Making the Case for… Part 1: Frank de Boer

By ‘#ABW Chief Blogger’ The Other Geoff (@Hollefreund)

A few weeks ago, I approached our Regular Columnists, Simon Collings (@sr_collings) and Jake Arsenal (@JakeArsenal1) with a unique proposal – what if the three of us all wrote a blog on the same subject and presented each of our views in a multi-part series?

While we all share a common passion for Arsenal, our views and opinions tend to vary quite a bit – which is a good thing. Not to mention that it would give you guys something to check-out during the International Break.

Along the way, I invited our friend from the ABW XI, Kris Carpenter (@AFCfreddie8), to write a fourth part and I’m excited he’s said “yes.”

The subject of this series is who, in our opinion, could succeed Arsène Wenger? I didn’t give the guys many restrictions other than that – just pick who you think and explain why. Interestingly, no one picked Klopp. That’s not to say Klopp wouldn’t make an excellent manager for the Arsenal – he probably would – but he’s the obvious choice at the moment. Our picks are a little less apparent.

So today we kick off the series with my take on the subject of who could succeed Arsène. I hope you enjoy it and stay tuned over the next 10 days for parts 2, 3, and 4.

The Other Geoff

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Making the Case for Frank de Boer

He might bring Dennis with him.

And so concludes my argument.  Thanks guys, you’ve been great – try the veal.

In all seriousness, there’s been a lot of speculation about the future of Arsène Wenger – will he continue once his contract expires in 2.5 years?  Who should be his replacement?  How will Arsenal fare without him?

The media and recent performances have heightened this speculation as well and although there’s been a lot of talk about the transition, I don’t think the Boss is going anywhere before the end of this season at least.  I also think it is possible that he sticks out his contract if he can get this season back on track as well. He has that precedent of never walking out on a contract and it’s not completely foreign to imagine the board giving him that leeway.

I think that shifts the conversation from who might be available now to whom can possibly take the reins in the summer of 2015 or as far as out as 2017; and while that may seem like an impossible task of speculation, it can be fun and interesting to discuss and debate who our next possible boss might be.

So where do you start with Frank de Boer?

Before I sussed out my points, I sought a friend of mine who along with being a massive Gooner, happens to be an equally massive Ajax fan after growing up in the Netherlands.  He grew visibly excited as I talked about the blog and the concept and the following day he sent me a lengthy email.

Above all else, my friend mentioned that de Boer is a lover of beautiful football – something that is consistent with the Dutch as a whole – total football.  He’s not likely to “park the bus” in favour of out-playing the opponent through superior technical skill.

I love this as a philosophy and I think it matches our style so well.  It also dovetails nicely into what we should be reaching for at the academy level through the appointment of Andries Jonker (also Dutch).  All the noises out of the academy are that we want to improve the overall technical ability of our graduates while increasing the total number of graduates playing first team football.

At Ajax, de Boer has surrounded himself with specialized greatness and it is paying off.  They’ve won four consecutive Eredivisie titles since his installation as manager in 2010.  Speculatively, this seems to be a slight difference from the current Arsenal set-up and the totality of Wenger.  De Boer’s Ajax have spread the leadership model and coaching techniques across a group of highly qualified experts.  They’ve even gone so far as to install Dennis, de Boer, and Wim Jonk (another Dutch legend) as the club’s “technical heart” – a group that replaced the traditional Technical Director and Head of Training roles.

Can you imagine Thierry Henry working with all of our strikers at youth level?  How about David Seaman as our youth Goalkeeping coach – or Dennis taking sessions on first touch?  Following the Ajax model, can you envision a technical committee within the club consisting of Patrick Viera, Dennis Bergkamp, and Thierry Henry?  It would be ridiculously good.

De Boer’s Ajax is also not afraid to play youth and promote from within.  This is as much about the belief in their own internal talent as it is about the financial reality faced by many teams across Europe.   That is something Arsenal has in common with Ajax – a reputation across the world for giving youth a chance.  That’s important as it helps to attract the best young talent and it’s something I’d like to see Arsène’s successor continue.

I talked briefly about the total football style earlier and it’s interesting to note that Ajax play predominantly in a 4-3-3.  Even more interesting is that he is not afraid to try new tactics and set-ups depending on the needs of the game.  Additionally de Boer, like Arsène, relies heavily on player intelligence to adapt to game situations as they develop.  This continuity in tactics would likely help our current players respond to the new manager’s style while diversifying our tactical approach to games.

Continuity is so important at a club that transitions managers.  Sure we expect some things to be different – and quite rightly – but mass transformation of tactics, training, etc – can cause all sorts of disruption which can negatively affect performances on the pitch (see Man U).  I think an appointment like Frank de Boer allows a certain level of continuity while setting us up for the future.

Beyond the set-up and environment created at Ajax, the reality is that Frank de Boer as a player has won just about everything there is to win at club level.  A storied career that spanned vastly successful spells at both Ajax and Barcelona saw him win League titles in Spain and the Netherlands as well as the Champions League, the UEFA Cup, and the UEFA Super Cup.  He also was part of that fantastic Dutch team that finished 4th in the 1998 World Cup and probably should have done better.   It’s that type of playing experience that can only serve a manager well when dealing with today’s multi-millionaire talents.

De Boer is still only 44 too.  Some might say that at that age, he hasn’t done enough as a manager.  But a 44 year old manager who has Champions League experience and four domestic titles in the Netherlands surely represents an interesting case at the very least.  His age means we aren’t getting into a situation where we’re worried about our 70 year old manager retiring in the next few years from football.  That can be a double edged sword of course as I’m presuming de Boer would be successful in England.

So would he come to Arsenal?

The honest answer is “I don’t know.”   He does seem to have unfinished business at Ajax from a Champions League perspective.  That is not to suggest that he’s waiting to win the Champions League with Ajax – I think that might be a bit too high of an expectation when you consider the competition.  But certainly taking them to the knockout stages must be on his list – especially after coming so close in the last couple of years.

We also know that he’s turned down Liverpool and Spurs – that alone should raise your valuation on him immediately.  I don’t think it’s unfair to suggest that in the next few years he will be looking for a new challenge and that will mean a bigger European club.  Whether that is Arsenal or not, remains to be seen.

All of this assumes that we’d be in for him.  I’m sure at some level within Arsenal, they’ve considered him as a potential successor but beyond that, it’s hard to tell who’s on our radar, and who Arsène himself thinks should take over when he does decide to retire.

There will be a lot of speculation over the next year on who could lead Arsenal post-Wenger.  It’s a daunting thought to think about what that looks like when you look at what has happened to Manchester United post–Ferguson.  Undoubtedly, the next period will continue to cough up potential suitors for our club and my hope is that de Boer is part of that conversation.

I hope you enjoyed my case for Frank de Boer.  Be sure to watch the site for Simon, Jake and Kris’s choices over the next week or so before letting us know who you’d choose to manage our great club.

You know it!

The Other Geoff
By ‘#ABW Chief Blogger’ The Other Geoff (@Hollefreund)

If you haven’t checked out the Perry Groves and Matt Lucas Podcasts, you’re missing out – they were absolute crackers. Go give them a listen – you have time – it’s the Interlull.

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2 Responses to Making the Case for… Part 1: Frank de Boer

  1. Pingback: Making the Case for… Part 3: Keeping it in House | A Bergkamp Wonderland

  2. Pingback: Making the Case for… Part 4: Carlo Ancelotti | A Bergkamp Wonderland

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