Arsenal eye Germany's Joachim Low to replace Arsene Wenger - sources
Germany coach Joachim Low will be the leading candidate to succeed Arsene Wenger, sources have told ESPN FC, if, as is becoming increasingly likely, the Arsenal manager's 22-year reign ends this summer.
Wenger's grip on his position has weakened significantly in recent weeks, with the team on a run of four successive defeats in all competitions, and sources close to the first-team squad at the Emirates have also told ESPN FC that some senior players have now lost faith in the Frenchman and believe changes are needed in the dressing room and on the training pitch.
Although Wenger's contract as manager is not due to expire until June 2019, having signed a two-year deal after last season's FA Cup final victory over Chelsea, the 68-year-old is losing support within the Arsenal hierarchy.
Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim and Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers have their admirers at the Emirates, but sources have told ESPN FC that Low would be the preferred candidate.
Low, 58, is under contract with the German national football association (DFB) until the end of Euro 2020, but many within the game say he could be tempted to take on the challenge of club management after this summer's World Cup in Russia, where Germany will defend the trophy won four years ago in Brazil.
Having landed the Germany job in 2006 after stepping up from his previous role as Jurgen Klinsmann's assistant with the national team, Low has re-established Die Mannschaft as the powerhouse of world football by winning the World Cup in 2014 and then last year's Confederations Cup in Russia without the majority of the nation's senior players,
But even though he has not managed at the club level since leaving his post as Austria Vienna coach in 2004, Low is regarded as having the credentials -- experience, successful track record and ability to manage star players -- to take charge of a club of Arsenal's stature.
Should Wenger leave Arsenal this summer, the search for his successor will be led by chief executive Ivan Gazidis, who has overseen the appointments in recent months of several key figures behind the scenes.
Sven Mislintat has arrived from Borussia Dortmund as head of recruitment, with former Barcelona director of football Raul Sanllehi coming in as head of football relations.
Huss Fahmy is another Gazidis recruit, arriving at the Emirates last summer as contract negotiator from a previous role with cycling's Team Sky.
But while Gazidis has driven a quiet revolution in the corridors of powers aimed at ensuring a smooth transition when Wenger vacates the manager's office, a source close to one senior player has told ESPN FC that the squad have grown frustrated by the lack of change and evolution in Wenger's department.
"A lot of the players don't want Wenger," the source said. "They are not happy with his tactics and the training.
"The players don't want any particular manager to come in -- some speak about Thierry Henry, Carlo Ancelotti and even Rafa Benitez -- but they are really frustrated.
"A lot of them are also unhappy about the sale of Alexis Sanchez to Manchester United. Alexis could be difficult at times, but the players think it sent the wrong message to sell him to a rival."
But while there is a sense of exasperation among the players about the training methods and the intensity of training at key stages of the week, and also Wenger's inability to connect with modern players as he did with his squad during the club's successful period of the late 1990s and early 2000s, there are some at Arsenal who believe the players have also let themselves and Wenger down.
One source has told ESPN FC that the "finger-pointing" within the squad is down to a lack of players willing to take responsibility and act as leaders, on and off the pitch.
Wenger's fate is not yet sealed, but the Europa League round of 16 tie against AC Milan has become hugely significant now that the team has fallen 13 points adrift of fourth place, and Champions League qualification, in the Premier League.
Any failure to win the Europa League, which carries Champions League qualification as a prize for the winners, would leave Wenger relying on the faith of majority shareholder Stan Kroenke to keep him in a job.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_