The candidates to replace Mikel Arteta at Arsenal

By Harry Symeou
Arteta is under immense pressure at Arsenal
Arteta is under immense pressure at Arsenal / LEE SMITH/Getty Images

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta looked distraught in the aftermath of the club's Europa League exit at the hands of Villarreal, ironically managed by his predecessor Unai Emery.

The 39-year-old cut a forlorn figure on the touchline as his players failed to make any real inroads, and acknowledged during his post-match press conference that his job in north London is far from safe.

This European campaign presented the former Manchester City coach with an opportunity to salvage what's been an extremely disappointing season and having failed to do so, speculation that the axe may be wielded on him at the Emirates Stadium is rife.

But if Arteta is given the chop, who on earth is in the frame to revive the fortunes of the sinking ship? Here, 90min spins you through the realistic runners and riders.

1. Rafa Benitez

Rafael Benitez
Rafa Benitez is currently out of work / Alex Broadway/Getty Images

Rafa Benitez's last active role was with Chinese Super League club Dalian Yifang but the 61-year-old has a proven track record in the Premier League. Adored by fans of Liverpool and Newcastle United alike, throughout his career the Spaniard has proven himself to be a master tactician.

He's won the Champions League and the Europa League, as well as other major honours in England, Spain and Italy. His last job in the UK was with Newcastle and whilst he was unable to save them from the drop when first appointed, he stuck with the Magpies through a season in the Championship and restored their Premier League status immediately.

His brand of football isn't the easiest on the eye but he gets results and if he was willing to join Newcastle, why wouldn't the Arsenal job appeal to the former Valencia boss?

2. Brendan Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers
Brendan Rodgers' Leicester City are on course to finish third in the Premier League this season / Pool/Getty Images

Brendan Rodgers' Leicester City are on course to finish third in the Premier League this season and qualify for next season's Champions League, a testament to the superb job the former Liverpool boss has done at King Power Stadium.

He's improved as a manager in recent seasons, some of the tactical naiveties he has displayed in the past appear to have been addressed and with greater resources, there is no reason Rodgers can't compete with the very best.

The problem is, he's got a good thing going at Leicester and despite Arsenal's history, they're in turmoil. He'd be crazy to leave the talented squad he has assembled at King Power to try and steer the Gunners back onto the right path.

3. Paulo Fonseca

UC Sampdoria v AS Roma - Serie A
Paulo Fonseca will leave AS Roma at the end of the season / Getty Images/Getty Images

It was announced earlier this week that Paulo Fonseca will be leaving Roma this summer to be replaced by Jose Mourinho, and, to be honest, nobody in Italy was surprised to hear of his imminent departure.

At one time, the Portuguese boss seemed like a very shrewd appointment but I Giallorossi find themselves a disappointing seventh in Serie A, some 14 points off the Champions League qualification places.

Roma progressed all the way to the semi-finals of this season's Europa League where they were beaten by Manchester United but Fonseca's failures at Roma suggest he'd struggle in the Premier League.

4. Gian Piero Gasperini

Gian Piero Gasperini
Gian Piero Gasperini has worked miracles at Atalanta / Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Gian Piero Gasperini's work at Atalanta has produced truly remarkable results. His management has seen La Dea compete with the heavyweights of Italian football despite operating on a significantly lower budget, all while playing an incredibly attractive brand of football.

His side are on course to qualify for the Champions League for a third successive season - something nobody would have foreseen when he took over in 2016.

But aged 63, it's difficult to envisage Gasperini uprooting his life to take over Arsenal. He's enjoying his most successful spell as a manager at the Bergamo-based club and there's no reason for him to give that up.

5. Patrick Vieira

Patrick Vieira
Patrick Vieira is an Arsenal legend but is he the right man to manage the team? / John Berry/Getty Images

Arsenal hero Patrick Vieira represents the club's most successful era and has a special place in the hearts of the supporters. He's said to have a role in Swedish billionaire Daniel Ek's bid to purchase the club but would he give that all up if the opportunity to manage the team was to present itself?

The Frenchman began his managerial career with Manchester City's Under-19s before moving stateside to take over at New York City FC. In the summer of 2018, he took over the reins at Nice but was sacked in December 2020.

He may already have a strong bond with the Arsenal faithful but Vieira has achieved nothing as a manager to suggest he can be the club's saviour. Then again, Arteta was appointed having never been a manager...

6. Massimiliano Allegri

Massimiliano Allegri
Massimiliano Allegri has won six Serie A titles as a manager / Chris Ricco/Getty Images

Massimiliano Allegri would be the dream appointment for many Arsenal fans. While he is currently without a club, he is being heavily linked with a return to Juventus to replace the under-fire Andrea Pirlo.

Despite never having managed in the Premier League previously, the 53-year-old's record speaks for itself. He's won six Serie A titles, five with Juventus and one with AC Milan.

Allegri has long been linked with the Arsenal job but at a time when they're at their lowest ebb, it's fair to assume the north Londoners would have less chance of attracting one of Europe's most revered coaches.

Quite the pickle Arsenal are in when you consider every contender is probably thinking better of it.