Tuchel unlikely? What next for Arsenal after Wenger exit?

New faces behind the scenes, a five-man shortlist and the dilemma of whether to go for experience or potential.

This is the backdrop as Arsenal seek a new manager for the first time in nearly 22 years after Arsene Wenger’s announcement he will step down at the end of the season.

But where does the news leave the north London club? And what might happen next? BBC Sport’s David Ornstein explains…

Big-name boss? Or promising coach?

Chief executive Ivan Gazidis says Arsenal had not begun sounding out replacements before Friday and I suspect Wenger will not have a say.

Leading the process will be Gazidis, alongside head of football relations Raul Sanllehi and head of recruitment Sven Mislintat.

Arsenal have been linked to the former Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel, who has admirers at the club. But any move might have been complicated by the fact he fell out with Mislintat when they were together in Germany.

That will likely be irrelevant, though, as it is my understanding he is going to take charge of Paris St-Germain.

Thomas Tuchel

Big-name options such as Max Allegri, from Juventus, and former AC Milan, Real Madrid and Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti have been mentioned but a younger coach – one who is more willing to slot into the club’s revamped structure – might be more appealing.

That is why former captain Mikel Arteta – an assistant to Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and said to be admired by Gazidis – and another former skipper Patrick Vieira – who is at New York City – have been linked, although both lack elite-level management experience. Likewise, club record goalscorer Thierry Henry, who is currently Belgium assistant coach.

The backgrounds of Sanllehi and Mislintat have seen suggestions that Luis Enrique – who Sanllehi worked with at Barcelona – and Hoffenheim boss Julian Nagelsmann – who Mislintat knows from Germany – could also be candidates.

But Arsenal will not seek simply to make a quick appointment.

What has been happening behind the scenes?

Arsenal has become a deeply political club at board level. They were split on whether Wenger should have signed a new two-year contract last summer, and that situation had not changed.

The difference compared to a year ago is that Arsenal have a new structure off the pitch – Sanllehi arrived from Barcelona; Mislintat from Dortmund; head of negotiations Huss Fahmy from Team Sky; and head of high performance Darren Burgess from Australian Rules football.

All four have inherited significant power and influence, and worked with American majority shareholder Stan Kroenke to put a structure in place for life beyond Wenger.

The only new head of department that had not been appointed was a head coach. The only question was whether that would be Wenger or not.

Until extremely recently, even some of the most powerful people at the club did not know this was coming. Indeed, there remained a feeling he may see out his contract.

However, I have heard suggestions that a five-strong shortlist was drawn up to present to Kroenke in the event of Wenger leaving.

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‘Wenger closer to leaving last year than we knew’

Wenger’s possible departure had been a talking point for months, even years. Every time there was a bad period of form, the rumours started and this recent poor run did not feel any different.

Even when it became known a meeting of staff and players had been called for 09:45 BST on Friday – unusual on a recovery day for players – it was still thought he would not leave.

The Frenchman has never broken a contract and it is my understanding the club were prepared to see how the season concluded and, provided there was not a catastrophe, leave him in charge until the end of his deal next summer.

I was told very recently that Wenger was as stubborn, determined and energetic as ever and if he was to leave he would need to be dragged out kicking and screaming.

However, it is my understanding Wenger was closer to walking away towards the end of last season than we knew at the time. Those closest to him were advising him to leave on a high after the FA Cup win against Chelsea in May.

But at that time, Arsenal did not have a plan in place to replace him. They were not set up to start a recruitment process. Wenger knew as much and felt – rightly or wrongly – that he would be leaving them in the lurch. He felt it was an obligation to carry on and he thought he could have one last crack at leading this team to success.

But things have deteriorated, both on the pitch and in the stands. Ask people what has changed and the response is “that is the problem – nothing”.

Wenger has always been the great survivor at Arsenal, he has taken all the bullets and carried on, shielding the board, players and club. But it is only human that he started to feel the criticism piercing him.

Arsene Wenger Premier League stats: Games 823, wins 473, losses 151, goals scored 1,549, league titles

‘It was a genuinely mutual decision’

It’s not clear who made the first move, but this has been an ongoing discussion for some time. It had become inevitable.

There was a feeling on Wenger’s side that it would be best to do it now, in conjunction with the club hierarchy, to enable him to have a fitting send-off.

If they were to suffer a heavy defeat in the Europa League, there was a chance he would have to leave in unceremonious fashion. Nobody wanted that. And if they were to win it, Arsenal could end up in the same situation in a year’s time.

The overwhelming feeling is that this is the right decision and my understanding is that it was genuinely mutual.

By sorting it out earlier, this gives Arsenal the ability to start a recruitment process without doing it behind Wenger’s back, or starting too late.

How will the fans react?

Banners calling for Wenger to leave

The decision has been greeted well, tinged with sadness and nostalgia as expected, but also hope and optimism that Arsenal can reunite a fractured fanbase and rally round a new manager.

In recent years, there has been a very nasty environment. Fans have been divided, there have been fights among Arsenal supporters in stadiums, protests inside and outside grounds, banners saying ‘it’s time to go’ and the slogan ‘In Arsene we trust’ being replaced by ‘In Arsene we rust’.

The large swathes of empty seats at Emirates Stadium were a sign that the anger had turned into apathy.

Arsenal, who used to break records for all the right reasons, were breaking records for the wrong ones – they are the only side in the top four divisions to have lost every away league match this year.

West Ham on Sunday is the penultimate home Premier League game of Wenger’s reign.

Despite growing opposition in recent times, there will be huge support, respect and gratitude from a large crowd. ‘There’s only one Arsene Wenger’ may well be sung for the first time in many, many months.

The decision has galvanised the fans to get behind the club as they push for victory in the Europa League.

What might Wenger do next?

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Wenger has had offers but, short of an opportunity he feels is too good to turn down, it is likely he will take a break for the first time in more than 30 years. It is what those closest to him are advising.

We are sure to see him at the World Cup in Russia, where he is expected to work for a French broadcaster, but after that it is very likely he will manage again.

Exactly where is far from clear. It could be club or international level but if something tickles his fancy – be it because of the environment or potential – I can see him doing it.

But he’s not in a rush to get back doing it quickly and who can blame him?

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