Stojkovic details ‘perfect’ Wenger relationship


Back in February Arsenal supporters were somewhat taken aback when Serbian newspaper Vecernje Novosti reported quotes from Arsene Wenger in which the Frenchman spoke openly about his preferred successor as manager at the Emirates.

It was a topic that the Alsatian had not touched upon with the media in his homeland, let alone England, and yet in lucid black and white terms he laid out his support for one of his former players… just not one who’d ever worn the red and white in N5.

Sidestepping the likes of Tony Adams, Steve Bould, Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry, Wenger unambiguously outlined the reasons why Dragan Stojkovic would be a suitable heir. Unsurprisingly, “Dragan who?” was the common reaction from most Gooners.

Regarded as one of Europe’s greatest attacking midfielders in the late eighties and early nineties, the Serb’s stellar reputation, which still garners interest on the continent, appears not to have penetrated these shores in the same manner, peaking as it did during UEFA’s ban on English clubs during the period.  A legend at Red Star Belgrade and with the Yugoslavian national team, ‘Piksi’ made a high-profile move to Marseille in 1990, before eventually  joining forces in Japan with Wenger at Nagoya Grampus Eight.

While his confidante moved to Arsenal in 1996, Stojkovic spent seven seasons in the J-League before returning as a coach, via spells as president of the Yugoslav FA and Red Star Belgrade, in 2008. He has since led Nagoya to the J-League title, a feat which Arsene Wenger admitted not even he had achieved.

Speaking warmly about his close friend earlier this year, Wenger said:  “I would love Stojkovic to be my successor, there are a hundred reasons for that.

“Our ideas are the same and we both strive for perfect football. I knew he was going to have teams playing attacking football with many passes.

”He has done that, showing he will be a great coach. I told him that if he could transmit his football imagination to his players he would fly high. It’s a great achievement for him to have won a championship.”

Success appears to be very much on Stojkovic’s agenda, although like his mentor, it is success achieved playing beautiful football that concerns the Serb.

Speaking to journalist Andrew McKirdy, in a fascinating interview for football journal The Blizzard (also available via In Bed with Maradona), the 46-year-old spoke candidly about his long-standing relationship with the Gunners manager.

“It’s perfect. I was very lucky to be under his control in 1995-96 when he was manager of Nagoya, and this experience for me was really good because for the first time I started to work with great pleasure and confidence.

“I started to understand tactical behaviour. I started to understand modern football. As a result of that, in 1995 he became J. League manager of the year even though we were only second, and I was player of the year.

“We stay in contact and even today our relationship is really great. I go to London to see games and meet him and talk.”

Arsenal fans are akin to hearing new recruits at London Colney speaking fondly of the technical nature of training sessions, with players lauding the amount of time spent practicing with a ball at their feet. It is a state of affairs which Le Professeur has been honing for nearly three decades and one which has obviously heavily influenced Stojkovic during his own managerial career.

“You can find many coaches who work without the ball and this is absolutely unacceptable to me. The ball is the main thing for the players.

“From the physical point of view, you can also do it with the ball. It’s not all about running and trying to kill the players. I don’t like that. I don’t like to see my player after training saying that he is dead tired. This is not my target.”

So struck by one particularly impressive training camp under Wenger, Stojkovic recalled the beauty of achieving high levels of conditioning without resorting to exhaustive fitness work.

“I remember we had a training camp, and on the last day I asked him, “When do we start the camp?” Of course I was joking, but that camp from the physical point of view was very good for me.

“I worked hard, but at the same time I was very light. I was not tired. I was really ready to play, and that 1995 season was amazing. I liked his philosophy of football, I liked the exercises. All training was with the ball. I never had any training without the ball.”

While the similarity in philosophy between Wenger and Stojkovic has been played up by both parties in recent interviews, the latter appears not to have been blinkered by the rapport.

Having been a close observer of the current malaise at the Emirates, the Serb also admitted that at times he would have operated differently to the Frenchman, particularly regarding personnel both in goal and up front.

