Arsenal’s seven-man shortlist to replace Wenger
FORMER Arsenal striker Ian Wright has called on struggling manager Arsene Wenger to step down as reports suggest succession planning at the club has already begun.
The Frenchman, under contract at the Emirates until 2019, is under increasing pressure after his team's abject display in Sunday's 3-0 League Cup defeat against Manchester City -- their sixth loss in 12 games this year.
Arsenal are 10 points adrift of fourth-placed Tottenham in the Premier League and look likely to miss out on Champions League football for the second consecutive season.
"There are excuses (from Wenger) and he is mollycoddling a team," Wright told BBC radio.
"Whether he stays at the end of this season, I could not make a case. I am not sure anyone can. This development of mediocrity has to be arrested."
Wright also had harsh words for American owner Stan Kroenke, who as owner and director, will have responsibility for deciding Wenger's future in the European summer, alongside CEO Ivan Gazidis; his son, Josh Korenke, a club director; Alisher Usmanov, Arsenal's second largest shareholder; chairman Sir Chips Keswick as well as directors Ken Friar and Lord Harris of Peckham.
"The owner has to take a lot of blame for this," he said. "Kroenke does not care. If he cared, Wenger would not have got a two-year deal.
"Everyone else can start to see that is it getting to a point where Wenger needs to go. The owner has to be here, find out what is happening, how is this working, what are we going to do, how are we going to get back to where the fans want us to be.
"The fans have been saying it for years but no-one is paying any attention to them. The owner has not done anything and has given Wenger carte blanche to carry on."
Wright's comments follow stinging assessments from the club's record goalscorer Thierry Henry and former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville, who labelled Arsenal's performance against City "spineless".
Former Arsenal centre-back Sol Campbell added: "Arsenal have leadership and coaching issues which they've got to look at.
"They need to ask if the players cared about that particular game - or were they believing, when they walked out, that they'd lost the game already?
"If I was still there, I'd be trying to sense that before it started to happen, to see what kind of player and human being I had at the club.
"You can develop a stronger mentality within certain players, but they've got to want to pick it up as well.
"You've got to look at the individuals, as well as the whole team, and not allow things to continue if you know deep down that is not the way to play for Arsenal."
It is being widely reported in the British press that the club have drawn up a shortlist of seven names with The Mirror reporting the off-season as "the biggest threat to Wenger's job in his 22-year reign".
Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that Wenger's position would be reviewed at the end of the season but said that Monaco manager Leonardo Jardim and former captain Mikel Arteta were among replacements being considered.
The Sun said Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers, Arteta and Germany head coach Joachim Loew were at the head of a seven-man list.
Club icon Thierry Henry and veteran mentor Carlo Ancelotti are mentioned, while the wildcard is Paulo Fonseca, a Portuguese manager who has done well with Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League.
But Wright urged caution over appointing the man who overtook him as the club's all-time leading goalscorer.
"Arsenal are not in a position where they can go from someone like Arsene Wenger, who we love so much, yet who you mention to some people in the fan base and their faces screw up.
"They are so angry. I would not want that to happen to Thierry, because he has taken the job straight after Wenger."
JARDIM: It says much about his work at Monaco that his squad has been looted and dispersed to some of Europe's biggest clubs this season after they toppled Paris Saint-Germain to win Ligue 1 last season and ran deep into the Champions League. The 43-year-old is under contract until 2020.
HENRY: The romantic gamble should Arsenal look to turn to a club icon to rescue the toxic mood around the Emirates. But Henry's biggest coaching experience is only as an assistant with Belgium's national side.
ARTETA: The former club captain is learning his way as Pep Guardiola's assistant and is highly rated. The 35-year-old spent five seasons as a player at Arsenal, ending his career in London after a long tenure at Everton.
RODGERS: The Norther Irishman has re-built his reputation at Celtic after being dismissed by Liverpool, and has a contract until 2021. He was almost the man to guide Liverpool to a drought breaking title win, so despite his success with Celtic, can the lure of that elusive PL title lure the 45-year-old back to England?
ANCELOTTI: An old hand who is currently available after leaving Bayern Munich, the 58-year-old is a consumate winner, but is he the man to re-build Arsenal?
LOW: The Germany national team boss takes his country to Russia to defend their World Cup crown - his sixth major tournament in charge of Die Mannschaft. Is it time for a challenge at club level? He has shown an ability to mix eye catching football with a match winning ruthlessness, but with a World Cup to focus on, it makes links for a move this season hard to believe.
FONSECA: Shakhtar reportedly turned down an overture from Everton, but could Arsenal up the ante in the pursuit of the former centre-back? He is out of contract in Ukraine at season's end. "All coaches want to go to England and I am one," he told the Telegraph in October. "I have this dream and I believe this can happen. If it's soon or not, I have this dream." He progressed to the perennial Champions League club from Braga and Porto.