Arsene Wenger's replacement as Arsenal manager will walk into one of the most difficult jobs in world football, if the Telegraph's latest report is to be believed. They suggest just £50 million will be given to the new boss, meaning the bulk of the regeneration project will be improving the form of those already at the club. This is not the news Arsenal fans wanted to hear.
Luis Enrique has emerged as the early frontrunner, although chief executive Ivan Gazidis is expected to carry out an exhaustive search that could drag on for a couple of months yet. Most of the ten or so names currently linked with the job are indeed on the longlist.
That the list includes so many different types of manager - from young idealists to ageing pragmatists and everything in between – reflects the difficulty of the task facing the Arsenal board. Right now, they have no idea what direction to take the club in, and no idea which type of manager they should choose to succeed Wenger.
The candidates can be roughly placed into three distinct categories: the romantic option with ties to the club but limited managerial experience, the disciplinarian option should Arsenal decide they need someone to lay down the law after years of Wenger's laid back approach, and the Wenger-lite option that looks to continue the Frenchman's model of playing possession football and giving youth a chance.
Here are the three best options in each category:
The romantic option – Mikel Arteta
Mikel Arteta could, in theory, be a superb Arsenal manager. As a La Masia graduate and current assistant to Pep Guardiola, the Spaniard probably believes in a high-pressing possession-based game not dissimilar to Manchester City's. It is certainly a tactical philosophy that chimes with Arteta the player; a graceful central midfielder who prioritised positional intelligence and teamwork over all else.
He is a much-loved figure at Arsenal and was greatly respected as a leader within the dressing room, plus he has five years of experience under Wenger - meaning he knows better than most exactly what was wrong with the Frenchman's later years. The success of Guardiola and Zinedine Zidane over the last ten years has re-popularised the idea of hiring young unproven club favourites, and indeed the early signs suggest Arteta has what it takes.
The biggest stumbling block, of course, is his inexperience. Both Zidane and Guardiola spent time managing the B teams of Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively, while Arteta only has two years as an assistant coach. The pressures of the Arsenal job – not to mention the scale of the rebuilding task – means it might be too much too soon for Arteta. On the plus side, the fans would give him a lot more time to gradually change the culture than, say, Carlo Ancelotti or Joachim Low.
The disciplinarian option – Max Allegri
Arguably the most difficult decision facing the Arsenal board is how to bring in discipline without losing the essence of the club's identity. Many ruthlessly organised coaches, such as Diego Simeone, Rafa Benitez, or Max Allegri, create highly structured teams that prioritise defensive resilience over attacking flair. There are plenty of Arsenal fans who would welcome such a shift considering how badly Arsenal have drifted under Wenger, but to appoint someone like Allegri would be a huge risk.
Arsenal's squad, not to mention its youth academy, is geared to playing a certain style of football. They don't even possess a defensive midfielder, for example, let alone a squad of feisty players willing to snap at the heels and sacrifice themselves for Conte-like aggressive football. Allegri would struggle to impart his tactical ideas on a team set in their ways, particularly since there won't be much money available for reinforcements.
The ability to motivate and organise a squad is often conflated with conservative tactics, but it doesn't have to be that way. Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino, for example, are excellent disciplinarians who have whipped their respective sides into shape; Arsenal should resist the urge to bring in a coach who favours more defensive tactics, instead finding the balance between assertiveness and aestheticism.
The Wenger-lite option - Leonardo Jardim
Which leaves Leonardo Jardim virtually alone in our third group: the Wenger-style tactician with more drive, more bite, than the outgoing Arsenal manager. Thomas Tuchel is widely expected to join Paris Saint-Germain in the summer, ruling him out, leaving Jardim as the most qualified choice to continue the Arsenal brand of attractive football, promote youth players, and bring fresh ideas to the Premier League.
Jardim's success at AS Monaco, winning the league last season and reaching the Champions League semi-final, was just the latest in a long line of outstanding achievements from the 43-year-old. He has performed superbly – and always within the first season – at each of his last six jobs, suggesting he would adapt quickly to English football and know how to get the most out of the Arsenal squad.
In Jardim, Arsenal can appoint a man who hovers somewhere between all the different managerial styles on the longlist, preaching discipline as well as boasting a track record that will earn him respect in the dressing room. He is also young enough to have the energy to start a new long-term project, a factor Gazidis should prioritise; the last thing they need is to bounce aimlessly from manager to manager, from style to style, like Manchester United since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement.
Jardim is, in many ways, a Wenger for the modern era. Arsenal should appoint the Portuguese and, with the promise of being his long-term successor, convince Arteta to become Jardim's number two.