Former Arsenal midfielder Ray Parlour believes Diego Simeone is the “obvious choice” to replace Arsene Wenger as manager because it is “too early” for a club legend such as Patrick Vieira or Thierry Henry to take the job.
Wenger’s future has once again been thrown into doubt following Arsenal’s collapse this season. With rivals Chelsea and Manchester United enduring a poor season in the Premier League, Arsenal were handed their best chance of ending a 12-year title drought and appeared well position at Christmas to challenge for top honours.
But a dreadful run of two victories in nine matches saw the Gunners fall out of title contention as well as suffer elimination in the Champions League and FA Cup to Barcelona and Watford respectively, and their form has continued to wobble in the season run-in that is threatening a 20th-consecutive top-four finish, with United now just five points behind with a game in hand.
Failure to qualify for the Champions League would make Wenger’s position at the club extremely fragile given pre-season expectations of winning the title, and despite his 19-year reign at the club elevating him to legendary status, even he would find it difficult to remain manager after such a failure.
Parlour, who won three Premier League titles and four FA Cups under Wenger’s stewardship, believes that the current Atletico Madrid head coach would be the leading contender to replace Wenger should he leave this summer, although he did admit that fans would have to accept a slightly less attractive style of play that could prove to be more successful.
“The obvious choice would be probably Simeone but it would probably go back to a bit more of a negative style of play,” Parlour told Talksport.
“It gets results don’t get me wrong, but whether the Arsenal fans would want that…
“Who else is there? Would Ronald Koeman from Southampton (be the one)?
“I’m sure Southampton fans out there will be saying ‘Well no we want to keep Ronald Koeman’ and understandably so. A manager of that calibre can attract players.”
Two former Arsenal greats who have been tipped with a future role at the club are Vieira and Henry, but with the latter not holding any managerial experience and the former currently tied down to Manchester City’s franchise – having taken charge of New York City FC after a spell with City’s academy – neither is likely to succeed Wenger.
“I’d love to see one of (Arsenal’s) own, but I think it’s probably a bit too early yet, someone like (Thierry) Henry or (Patrick) Vieira,” Parlour added.
“Vieira’s at Manchester City so that makes that a bit awkward, so I don’t know, I really don’t know, that’s the big question that the board has got to make a decision on.”
Wenger still has one year left to run on his contract, though he has admitted himself that although the club expressed an interest in extending his deal earlier in the season he is not yet ready to think about his future beyond the 2016/17 season.