finished ten full points behind the actual champions, Leicester City. Watford beat them at The Emirates in the FA Cup. True, there was nothing as embarrassing as the heavy defeats a couple of seasons ago by Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool, when any manager of the leading Italian club would be on his way. Wenger stayed.
Arsenal’s once so resolute and impregnable defence has faltered all too often in recent campaigns. Attacking play has often been good to watch but has tended towards over-elaboration and the failure to exploit advantage. Why, in what is surely the final phases of Wenger’s distinguished, original and innovative career, has he to offer England’s team now?
Who then, if not Wenger? Here I confess myself baffled. Ideally it would be another Englishman. Some years ago I hoped it would be Steve Coppell, but he has, alas, faded out of the picture. Sam Allardyce? Steve Bruce? They could hardly make a poorer job of it than my old friend Roy Hodgson in France this summer, when common sense seemed to go out of the window, decisions were disastrous, and the ultimate humiliation after England had been knocked out by tiny Iceland was to see the Icelanders themselves brushed aside by France. Yet not being Roy, not being obviously liable to making so many mistakes, is hardly in itself a sufficient guarantee.
Alan Pardew was absolutely right to pour scorn on Alan Shearer’s sudden self-promoted candidacy for the role. As Pardew pointed out, Shearer’s managerial experience was brief and disastrous when he took over at his old club Newcastle united near the end of a disastrous season and failed to save them from slipping out of the Premier League.
Another foreign coach? Memories of Sven Goran Eriksson, that tricky, amorous fellow, and Fabio Capello – ludicrously prolonged in office thanks to an elderly confused councillor preventing the termination of his contract after World Cup failure. Southgate even after his triumph at Toulon, says he doesn’t want the job Claudio Raineri has been mentioned, but why would he want to leave Leicester City where he has done so wonderfully well?
I still believe that Roy Hodgson should have been given the job after the USA World Cup finals of 1994 when he worked wonders with Switzerland. Getting the better of Italy in the qualifiers, taking the Swiss to the finals. But I don’t think he was considered and when at last he did get the position, it turned out to be too late.
England’s squad in France was surely strong enough to give decent account of itself but things went wrong from the first. The writing was well and truly on the wall after the benighted draw with Russia. A team lacking its best two midfield players and a big, ponderous central defence which seemed made to be exploited by Jamie Vardy and his pace. In the event he and Sturridge didn’t get on till the second half of the next match against Wales. Who would do splendidly well, without remotely as much supposed talent that England had in their squad.
The catalogue of errors was long and bewildering, I am a great admirer of Jack Wilshire but he plainly couldn’t be match fit. All too palpable was Joe Hart’s crisis of confidence but he stayed between the posts to commit expensive errors. Andros Townsend should have gone, not Raheem Sterling. And so on and sadly on.