Rumours are rife that Wenger has not signed the new contract on offer and is considering not doing so. Some feel and I agree that he is a man of honour and will not sign this deal unless he feels he had taken Arsenal forward this season and that he can do so gain in 2014/15.
It would be hard to argue in any footballing sense that we have progressed as a team as we are certainly not playing an improved or different brand of football. The fact that we are so predictable and the samey and even more so without the pace of Ramey and Walcott is undeniable for me at least On the flipside we have attracted a world star in Ozil, spent big in the process and we have a realistic chance of finally winning a trophy , the FA Cup. Whether that will be enough to convince a wavering fan base remains to be seen but given his position and what he had achieved for the football club, that is perhaps not as relevant what the man himself feels.
None of us know what Wenger might be thinking but if he is not having doubts about his vision for the team after the last 2 months he lacks the integrity I believe he has. What cannot ever be questioned is the deep love he has for the institution that is Arsenal FC and that he will always want what is best for it. He will have to determine if he has the strength and conviction to take on the task for 2 more years and it that is what is best for his club.
So what if he determines that this summer is the time to pass on the baton who will pick it up for the next leg? What comes next from me is largely guesswork and theorisation but not all.
In January it was announced that Dutchman Andries Jonker would be taking over from Liam Brady as Head of Youth Development at the club. When it was reported that the appointment was made by Gazidis and not Wenger I was intrgued. That piece of information piqued my interest a while ago and I read up on Jonker, who has an impressive coaching pedigree. My mind began working overtime when this week I read he is bringing in two other Dutch coaches, Frans de Kat and Jan van Loon taking over the Under 18s and Under 16s respectively.
I began to wonder if a contingency plan might not already be in motion should Wenger decide not to sign. After all there is a fairly obvious precedent for the club bringing in a man, who whilst not a big name was in fact a widely respected coach. This would not fit with the social media clamour for a Low, Klopp or a Martinez but there can be no doubting the 51 year olds credentials both within the Dutch FA set up, as a right hand man to Louis van Gaal and as a number one to a degree in his own right.
Van Gaal and Jonker first teamed up at Barcelona in 2002/3 but it was between 2009 and 2012 at Bayern Munich that he truly came to the fore. Between 2009 and 2011 he coached Bayern’s first team Bundesliga triumph, the German Cup in 2010 and to a Champions League final in the same year. Even when Van Gaal was sacked in the April of 2011 Jonker was asked to remain as interim manager and won 4 and drew one of the last 5 games. A period which the Bayern players enjoyed as this quote from our favourite player Robben will beat testament to: ‘Andries Jonker brought joy back to training and we rallied under him.’
When Heynckes returned to steady the ship and ultimately take the Bayern back to the peak Jonker was retained in the final year of his contract and asked to take the Bayern Munich II and oversea potential future stars.
I am certain a question over such a promotion to a top job might be around the ability of Jonker to attract the big names the Arsenal fans crave. However it is as important to further develop those we have who are on the brink of greatness such as Chamberlain, Wilshere and Ramsey. A quick look back to the period of 2009 and 2011 in Munich might give an indication.
Tomas Muller – Promoted from Bayern II by Van Gaal/Jonker 2009
Toni Kroos – Brought back from loan and promoted by Van Gaal/Jonker 2010
Holger Badstuber – Promoted from Bayern II by Van Gaal/Jonker 2009
David Alaba – Promoted from Bayern II 2009 and loaned to Hoffenhein 2010 for experience by Van Gaal/Jonker
Luis Gustavo – Signed from Hoffenheim for Bayern Jan 2011 by Van Gaal/Jonker. (Followed him to Wolfsburg!)
Obviously all this is conspiracy theory and I am not claiming it is anything more but what we do know is that the footballing philosophy of Jonker would be very similar to that we have become accustomed to. We also know that he has experience of working with the very best talent in Europe.
But he is not a big name though right?
One final interesting factor to add to the mix is that we all know Van Gaal is stepping down as Dutch National team boss after the World Cup. We also know he has expressed an interest in managing in the Premiership and has even thrown his hat in the ring to manage in North London in Seven Sisters. If the Arsenal job was to be available and given a choice I think we all know who he would choose!
Van Gaal has won leagues in Holland and the Champions League with Ajax and the old UEFA Cup. In Spain with Barca he won back to back La Ligas and the Copa Del Ray. At Bayern he oversaw, with Jonker the season I described in 2010, winning a domestic double, signed Robben and converted Schweinsteiger from a winger to one of the best centre midfielders in the world.
He has just lead the Dutch to Brazil undefeated winning 9 out of 10 qualifiers and unlike Martinez, Klopp and Guardiola is available should our present manager decide to hand up his coat and it’s troublesome zip. Is a Jonker coach and Van Gaal Technical Director or Jonker assistant to Van Gaal not quite an interesting combination?
Until next time
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