Arsenal replacing Wenger easier than United finding Ferguson successor
Arsene Wenger will doubtless leave a big void at Arsenal when he does decide to step down -- whether it be this summer or further down the line.
But will he be as difficult to replace as Sir Alex Ferguson was at Manchester United? That's a worry often shared by the section of the Arsenal fan base cautioning the more militant "Wenger Out" brigade to be careful what they wish for, having seen United struggle to compete with their top rivals since Ferguson stepped down in 2013.
Like Ferguson, Wenger has been in charge for more than two decades and has helped shape everything about the way the club is run. But it seems clear that the Frenchman's eventual successor will have a much easier task filling his shoes than David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho did with Fergie at Old Trafford.
Here are five reasons:
Ferguson was winning titles
It was always going to be impossible to improve on what Ferguson had achieved at United, and when he left there was nowhere for the club to go but down. Ferguson had delivered five Premier League titles in his last seven years, along with one Champions League trophy and two runner-up finishes in that span. He left on a high after leading the club to their 20th league crown, having wrested back supremacy from crosstown rival City despite a squad that was arguably one of the weakest of his 26-year reign.
In contrast, improving on Wenger's recent record should not only be possible but even probable. Arsenal's league drought dates back to 2004, with two FA Cup trophies the only silverware Wenger has delivered since that unbeaten Premier League campaign. This year they were out of the title race by February, exited the Champions League in the round of 16 for the seventh straight season, and face a tougher scrap than ever just to get into the top four of the league. Many would say the only way to go for the Gunners is up.
Ferguson got the best out of players
Whether it was through fear or ingenious tactics, Ferguson always seemed to squeeze the maximum out of his players -- as evidenced by the dramatic drop in their performances after he left. Wenger, on the other hand, has struggled to get the best out of a squad that is one of the deepest in the Premier League. Fans are still waiting for players like Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to reach their full potential, while even world-class stars like Mesut Ozil have a worrying habit of disappearing in big games.
Wenger is often criticised for using too much carrot and not enough stick when it comes to motivating players, and their lack of mental strength has been a constant theme during recent campaigns. There is no doubt that a majority of the Arsenal squad enjoy playing for Wenger, but a younger manager who is also a stricter disciplinarian and won't put up with sub-par performances could be what they need to move to the next level.
Arsenal should avoid repeat of Moyes mistake
In hindsight, it's easy to say that bringing in David Moyes as Ferguson's replacement was a mistake. The club needed a more authoritarian figure with his own collection of trophies on his CV that would demand instant respect from the players. And Arsenal will surely avoid a repeat of that blunder by hiring a proven winner. Ferguson was allowed to pick his own successor, but Wenger himself has wisely said he will leave the decision up to the board. Juventus boss Max Allegri seems the best choice, even though the club is reportedly also considering candidates like Borussia Dortmund's Thomas Tuchel. But it's hard to see them taking a chance on someone like Bournemouth's Eddie Howe, especially having seen what happened with Moyes at United.
Everything is in place to succeed
Ferguson left behind a squad with ageing veterans that had arguably overachieved by winning the league title and was in massive need of a big overhaul. Arsenal's squad could need reshaping too, especially if Ozil and Alexis Sanchez don't sign new contracts, but the new manager will inherit a core of players who should be approaching their prime. Add to that a handful of very exciting academy prospects and cash reserves of around £120 million to spend in the transfer market, and everything is in place for a new manager to hit the ground running. Arsenal's financial future is secure, their facilities are top class and London is a city that helps attract top foreign players. It's hard to imagine a better situation to step into.
Club should hire a sporting director
Replacing Wenger will probably not be a one-man job. The Frenchman has been heavily involved in every major decision made at the club over the last 20 years, from strategic plans like moving to the Emirates or redesigning the training centre, to having the ultimate say on every transfer. When he moves, the club will surely restructure their hierarchy and bring in someone as a sporting director or equivalent position who will allow the new manager to focus solely on what's happening on the training ground. The Daily Telegraph reported on Tuesday that the search for such a candidate has already begun, while some have speculated that Wenger himself could move into a director's role when he steps down in order to ensure a level of continuity. Either way, it seems clear that Wenger's eventual successor will not have to take care of all the duties the Frenchman has been handling.
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.