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ProSoccerTalk’s Arsene Wenger roundtable

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Let’s talk about Weng, baby.

[ MORE: Arsene’s best Arsenal XI ]

So, it’s (almost) over. What has your reaction been to Wenger’s final weeks, in particular his goodbye to the Emirates on Sunday?

Joe Prince-Wright: It was a fitting farewell tinged with a little sadness to not see him finish on a high by winning the Europa League to make the Champions League again. He is a legend of the game and history will be kind to him. He changed British soccer and his impact will always be remembered. The emotional scenes at the Emirates summed up how fondly he will be remembered by Arsenal fans and neutrals alike.

Nicholas Mendola: There’s a good chance it’s my journey deep into my thirties, but I thought Sunday was wonderful. To see Arsenal’s attack flourish — cheers for the help, normally stingy Burnley — and then hear Wenger’s club-first, me-second speech was pretty great. As for the last few weeks, I’ll echo what Joe said: I was aching for Arsenal to at least make the Europa League Final, and for the French legend to lead his side against Marseille in Lyon as he says goodbye to Gunners. It would’ve been star-studded.

Kyle Bonn: It’s sad, but it’s time. I’m glad to see him so appreciated after years of abuse, because he deserves it. Still, this has been coming and is a necessary change for Arsenal.

Daniel Karell: It’s been a bit muted, up until the final home game which finished in a 5-0 shellacking of Burnley. Arsenal fans are still upset over the team’s failure to win a single road match in 2018 on the club’s way to its worst season in 22 years. The reception for Wenger, Per Mertesacker and some members of the backroom staff were a nice change of the negative atmosphere over the past 5-8 years that has clouded the future for Arsenal fans. That cloud appears to be lifted.

Don’t overthink it: What is the first thing you think of when you think of Arsene Wenger?

JPW: Beautiful football. Whatever you say about the recent years, Wenger has always stuck to his principles and has developed teams who are fantastic to watch going forward. Arsenal are known across the world as a team for purists and that’s because of Wenger. He’s a true teacher of the game. Also: the Invincibles.

NM: This is a bit out of left field, but I’ve heard from so many people who’ve told me that Arsene Wenger treated everyone at Arsenal with the same respect. Those things stick with me, and he could’ve operated with some kind of ego when you consider all he accomplished. Honorable mention: Nagoya Grampus Eight, getting in Jose Mourinho’s grill, and the smile on his face when Thierry Henry embraced him after scoring in the FA Cup off the bench in his Arsenal “redebut.”

KB: The Invincibles. That team should be and will be his legacy.

DK: The style of play. Wenger – for all his faults – fiercly believed in himself and especially in his players. There’s been multiple reports that the team never really prepared for opponents, instead just working on movement on and off the ball and building chemistry with teammates. Wenger preferred for his players to control play and pass their way through opponents, Barcelona style. Of course, while the team was able to do this, they also conceded simple goals. Anyways, it’s the silky smooth, beautiful football.

How long, if at all, will it take Arsenal fans to miss Wenger as their boss?

JPW: Not long. This feels like a very natural time to split and everyone needs a fresh start. Sure, some will miss him, but most Arsenal fans acknowledge now was a great time to move on.

NM: There’s a romance to his tenure that won’t disappear any time soon, but it depends whether they — American football comparisons — replace a Bill Cowher with a Mike Tomlin or if they replace Bill Parcells with Ray Handley (No offense, Ray Handley. I’m mostly talking age).

KB: They won’t – or, they shouldn’t given how much crap they flung in his direction for years. Most of it deservingly so. Wenger was stubborn in his final years in charge, and a change in scenery is good for everyone involved, so if the Gunners continue to decline from here, it’s because they made the wrong hire, not because Wenger left.

DK: I’ll give it at least 12 months. Arsenal fans, at least the Wenger Out faction, will likely be willing to sit through a rough season or two just to see something different, with the hopes that it could lead to greater success.

Look into your crystal ball: What are the next few years like for Wenger? And Arsenal?

