Luis Enrique is being linked with a move to take over at Arsenal, but beware – the former Barcelona boss might be the wrong fit for the Emirates
After Arsene Wenger’s surprise departure announcement, Arsenal’s bench has suddenly become one of the most sought-after prizes in European football. Many managers have expressed interest in taking over from the legendary French coach at the Emirates Stadium, but only a handful have made Arsenal’s shortlist.
Luis Enrique Martínez is one of them.
“Of course I have a high opinion of Luis Enrique”, said Mr. Wenger in his latest press conference, “but I do not want to influence the job of the next manager”. Straight from the horse’s mouth. In that sense, the Gunners board can be confident about having the legend’s blessing from the get-go.
Luis Enrique has requested £200m to spend this summer, something chief executive Ivan Gazidis is against, making the Spaniard becoming Arsenal manager very complicated. [@Kike_Marin_] #afc pic.twitter.com/S2uUHJc7OP
— afcstuff (@afcstuff) April 28, 2018
However, Arsenal fans must know that there are a number of pretty big differences between both managers. Having grown used to Arsene’s 22-year saga on their bench, the Asturian coach has a radically different approach to different areas. To begin with, their personalities: Luis Enrique might be one of the most difficult characters in Spanish football, while Wenger has always been known for his calm, affable approach to whoever would talk to him, both in the personal and professional field.
If we extrapolate this to their relationship with the press, whereas Wenger was (almost) always the suave, respected and respectful figure, Luis Enrique is as acid as a lemon. He had his fair share of conflicts with journalists in his tenure at FC Barcelona, and he doesn’t take any sort of criticism well. And that’s a potential source of trouble if we think about how implacably cruel some British headlines can be if the team doesn’t deliver.
But, football is the most important area here, right? What about Luis Enrique’s tactical expertise? If – a pretty big if at this point – he became Arsenal’s new manager, we would see a very different team than Wenger’s. As everyone already knows, Luis Enrique was the person responsible to morph Guardiola’s possession-driven football style, which he set in stone between 2008 and 2012, into a frantic, fast-paced, fast-break-driven attacking pattern.
High-pressure, stealing the ball quickly, using Suarez, Neymar and Messi to destroy opposite teams with clinical precision.
Now, obviously Arsenal hasn’t got that kind of firepower nowadays… and that also might be one of the first things Luis Enrique demands if we actually lands in London this summer. Reportedly, he has already asked for a strong, ambitious investment as a top requirement. And when we say strong, we mean ‘strong’: it might reach, even surpass, the $250 million tag. Midfielder Radja Nainggolan seems to be one of the players to pique the Asturian’s interest, as he has good reports from his performance with Roma over the last four seasons.
In that sense, fostering young talent is another area where Wenger made his mark many years ago and Luis Enrique has a completely different approach. Under Arsene, many rookie players had their first taste of top-flight competition and grew over the years to become full-fledged stars. Wenger became some sort of father-like figure for most of them.
On the other hand, Luis Enrique hasn’t had that kind of mentor-like relationship with footballers both in Barça B, AC Roma, Celta de Vigo or Barça. He always relied on veteran, experienced players. Even Neymar, young as he was when he came to Spain, was already pretty experienced in big fixtures.
As it often happens, measuring Luis Enrique’s impact on Arsenal will only be possible if he actually arrives at the team in the following weeks. Nothing guarantees he will be successful, even if he has had his fair share of success earlier on his career.
However, coming from the Barça-style football school, possibly the contrast might be a tad too steep to achieve immediate success. Arsene Wenger was and is a legend, while Luis Enrique (now 47) has only been coaching for about ten years. As most would expect, Arsenal fans would need to be as patient as possible after 22 years of witnessing more-than notable performances from their players.