At some point in the near future – although it may not seem like it at present – Arsene Wenger is likely to bring his uniquely successful but oddly protracted Arsenal reign to an end.
He will, undoubtedly, depart as a club legend, such has been his impact in North London since his arrival as a little known, professorial and innovative coach from the then-hinterland of Japan.
But his exit, which has been touted now for years, will come with Arsenal in need of a transition. Sunday’s tepid defeat at Bournemouth was a demonstration of the club’s regression, a clear indication that they are now some way off the pace of the top four, let alone those with ambitions of titles.
It led, inevitably, to further calls for Wenger to leave, although he has made it clear on countless previous occasions that he will not walk away.
The Arsenal hierarchy will, however, be considering his eventual replacement, having already identified targets to take the club, currently in a seemingly endless cycle of off and on crises, into the future.
5. Max Allegri
Juventus coach Max Allegri would prove a popular appointment should Arsenal persuade him to make a switch to the Emirates, and the reasons are self-explanatory.
He has enjoyed a spell of relentless success with the Bianconeri, leading them to three consecutive Serie A titles and two Champions League finals, building on the work of his predecessor Antonio Conte.
At 50, he offers perhaps a perfect blend of experience and relative youth: he is 18 years younger than Wenger and in the midst of the most fruitful period of his managerial career.
Allegri is an astute tactician and motivator, although it may be argued that he is not the required coach to instigate a significant change at Arsenal.
The Italian has repeatedly dismissed reports of interest from the Gunners, but he is likely to be high up on the shortlist upon Wenger’s eventual departure. It remains to be seen whether the interest is mutual.
4. Thomas Tuchel
Thomas Tuchel’s tenure at Borussia Dortmund is beginning, on reflection, to look increasingly impressive.
His successor, Peter Bosz, made a good start but his side soon capitulated and now sit in fourth place. Tuchel, of course, left at the end of last season after reported disagreements with senior figures at the club.
During his two years at the Westfalenstadion, the 44-year-old oversaw an attractive, attacking outfit that remained competitive on all fronts, despite regularly losing key players.
His credentials will appeal to Arsenal, his propensity for aesthetic, forward-thinking football.
Tuchel remains unattached halfway into this season, but he is likely to have plenty of suitors. For Arsenal, he would perhaps represent a progressive appointment, one to take the club into a new era while maintaining their ideals.
3. Ralph Hasenhuttl
Another German, although lesser known than the aforementioned Thomas Tuchel.
Ralph Hasenhuttl emerged last season as a contender for the Arsenal job having guided newly-promoted RB Leipzig to second place in the Bundesliga.
However unpopular the club with which he has made his name, the 50-year-old’s achievements cannot be discounted. His side are, as it stands so far this season, once again in second-place, behind only Bayern Munich, having also competed in their first Champions League group stage.
Hasenhuttl would certainly be a left field appointment, but he has proven himself a coach capable of propelling a club beyond their means. Arsenal, now some way behind the likes of Manchester City and Manchester United, might need such a man.
2. Carlo Ancelotti
Having been dismissed by Bayern Munich, Carlo Ancelotti insisted that he would not consider job offers until next season, by which time Arsenal may be, just may be, in the search for a new manager.
The Italian has had an unarguably successful career, particularly in European competition, and has been at the helm of a number of the continent’s biggest clubs.
But, like Allegri, there would likely be concerns as to how much he would change things at Arsenal. Ancelotti has established a reputation as a safe pair of hands, to an extent; he is a coach to call upon to organise a talented but underachieving squad.
Arsenal need more than that, and Ancelotti, if he was targeted, might be considered simply a short-term fix.
1. Eddie Howe
It would be a cruel irony for Wenger if the man who brought about possibly the nadir of his Arsenal career eventually replaced him as the club’s manager.
Eddie Howe, despite some fluctuations in his Bournemouth side’s form since arriving in the Premier League, is a young coach held in high regard.
He is English, too, and his experience with the Cherries means that he would not require time to adapt to the division.
But the 40-year-old remains something of an unproven commodity. Howe has not yet coached at a club with expectations; Bournemouth are simply happy to be in the Premier League after their rapid ascent from the depths of League 2.
Whether Arsenal consider Howe a contender could well depend on how he progresses in the period from now to Wenger’s exit.