Arsenal’s hierarchy are reported to have made preliminary contact with Portuguese ‘super agent’ Jorge Mendes regarding the prospect of his client, Nuno Espirito Santo, replacing Mikel Arteta at the helm of the Gunners. That’s according to reports from The Sun, which state that the Gunners’ board sought to sound out Mendes before Christmas following a dismal run of six defeats in eight games across all competitions.
It was no secret that Arteta’s position as Arsenal manager was on the line before the festive period, but four consecutive victories appear to have given the Spaniard more time to turn things around at the Emirates Stadium. The Sun went on to add that Jorge Mendes was “actively searching” for future employment for Nuno, who only signed a new three-year contract with current club Wolverhampton Wanderers in the autumn.
However, Wolves’ fortunes in the 2020/21 Premier League campaign have not gone to plan thus far, sliding down the table into 14th place after 18 games, with just 22 points to show for it. Had it not been for the disastrous form of the likes of Sheffield United, West Brom and Fulham, Wanderers would possibly be looking over their shoulder at a potential relegation battle. Although the Wolves hierarchy is unlikely to sack the man that has brought European football back to Molineux, it makes sense that Mendes is looking to the future for his client.
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It would certainly be an even stiffer test of Nuno’s credentials were he to replace Arteta at Arsenal, given their bottom half position at present. The Gunners are still priced as long as 14/1 outsiders with 888sport to make up the eight-point gap between themselves and Leicester and clinch a top four finish. That’s largely because Arteta’s men have played a game more than those in the top six at present, while eighth-placed Aston Villa have as many as three games in-hand on Arsenal. Nevertheless, those prepared to wager £10 on Arteta to turn things around in dramatic fashion could get an additional £30 in free bets when signing up to 888sport.
Why is Nuno Espirito Santo in such high demand?
The 46-year-old has had an immense impact on Wolves, breathing new life into the Molineux club, which had been flitting between the second and third tier after its previous relegation from the Premier League. Nuno had a somewhat uninspiring playing career, flitting between a string of Portuguese and Spanish clubs, including a five-year stint with Porto over two spells.
However, it was his managerial spell with La Liga side Valencia which put him on the radar of many football fans across Europe. Nuno led Valencia to a fourth-placed finish and Champions League qualification in his first season. A two-year stay at former employers FC Porto followed and although he failed to pull up trees, he was eventually enticed to England to take charge of Wolves in the EFL Championship.
Nuno promptly steered Wanderers to the Championship title, winning the league with two games to spare. He then maintained that buoyant momentum by guiding Wolves to a seventh-placed finish in their first season back in the top-flight – their highest league finish since 1980. In doing so, Wolves also qualified for Europe for the first time since 1981. Nuno’s Wanderers even made their mark in the Europa League too, reaching the quarter final stage in 2019/20, their best performance in continental football since reaching the final of the UEFA Cup in 1972.
All of which explains nicely why Nuno was tied down to a new contract at Molineux until 2023, but all good things do come to an end. It’s possible that Nuno’s journey with Wolves is nearing its conclusion, but whether the stars will align for him to assume control at Arsenal in 2021 remains to be seen.