JPW: I’d like to see Wenger take the France national team job after this summer. They have a plethora of exciting, young attacking players and it would be fantastic to see him do well at Euro 2020 or the 2022 World Cup with his home nation. For Arsenal, a struggle to finish in the top four on a yearly basis. It will take a long time for them to catch up to Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham, Man United and Man City.

NM: For Wenger, I suspect it depends on how big of a challenge he wants next. Is it taking PSG to the Champions League promised land or trying to take an upstart Ligue 1 or other side against a legendary power? Or is it time for international football (see last question). My guess? A reinvigorated Wenger leads a club to overachieve. As for Arsenal, well, if the rumors of what they plan on spending this summer are true, they may well finish sixth again (Sixth is the new fourth?).

KB: I wish I knew. I have my own opinions on where they should go from here, but I do not even pretend to know what this club has in mind. They have done nothing but surprise the last few years ago, and if there’s anything I can predict, it’s that it will continue to do so. What doesn’t help is the plethora of viable options on the table for them to choose from. First things first, the club needs to pick on a direction and philosophy, and then make a hire based on those answers, not the other way around.

DK: For Wenger? I think he’ll stay in management, returning to his native France. He may take a smaller club over, one where he can have more control than he would at a club like PSG or Lyon. For Arsenal? It will likely be up and down. If the Gunners really want to compete with Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich (and Man City), they need to replace nearly their entire starting lineup. It takes time to build chemistry, and the new players will need time to settle.

If the season is replayed with a new manager, is Arsenal higher in the table? More bluntly put, how much responsibility does the manager bear for sixth place?

JPW: Nah, they’re about where they deserve to be. Their defense has more holes than a piece of Swiss cheese and that’s been their Achilles heel for several years now.

NM: In 95% of cases, no (unless he magically knows how to stop an injured Aaron Ramsey from missing scoring draws with West Brom, West Ham, Liverpool, and Chelsea). This was down to personnel. And on the manager responsibility point, it’s really hard to say. Was Wenger responsible for not selling Alexis Sanchez and maybe Mesut Ozil in early August and replacing them with new talent? Was Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang available in August?

KB: The manager bears a lot of responsibility. However, if the season is replayed, not much changes. The wounds of this season were fostered years ago in transfer policy and team makeup, not necessarily tactics.

DK: He bears 100 percent responsibility. Okay, maybe 99 percent. Of course, the players are on the field, but he’s the one who sets the tactics and determines who is signed. He’s failed overall on both aspects, though Aubameyang looks like a hit so far!

How badly has his legacy taken a hit?

JPW: It’s taken a hit but over time I think the damage done over the last few years will be repaired. Wenger is a legend and has achieved so many wonderful things at Arsenal. He should have left about five years ago… but then he added a few more FA Cups to set a new record.

NM: A little, but it will rebound if Arsenal doesn’t begin to spend. And it’s easy to forget how little they did while “paying off the new stadium debt.”

KB: It has taken a slight hit, but that was cemented over the last few years with club stagnation. This season doesn’t have a ton to do with that, only adds to the narrative. Wenger’s decline has been on the cards for a while, and this season doesn’t do much but prove a part to the whole.

DK: I think for all his achievements, you have to also mention that his final 12 years, his teams never reached the heights they climbed in the late 90s, early 2000s. An appearance in the UEFA Champions League final in 2006 was the last time Arsenal threatened to make a European final, or even play at a level close to that of the European giants.

Of all the names you’ve heard or read, who’s the best fit for Arsenal?

JPW: Nobody really stands out to me, which is a big problem. Diego Simeone would be great but I can’t see him leaving Atletico Madrid anytime soon. Honestly, someone like Liverpool’s assistant Zeljko Buvac would be a great fit. Low expectations, just like Wenger when he arrived, but someone who obviously has a fine tactical brain.

NM: Simeone, but it won’t happen (at least not this go-round). As Joe said, the Buvac move seems appropriate because Jurgen Klopp would’ve been the right call three years ago. I’ll shout out Patrick Vieira. Knows the culture, commands respect. Sorry NYCFC.