“I don’t know his situation with goalkeepers. But he continues to believe. I told him last time [presumably before Szczesny’s rise to prominence] that the problem for Arsenal was goalkeepers. He could find a good goalkeeper. It’s a big problem for Arsenal, but he still believes that he is right.

“He also needs a real striker, who is expensive of course. Van Persie is not a real striker, Arshavin is not a real striker. Adebayor was a real striker but they decided to sell him for a lot of money. Arsenal get a lot of benefits from his coaching from a financial point of view.”

It remains to be seen whether Dragan Stojkovic does ever succeed Wenger in the managerial hot seat at Arsenal or indeed if another club snaps up a coach on an upwards trajectory. One thing, however, appears clear; if he were ever to take over it appears the free-flowing football which a generation of Gooners have come to accept as the norm would remain a steadfastly protected feature of life in North London. That can only be a good thing.


Andrew McKirdy’s full (and really quite brilliant) interview with Stojkovic appears in Issue Two of The Blizzard, which is out now. All issues of The Blizzard are available to download for PC/Mac, Kindle and iPad on a pay-what-you-like basis from as little as 1p per issue, and are also available in hard-copy. The Blizzard is a 190-page quarterly publication that allows writers the opportunity to write about the football stories that matter to them, with no limits and no editorial bias. Find out more at, or follow on Twitter @blzzrd.

Thanks also to In Bed With Maradona, who currently feature this interview alongside a terrific video of Stojkovic during his playing days. 

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Grampus Gooner

I Live in Nagoya and believe me Stojkovic is a brilliant Manager. He would definitely be the best man for the job once Wenger moves on. If you could take all the good things about Wenger and all the good(!) (from a footballing point of view) about Mourinho, that would sum up Stojkovic. In the J-League he has an agressive apporoach, tactically and in the transfer market. He is very is single minded and focused. Doesn’t take crap from the media or players. Gooners would not be dissappointed!

Grampus Gooner

Also which other manager in the world can score a goal like this (while still a manager!)

Grampus Gooner

Holy moly , what a volley ! I just had to sit back in my chair and applaud.

Johnny Massacre

What the fuck!!!!!

Like a boss.


Hey Grampus,have sent that link to a few friends and they all think it’s been photo shopped,you know luike ronaldinho crossbar thing? Is it genuine do you know?

Grampus Gooner

Definitely genuine, saw it on live TV!


Thanks alot Grampus great link and what a goal,unreal 😉


Stojković was a brilliant footballer; it was a shame he ended up playing on the losing side in that 1990-91 European Cup final. I try to watch Nagoya Grampus as much as possible, because they have Josh Kennedy. Dragan deserves all the praise he gets, and I wouldn’t be unhappy if he took the reins at AFC one day. That team plays an appealing brand of football under Stojković, and they defend quite well. They’re in a good position to go back-to-back, which would make up for their early exit from the AFC Champions League. Having seen Gamba Osaka first-hand,… Read more »

Dave Gooner

” Wenger and Stojkovic Out!!!”

(I’m the first!!!)


Pathetic try at a Troll Joke……Stop it already

Lord Teddy Ears

Dave that has made my day !!!


You missed ¨SAF,Mancini, Mourinho, and AVB out as well!!!¨ LOL :)))

The Invincible Arse

Oh great video.
Sign him Arsene!!


I doubt many people could disagree with an successor groomed by Wenger. I’d love to see Bergkamp come in an give it a go, although some experience managing a team himself (rather than just assistant) somewhere in Europe first would be great.

The Invincible Arse

If only he could fly.


Bergkamp has already stated that he doesn’t want to be a manager, he wants a coaching job.

Naija Gunner

As long as he’s good and better than the Proff. why not, let’s see what he do.

A wenger

I ain’t gone yet !



Smeer Na$ri (with shit)

i remember him playing for Yugoslavia. He was very technically gifted and had a good spark about his play. Should’ve played for a top club in England. I would’ve liked to have seen more of him.

