The English soccer world was rocked on Friday morning with the news that Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will not return to the club next season, ending what will be a 22-year-run at the helm of one of the most prolific squads in Europe.
“I am grateful for having had the privilege to serve the club for so many memorable years,” said Wenger (h/t BBC). “I managed the club with full commitment and integrity. To all the Arsenal lovers, take care of the values of the club.”
Taking over the club in 1996, Wenger is the current longest-tenured manager in the Premier League, though he’s had plenty of issues living up to the high expectations that come with leading Arsenal.
He was an incredible success over the first nine years at the helm, winning three Premier League titles and four FA Cups. His most successful campaign came in 2003-04 when his side became the first team since Preston North End in 1888-89 to finish a league season unbeaten where they became known as “The Invincibles.”
After winning the 2005 FA Cup, Wenger and Arsenal went nine years without a trophy, a dry spell that was deemed unacceptable by many. They’ve won a pair of FA Cups in 2014 and 2017, but that’s been the extent of their success.
They bowed out of the Round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League in each of the last seven seasons from 2010-2017. The Gunners did not qualify for the Champions League this season after finishing fifth in the Premiership last year.
This season, Arsenal is on pace to finish sixth in the Premier League, which would be their worst finish since the 1994-95 campaign.
Now the club will have to find a successor to fill some pretty large shoes given the longevity of Wenger’s stay in London and a possible option could be right here in New York.
New York City FC (NYCFC) manager Patrick Vieira is currently applying his trade in MLS but he’s no stranger to the big stages of European soccer. As a player, Vieira spent nine seasons with Wenger at Arsenal as an elite holding midfielder, his longest tenure from a list that includes other clubs like AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus and Manchester City.
Here in the United States, Vieira currently has his NYCFC side atop MLS’ Eastern Conference with the best record in the league. His performance has been something Wenger has seemingly been watching for quite some time.
According to BeIn Sports (via AFCStuff.com) Wenger has recommended Vieira as his replacement at Arsenal.
“I’ve followed his managerial career. I think he does very well but overall, this Premier League is special,” Wenger said. “You have to come in and there are plenty of former players who played here who have potential, the intelligence and knowledge to do it.”
Vieira attempted to put those rumors to rest over the weekend, but the longer the vacancy at Arsenal remains unfilled, the more the rumors of him returning to London might grow.
“I spent nine years at Arsenal which makes the club really special for me,” Vieira told WNYE radio. “But that is not enough to coach the team. I am always flattered to hear my name linked with different football clubs. That is good for your ego but at the same time, I am happy here. We will see what will happen in the next couple of years.”