Arsene Wenger made a surprise announcement on Sunday when he named Dragan Stojković as his preference to takeover once he steps down.
He claims there are many similarities between the two and that Dragan would be the perfect fit for his Arsenal side; “I’d love Piksi [Stojkovic’s nickname] to be my successor,” he told Vecernje Novosti. “There are a hundred reasons for that. His football philosophy is almost identical to mine. Our ideas are the same and we both strive for perfect football”. The Serb is currently managing Japanese side Nagoya Grampus Eight, once a team formerly managed by Wenger himself.
But what can we make of this? Just because Wenger himself has suggested Stojković as his successor does this mean that he is necessarily the right choice? The board will obviously have a say as to who will succeed Wenger but for now let’s take a closer look at the man in question.
Dragan Stojković is currently managing Nagoya Grampus Eight, champions of the J-league. In the 2009/10 season Stojković was named Asian coach of the year, but what led him to this point? Stojković started his football in his birthplace of Yugoslavia with Radnički Niš.
He would stay here for up to four seasons, developing into one of the best players in the league, until the summer of 1986 when Red Star Belgrade came in for him. Playing for a bigger team meant he was developing as a player, gaining a reputation in Europe as one of the best attacking central midfielders of his generation.
This is why Marseille paid handsomely for his services in the summer of 1990 for a transfer up to £5.5 million. Unfortunately Stojković never quite lived up to his billing for the French giants and in the Spring of 1994 linked up with Arsene Wenger for the first time playing for Nagoya Grampus Eight. After seven seasons he retired in 2001 to become the Yugoslav Football FA President, following a similar role at Red Star Belgrade he returned to Grampus January 2008.
So what does he have in common with Wenger that would make the right man at the Emirates?
Well he prefers to play attractive football, this is supported by Wenger comments on Sunday; “I knew he was going to have his teams playing attacking football with many passes. He has done that, showing he will be a great coach.” Taking this into account suggests Arsenal’s style would not change helping the players and manager to adapt quickly to each other. Arsenal fans will be happy that their famous free flowing football will be kept, although I’m sure they would like their defence to become sturdier.
Stojković transfer policy is also inclined with Arsenal’s tradition of looking out for young future prospects with the possibility of selling them in the future for big profits. He did this at Red Star bringing in affordable imports, while also looking at the best youth prospects from Serbia itself. It would appear that the transition from Wenger to Stojkovic would be effortless, with a different man bringing in the same ideas, but is that Arsenal needs?
Well for the traditionalists this is a safe appointment. A man that can be trusted to keep Arsenal playing pretty football, signing good young players on the cheap and receiving massive profits when they are sold on. However Arsenal have not won a major trophy since 2005, which surely calls their current philosophy into question?
Banners are constantly appearing at the Emirates reading; “In Arsene we trust” but why? Okay Arsenal are on the brink of winning a trophy for the first time in 6 years but is this enough? A mere Carling Cup to show for all of Arsenal’s pretty football? The last few seasons we have had to put up with Wenger’s constant comments about his youngsters saying; “It’s time to deliver”. Well when is this supposedly going to happen? Time and time again we have seen Arsenal’s title challenge fall away at the end of the season.
People say Arsenal’s pretty football is similar to Barcelona’s, well it would be if they happen to have trophies to back it up. Only last season did we see the clear difference between the two great passing sides, one can defend, one cannot.
Is it not time for Arsenal to substitute some attractive football to make way for a solid team that is able to keep clean sheets? Saturday is a prime example of how fragile they can be. Coasting at 4-0, they hit the self destruction button. You would not see this at a Chelsea or Manchester United game.
When Arsene Wenger retires I believe it is a good chance to change the way of thinking at the Club; to keep star players, to buy star players, and to make them harder to beat. Whether the board take any notice of Wenger’s recommendation only time will tell, but for me unless certain changes are made, big trophies will continue to elude the Arsenal trophy cabinet.