KB: I think Arsenal needs to make two hires. They need to hire a world-renowned name to follow Wenger up, take over the club for 2-3 years, make the necessary philosophical changes, attract good talent, overhaul the squad, and then depart for a younger, more long-term boss. Hiring the long-term solution now would be a massive mistake, because there are SO many changes that need to be made. It would be too much to bear for a manager in his first big job. Therefore, I think hiring Carlo Ancelotti or Diego Someone right now would be the right move. They would have the experience and the guts to make widespread changes needed, and someone like Sean Dyche or Eddie Howe can take over in 3 years when things have leveled out.

DK: Nobody? Personally, I think Arsenal should sign someone who can impose their style on the club and grow into the job.

Say he’d take the job: Would you like Arsene Wenger as USMNT boss?

JPW: Yes. That would be fantastic but I just can’t see it happening. Unfortunately.

NM: Every day and twice on Sunday. Tim Weah, Josh Sargent, and Christian Pulisic learned how to carve it up together under AW? Yeah, yeah, yeah.

KB: Yes. 100% absolutely. Wenger would be a great fit for the United States. It won’t happen, but I would sign up for that right here right now.

DK: Uh. Probably not. We need some help defensively, over here. I’m not sure if he could bring that.

Friedel, Bocanegra, Henry nominated for Hall of Fame

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CHICAGO (AP) Brad Friedel, Carlos Bocanegra and Thierry Henry are among first-year eligibles nominated for the National Soccer Hall of Fame’s class of 2018.

[ MORE: 23 thoughts from MLS Week 2 ]

Also on the ballot for the first time are Juan Pablo Angel, Bobby Convey, Jay DeMerit, Stuart Holden, Eddie Johnson and Lori Lindsey.

To be eligible, a player must have played at least 20 full international games for the United States (reduced to 10 if the games were before 1990); or have played at least five seasons in an American first-division professional league and been a postseason league all-star at least once; or played at least five seasons in the Major Indoor Soccer League between the end of the NASL in 1984 and the end of the MISL in 1992, and been selected as a first-team postseason all-star in at least one of those seasons.

The Hall of Fame facility in Frisco, Texas, will open on Oct. 20-21, and will feature induction ceremonies, followed by FC Dallas hosting Sporting Kansas City in an MLS match.

There are 32 individuals on the player ballot, nine on the veterans ballot and seven on the builders ballot.

Any player appearing on at least 66.7 percent of ballots will earn election. Voters can select up to 10 players.

Voters can choose up to five veteran candidates, and the top vote getter will be elected as long as he or she appears on a minimum of 50 percent of the ballots. Builders must be at least 50 years of age and are eligible by making their mark in the soccer community in a non-playing capacity while having a major, sustained and positive impact on American Soccer at the national, federation or first-division level for at least 10 years. The voting procedure is the same for them as for seniors.

The ballots:

PLAYERS

Juan Pablo Angel, David Beckham, Gregg Berhalter, Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo, Brian Ching, Bobby Convey, Jeff Cunningham, Jay DeMerit, Brad Friedel, Kevin Hartman, Frankie Hejduk, Thierry Henry, Stuart Holden, Eddie Johnson, Chris Klein, Eddie Lewis, Lori Lindsey, Kate Sobrero Markgraf, Pablo Mastroeni, Clint Mathis, Tiffeny Milbrett, Heather Mitts, Jaime Moreno, Ben Olsen, Pat Onstad, Steve Ralston, Ante Razov, Tony Sanneh, Taylor Twellman, Aly Wagner, Josh Wolff.

VETERANS

Mike Burns, Kevin Crow, John Doyle, Marco Etcheverry, Linda Hamilton, Shep Messing, Cindy Parlow, Tiffany Roberts, Tisha Venturini-Hoch.

BUILDERS

Esse Baharmast, Dr. Robert Contiguglia, Joe Cummings, Tim Leiweke, Francisco Marcos, Kevin Payne, Steve Sampson.

Kyle Martino running for USSF presidency

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Former MLS and USMNT player Kyle Martino is throwing his hat in the ring for the United States Soccer Federation presidency.

