Alan Smith says Mikel Arteta would be his No.1 choice to succeed Unai Emery in the Arsenal hot seat, due to his strong “connection” with the club and “progressive” coaching style.
Emery was relieved of his managerial duties on Friday after less than a year-and-a-half at the helm, having initially been tasked with restoring the glory days post-Arsene Wenger when he was appointed in 2018.
The 48-year-old paid the price for Arsenal’s nightmare start to the 2019-20 campaign, with Freddie Ljungberg stepping up to replace the Spaniard on an interim basis while the club search for a new permanent boss.
A number of high-profile managers have been linked with the vacant post at the Emirates Stadium, including Mauricio Pochettino, Carlo Ancelotti and Massimiliano Allegri, but several of the club’s former players have also been touted as candidates.
Manchester City No.2 Arteta is chief among those, having helped Pep Guardiola oversee back-to-back Premier League title since joining the club in 2016.
The 37-year-old has the potential to become a “top manager” in the near future, according to Arsenal legend Smith, who would like to see a “bold” change made in the dugout with a view to long-term success.
“I would like them to be bold and go for a younger, more progressive manager,” Smith told Sky Sports. “I’d like Mikel Arteta.
“I know a lot of Arsenal fans say, ‘He’s never been a manager. How could you do that? We need tried and trusted experience’.
“But I think he’s going to be a top manager quite shortly. If Arsenal don’t get him I think somebody else will. If he stays at Manchester City when Pep Guardiola steps down, he’ll be a stick on to take over.
“From what you hear of his work at Man City, he takes so much of the training, the players respect him a great deal. I think he’s been responsible for improvements in Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling – so I think he is excellent.
“He’s got that Arsenal connection as well. He’d be my choice.”
Another man being tipped to inherit the managerial reins at the Emirates at the moment is Leicester head coach Brendan Rodgers, who has worked wonders at the King Power Stadium this season.
The former Liverpool boss has transformed the Foxes into title contenders in less than 10 months and stated after a win over Everton on Sunday that he is happy in his current role when asked to comment on rumours of interest from Arsenal.
Smith would be delighted to see Rodgers arrive in north London, but thinks the club should “take their time” before making a final decision.
“Brendan Rodgers, at my former club Leicester, I’d be delighted if they managed to secure him,” Smith added.
“I think his ethos suits Arsenal as well. When his name was mentioned before when they went for Emery a lot of people scoffed at it.
“But he’s since shown what a top manager he is. They have to take their time, they have to make sure they make a good choice.”