4. Marcelino, Valencia
Flash back a season or two and Marcelino Garcia Toral would be a prevalent name in the mix of potential Wenger successors.
The Spaniard performed a quiet miracle in guiding Villarreal from the Segunda Division to the Champions League in just three years. He also led the Yellow Submarine to the 2016 Europa League semifinal along the way.
A fractious relationship with the Villarreal board saw him shockingly quit on the eve of the 2016-17 season. Marcelino’s La Liga return took him to Valencia, where he is producing fine work during the current campaign.
Tasked with awakening a sleeping giant after the Gary Neville debacle, Marcelino restored order and pride to Los Che. The club is fourth in La Liga, having all-but officially secured Champions League soccer for next season.
Just as he did at Villarreal, Marcelino has fused a back-to-basics pragmatism with enough freedom to let his attacking players still express themselves.
The heady mix has meant Valencia own a solid defense, but have also scored the third most goals in the Spanish top flight. Defensively, a player such as former Arsenal center-back Gabriel Paulista has been revived after floundering on Wenger’s watch.
In front of Gabriel, Marcelino has also brought the best out of temperamental Inter Milan loanee Geoffrey Kondogbia. The Frenchman is exactly the kind of combative presence at the base of midfield Wenger struggled to find after Patrick Vieira left in 2006.
Marcelino also knows how to tap into the creative instincts of more forward-thinking players. Striker Rodrigo Moreno is thriving for Los Che this season, having scored 19 goals and provided four assists.
At Villarreal, midfield playmakers Denis Suarez and Bruno Soriano played the kind of slick, one- and two-touch passing Wenger has made a badge of honor for the Gunners.
Yet Marcelino isn’t tethered to owning possession. His teams practice a more sudden and subtle style, one aptly described by the Guardian‘s Sid Lowe:
"Instead, it is the pace and precision of counter-attacks that most occupies him, built on defensive solidity. His teams are, as the Spanish word has it, very vertical, but that doesn’t mean a long ball: instead it means compact and coiled, always ready to spring forward and always in numbers, across the turf, players making runs across each other."
Where he’s more similar to Wenger is in his strict insistence on the right “physical preparation,” something Lowe dubbed “fundamental and non-negotiable” on Marcelino’s watch.
The 52-year-old also loves the 4-4-2 formation Wenger once adhered to. If he took the job, there’d be no doubt about whether Lacazette and Aubameyang could play together.
Instead, Arsenal’s two most expensive signings would form a partnership immediately.