Martino, 36, launched everyonesgameusa.com to detail his candidacy. He won eight caps for the United States men’s national team between 2002-06. Martino will be taking a hiatus from his current role as a Premier League analyst for NBC Sports.

[ MORE: Kljestan, Altidore react to fight ]

Backed by Thierry Henry and David Beckham, Martino announced his candidacy on Monday, joining the first contested election since Sunil Gulati took over in 2006. Gulati is also a member of FIFA’s Executive Council dating back to 2013.

Martino said he’d resign if the U.S. failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup or missed the quarterfinals of the 2026 World Cup.

Already announced for the election are Eric Wynalda, Gulati protege Carlos Cordeiro, Boston lawyer Steve Gans and UPSL executivePaul LaPointe. Gulati hinted at his candidacy during a conference call following the USMNT’s embarrassing failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

NFL’s Ajayi clearly pleased to see hero Thierry Henry (video)

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File this under: Star running backs, they’re just like us.

Miami Dolphins bruiser Jay Ajayi is in London for a Sunday match-up with the New Orleans Saints, and he got a chance to meet childhood hero Thierry Henry.

[ USMNT: World Cup qualifying roster looks odd ]

Ajayi, 24, was born and London and is set to become the first London-born skill position player to hit the field in England (Granted that’s a stretch of a designation, as Osi Umenyiora had plenty of skill at defensive end).

The two had met before, with Henry surprising Ajayi at Sky Sports last year.

Here’s how Ajayi reacted to his London return earlier this week, via The London Evening Standard:

“It’s exciting,” he said. “I’m getting to go home. My whole family is flying out. It’s a special thing and I think it will be even more special when I get there and the game’s about to kick off. I think that will be a great moment for me and for my family.”

We like to think Henry called him the Jay Train and Ajayi responded by saying “Invincible man, Invincible!”

Lukaku hails debut win, “intense” Pogba friendship, Henry’s tutelage

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Sunday couldn’t have gone much better for Romelu Lukaku, Manchester United’s $97-million superstar signing from the summer, as the big Belgian striker scored twice on his Premier League debut for the club and helped the Red Devils to a 4-0 victory over West Ham United.

[ RECAP: Man United thrash West Ham to opening 2017-18 season ]

After the game, the 24-year-old joined the NBC Sports broadcast team field-side at Old Trafford for a lengthy interview (above video) on a wide range of topics — from his own performance on the day, to his “intense, competitive” relationship with Paul Pogba, to the icons of the game who bestowed their wisdom upon him during his five years in England, and so much more.

“[It was] a difficult first 20 minutes, I’d say, but then afterwards we found the spaces to play and we played at a higher tempo. From the press of Nemanja [Matic] we recovered the ball and he went really quickly; before the ball came to me, I had a couple looks at the goalkeeper; the pass from Marcus [Rashford] was excellent, so it was all instincts.

“The second goal was a good free kick from [Henrikh Mkhitaryan], something we worked on in training. From then on, we really controlled the game. We tried to be entertaining for the fans. That’s what they want at Manchester United.”

“Our relationship is really intense. He’s really competitive at the training ground, outside the training ground really competitive, and on the pitch we just want to win. We’re two winners.

“When we play opposite each other, the guy that loses he’s going to get stick until the next day, or has to serve the other guy for the whole day. We are like that, we’re really competitive. Playing together, I think is the best thing, because he has things in his game that I want to have, and I have things in my game that he wants to have, so we try to learn from each other. We push each other everyday on another level.”

[ VIDEO: Lukaku scores his first Man United goal ]

“I think [having Thierry Henry as a coach at mentor with the Belgian national team] is the best thing that happened to me. He’s the best thing that happened to me.

“If I look back, from 18 when I came to England until now, I’ve had possibly the five best strikers in the last 10 years as mentors. I had Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka, Samuel Eto'o, Fernando Torres, and now Thierry Henry. … I think it’s the best thing that could happen in my career as a young guy. … Everyday, if it’s negative or it’s positive, I really take it in stride because I know what is expected at the top level.”