4 Things Arsenal Fans Need to Know About Rumoured Wenger Successor Zeljko Buvac

Liverpool assistant manager Zeljko Buvac has suddenly emerged as a top contender to succeed Arsene Wenger as Arsenal boss this summer when the veteran Frenchman steps down.

Bosnian outlet Pravda BL, who broke news of Jurgen Klopp’s 2015 move to Liverpool thanks to close ties with Buvac, is responsible for the link that is fast gaining traction .

With Buvac very much a background character at Liverpool during his time at Anfield, here’s a look at four things Gunners will be keen to know about their club’s potential new boss…

4. He Had an Unremarkable Playing Career

While Zinedine Zidane, Pep Guardiola and Johan Cruyff are the argument that great players make great managers and coaches, there are plenty of other legends who have failed in the dugout, Sir Bobby Charlton, Diego Maradona and Lothar Matthaus among them.

On the opposite side of that coin, individuals without much of a playing career, have proven equally capable of becoming world class managers – think Jose Mourinho, Rafa Benitez, Arsene Wenger, and arguably Sir Alex Ferguson as well.

Buvac very much falls into the latter category. Having played in his native Bosnia for a while, he moved to Germany in 1991 but never played any higher than the second tier. By the time he retired in 1998, he was with tiny German lower league side Neukirchen.  

3. He Has Known Klopp for 26 Years

Buvac and Klopp met and became friends when they were teammates at Mainz in the early 1990s. The latter, signed by Mainz in 1990, was an imposing striker, later becoming a defender, while the former was an attacking midfielder who arrived at the club two years later.

Buvac had moved on by 1995, but when Klopp was appointed Mainz boss in 2001, he called up his former colleague to bring him on board as assistant coach.

The pair steered Mainz to Bundesliga promotion and later European qualification during seven years in charge. Buvac then followed Klopp to Borussia Dortmund in 2008, which saw double Bundesliga success and a Champions League final, before both moving to Liverpool in 2015.

Only now, after 17 years together, is their professional relationship showing the strain.

2. He Is Nicknamed ‘The Brain’

Buvac’s nickname, ‘The Brain’, comes from Klopp and tells you everything you need to know about how the 56-year-old Bosnian approaches football and coaching.

He is thought to have had at least as much input into training as Klopp at Liverpool and Dortmund before. And while Klopp is the passionate motivator, man manager and public face, Buvac has been credited as the ‘tactical mastermind’ and co-creator of gegenpressing.

It is precisely that gegenpressing that has made Liverpool so dangerous this season.

Lord knows, Arsenal need an overdue tactical kick up the metaphorical backside.  

1. He Would Fit the ‘New Arsenal’

Buvac hasn’t been a manager in his own right since a three-year spell at small German side Neukirchen immediately after he retired as a player in 1998, and has been a number two for most of his 20-year coaching career.

There is always doubt as to whether long time assistants, who are praised and revered for their coaching ability, have the ability to step up and take control on their own. That was certainly a criticism of Rene Meulensteen and Paul Clement in recent times.

Buvac is well placed to fit a ‘New Arsenal’, though.

The Gunners have been restructuring behind the scenes and have ex-Barcelona official Raul Sanllehi in place as Head of Football Relations and top scout Sven Mislintat, who worked alongside Buvac and Klopp for many years at Dortmund, as Head of Recruitment.

While Wenger was one of the last of the traditional managers who controlled a large proportion of the club, his successor would be free of the additional responsibilities and much more of a ‘coach’. That is where Buvac’s great strength lies.


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