THERE is increasing speculation that Arsene Wenger may have just 90 minutes left as Arsenal manager.
This evening’s FA Cup fifth round replay at Hull has taken on greater importance following the Gunners’ 2-2 draw at Tottenham last weekend, a scoreline that leaves them eight points behind Premier League leaders Leicester with just nine games to play.
As a result the FA Cup is looming large as Arsenal’s only chance of silverware this season – given they are 2-0 down to Barcelona after the first leg of their Champions League tie.
The Daily Express reports: “The defining game will be Arsenal’s FA Cup fifth round replay at Hull.
“If the Gunners lose that – before their expected exit from the Champions League in Barcelona on March 16 – the Frenchman is likely to be ‘invited’ to leave the club he has managed for 20 years at the end of the season.
“And former club legend Patrick Vieira, made captain by Wenger in Arsenal’s glory years, last night emerged as favourite to succeed him.
“The decision to potentially replace 66-year-old Wenger is believed to have been seriously considered for the first time after Arsenal’s third successive defeat at home to Swansea last week.”
While we don’t think there is any chance Wenger will be sacked before the end of the season should the Gunners get knocked out of the FA Cup, there certainly appears to be an agenda to move him on, regardless of whether they win the title or not. What was once the safest job in football is now far from that.
But is Vieira the right man?
While the idea might be appealing for Arsenal fans – very much like Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs taking charge at Old Trafford – it would be a massive gamble.
On the pitch Vieira was aggressive, he was a leader – qualities the current Arsenal squad under Wenger have been accused of lacking.
He had few peers in the game as a midfielder but his managerial experience has been limited to reserve team and Elite Development squad manager at Manchester City and one official match in his new role as New York City head coach.
We’ve seen how Manchester United have struggled following the retirement of their long-serving manager Sir Alex Ferguson several years ago. Likewise, it won’t be easy for whoever follows Wenger at Arsenal.
The north London outfit may not have been crowned Premier League champions since 2003-04 and they have regularly exited the Champions League at the first knock-out stage, but their success in being there or thereabouts for the whole of Wenger’s time in charge is nothing to be sneezed at … or taken for granted.
As they say, Arsenal fans, beware what you wish for!
Gunners fans, is it too early to look at Vieira or is he worth a punt?