Former Arsenal midfielder Stewart Robson does not think Thierry Henry is the right man to replace Arsene Wenger, but would love to see the club hire Chelsea manager Antonio Conte.
Henry said that he would be “interested” in the Arsenal job when Wenger steps down, but added that he has yet to complete his coaching badges and remains fully focused on his role as an assistant coach for Belgium’s national team.
But according to Robson, who played for Arsenal between 1981-87, Henry simply is not ready for the task yet.
“I don’t think Thierry Henry has got the experience,” Robson told ESPN FC. “When I listen to him on TV, I don’t think he reads the game particularly well. He’s getting better on his punditry, but I don’t think he’s the right man for the job at the moment.
“He needs more experience. He needs to go and coach at a lower level. Yes I know he’s coaching the forwards for the Belgium team, but that’s a totally different role to being a head coach. As head coach you’ve got to come up with a game plan, you’ve got to manage the players. You’ve got to do all the jobs that you need to do to be a top-class manager, and I don’t think he has the experience or the know-how to do that at the moment.”
Robson also rejected comparisons between Henry and Zinedine Zidane, who successfully took over as Real Madrid manager in 2016 and helped them become the first club to win consecutive Champions League titles.
“Zidane was taking over a team with some of the best players in the world. He didn’t need to change [tactics] or a game plan,” Robson said. “What he’s done is manage very experienced players, and he did it well for two years.
“Now we’re seeing, when they’re struggling, he can’t change it. He hasn’t got a game plan to make them perform better. And that would be the problem with Thierry Henry going to Arsenal. Arsenal need a total revamp of the coaching system.”
Robson’s answer for who the right man would be might come as a surprise — as he identified Conte as the perfect candidate. Speculation is rife that the Italian could leave Chelsea this summer despite leading them to the Premier League title last year, and Robson said Arsenal should try to snap him up if he’s available.
“Conte is a brilliant manager,” Robson said. “When he goes into a football club, and if he went into Arsenal, he’d make sure the players did what he wanted them to do. … They would know exactly what their roles in the side are. And that doesn’t happen at Arsenal at the moment. He’d be a great fit at Arsenal.”
Meanwhile, Arsenal’s surrender to City in came with an “air of inevitability,” according to a leading fans’ group.
Arsene Wenger’s side were easily beaten 3-0 by Pep Guardiola’s side, who did not have to be anywhere near their best to secure the first major silverware of the season.
Lois Langton — chair of the Arsenal Independent Supporters’ Association — offered a frank analysis of what the latest high-profile setback means.
“For many supporters, [Sunday’s] match epitomised the problems that have been building for several seasons now,” Langton told Press Association Sport. “What we witnessed was the culmination of years of arrogance and stubbornness. The solution is blindingly obvious and it is painful to watch what is happening to our wonderful club.
“Criticism is never easy to accept but constructive criticism should not be confused with negativity. Manchester City are an outstanding team. It is no disgrace to lose to them. What is a disgrace is the manner of the loss, the repetition of mistakes that we have seen countless times before and the post-match sound bites that are offered up as some sort of justification for losses.
“[Sunday’s] match wasn’t met with anger and a chorus of “Wenger Out” chants. Instead, there was a sense of inevitability. Few went to the match with high expectations. What we now have amongst Arsenal supporters is a huge dose of apathy. It’s as if the fight has gone because supporters know it’s futile.”
Langton also called on the Arsenal hierarchy to point the finger at Wenger, who many fans believe has been given an easy ride given recent failings.
“[Sunday’s] match must mark a turning point,” she added. “For the sake of our football club, the board must grasp the nettle. It is clear that steps (which are acknowledged and welcomed) have already been taken to secure the future of the club but the hardest decision of all still sits with the club and that concerns the manager.
“Nobody is denying what he has achieved for the club but that cannot be used as a self-serving justification to prevent change. It simply cannot continue. It is not about winning silverware. The problems are so much more deep-rooted than that and are undermining the values on which our club has been built.”
Information from the Press Association was used in this report.
Mattias is ESPN FC’s Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.