Carlo Ancelotti-type best fit for next Arsenal manager - David Seaman
Former Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman called on the club to hire an experienced manager like Carlo Ancelotti to take over for Arsene Wenger, and hopes the long-time boss' decision to step down will unite fans behind the team again.
Seaman told ESPN FC in an interview that he was "a little bit surprised but also a little bit pleased" to hear Wenger will end his Arsenal reign at the end of the season, since it will ensure he gets a fitting send-off from Arsenal fans.
"The news wasn't as surprising as I thought it would be. But I was glad that we would now have the chance to celebrate him and give him the credit he deserves," Seaman said. "Because now everyone will have the time and the chance appreciate what Arsene Wenger has done for Arsenal Football Club. ...
"It's a good time for it [the announcement]. It gives us a chance to get behind him and get behind the team again. So hopefully now the fans that have been staying away from the games will come back and support the team and support Wenger as well."
The guessing game surrounding Wenger's successor is already picking up steam, with many debating whether the club should appoint a former player with connections to the club -- such as Patrick Vieira, who Wenger mentioned on Thursday -- or hire a more experienced name.
Seaman said he is in favour of the latter option, and singled out Ancelotti as his top choice.
"Ideally for me, a very experienced manager with a lot of stature. Someone like Ancelotti. He's been at big clubs before, he knows what he wants from his team and he'll know what sort of players he wants as well," Seaman said.
"So for me, you need someone with that sort of stature to go into Arsenal and say: 'Right, I want X, Y, and Z, otherwise I'm not coming.'"
Ancelotti, out of work since being sacked by Bayern Munich in September, wouldn't rule himself out of being the next Arsenal boss, telling Sky Sports on Friday: "I can say I would like to work again, but that depends on me. If I find the right possibility, the right project I would be delighted to continue."
Seaman, who played for Arsenal from 1990 to 2003, is considered by many to be the club's greatest-ever goalkeeper and was a key part of Wenger's early title-winning teams. He paid tribute to the Frenchman for the way he "came in and changed everything about Arsenal Football Club," by bringing in new training programmes, diets, fitness regimes -- and a completely new way of playing football.
"When George Graham was there we played a certain style of football that was effective, but it was quite boring. We played a lot of long balls and we challenged for the ball high up in the pitch," Seaman said. "When Arsene came he gave us license to go and play. He made a very wise decision to leave the defence alone, he didn't change that because that had a very good reputation when he came to the club.
"But what he did was he brought in players like Vieira, Emmanuel Petit, Nicolas Anelka and along the years signed real quality players who were already on his regime, so the lads could see the effects. We saw Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Vieira eating massive amounts of food before games and still having lots of energy at the end of the game. It was the right diet, and the lads took that on.
"And that's what Arsene brought, he brought everything to the club. Not just on the field, but he was instrumental in our new training ground, in building the Emirates Stadium. So his legacy is massive."
Seaman also singled out two favourite memories from his days of playing under Wenger: the first time he walked into the dressing room as a complete unknown and the day they won the league title at archrivals Manchester United in 2002.
"The very first day he came, we were like, 'This is our manager? He didn't look like a manager if I'm honest. None of the players knew who he was before he came. All we knew was we'd signed this guy called Arsene Wenger," Seaman said. "Then when he walked through the door, we were like, 'Wow, he looks like a professor or a teacher more than a football manager.' But boy were we shocked.
"Another of my other favourite memories are of him at Old Trafford on the pitch after we just won the league there. The smile on his face and the way he was going around and congratulating the players was really pleasing for me to see. He was hugging everyone and the very fact that were at Man United celebrating that we had just won the league there, that's all you need to say really. That was a great night."
Seaman also had a final warning to those Arsenal supporters who have long called for Wenger to step aside, saying that there's no guarantee that the Gunners will improve under a new manager.
"A lot of Arsenal fans are thinking that we are now going to get so much better. But don't underestimate the standard that Arsene Wenger has set," Seaman said. "When you look back after it settles down a bit, I think people will forget all the negative side of it because he has won so much for Arsenal Football Club."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.