Jonas Jonasson

Why play for an English club in the 90s when the football was rubbish and there was no money in the league then? Tapie was bribing his way in France and the Serie A took over as the best (think that’s footballer code for highest paying) league.

Sublime player and I like his views on player acquisitions. If it’s broke, fix it. Maybe AW can learn a from his protégé.


He could be just the breath of fresh air Arsenal needs without wrecking Arsene’s legacy. Perhaps the time will soon be upon us (if it’s not already) when Wenger steps aside and let’s his supposed heir take the reins.


Perhaps we need a manager who will work the shite out of their players and instill a little fortitude. It’s no wonder Arsenal is seen, by us mind you, as weak minded and frail.
Neither the players nor their bodies are conditioned for Premier League stresses.


Tennessee have you quaffing too much of that Tennessee moonshine lately? you didn’t get the gist of the article nor the interview….AW’s is being praised by this lad for his workouts and practices which didn’t ¨work the shite out¨ and the only one who is weak minded and frail is you. The injuries aren’t as easily explained away as your simpleton conditioning excuse proposes…talk to any pro Footballer and they’ll tell you that.

Midfield Corporal

Surely it’s time Pat Rice was given a crack at top job, he’s served his apprenticeship.


He doesn’t want a managerial job.

Bob the Gunner

Wenger 2.0


I would like to see this guy succeed Wenger. It sounds like he plays football like we do but his comments about Wenger’s transfer policy are a good sign that he wouldn’t hesitate to gamble money on a player. Although Wenger has his hands tied financially by the BOD, I’m pretty certain that he has missed out on quality players before because he didn’t risk an extra couple of million.


I wouldn’t want Wenger anywhere near the club after his inevitable sacking, let alone have him choose his next appointment.


Moronic copmment!!


meant comment


Sorry James but comments like yours truly truly piss me off.

The people that want Wenger out are simply ignorant fools who just do not understand what the club is going through and what football in general is going through.

If you do not understand the current situation as a whole then is not really Wenger’s fault is it?

Stop letting crap blogs and newspapers do the thinking for you, use your brain to analyse things from your own perspective and realise most of what you read is simply not true.


English football has evolved since wenger first took the reigns and i would say it would be near impossible for an outside unproven foreign manager to come in and take the reigns of a club that doesnt have 500million to spend and still push for titles. i would rather see a british manager take the reigns, wenger has done a fantastic job but surely someone who doesnt mind spending some money and shaking up a few things would be important. this guy would probably take orders from Arsene on the phone in the dugout even after arsene is no longer… Read more »

Grampus Gooner

If you know anything about Pixie (Stojkovic) you will know he takes orders from nobody!


And what british manager qualifies for that role? Surely not harry redknapp? I’m sorry, as much as i am british, our managers in modern football apart from SAF just aren’t good enough. They can’t do it on the euro/world stage let alone club level


Haha, that was funny. Trying to make him think what you think instead of what you consider media brainwashing. Just because he doesn’t share your opinion on things, and just because he doesn’t see Wenger, or his policy, as the right thing for Arsenal at the moment, doesn’t mean he’s brainwashed, or any thing like it.

The REAL Dave

Wenger could be to Stojkovic what Dein was to Wenger but this will fail as Dein had/has many corporate contacts around the world in football and beyond with top roles (the founder of the premier league, chair of G14, etc.) which is the why the current board do not like Dein as he is too powerful for them (but suitable for Arsenal). Wenger has often spoken about his loneliness in football and will not be able to offer the same support he got from Dein, should he ever need it. Should Stojkovic ever replace Wenger with Wenger moving ‘upstairs’ then… Read more »


stojkovic was a brilliant player .i remenber him very well
olympic marseille lost the game when their manager decide to take him out of the final vs red star .
while he was there red star player were scare shit of him and were seatting back but the game change when he was sub and the rest is history for red star
worst sub in history of football,even marseille supporter would tell you that with him they would have won


Stojkovic was a brilliant player, I agree. But, Red Star losing a game because he was substituted is not true. Get the facts right, it was in 1991 European cup final that Stojkovic came in as a substitute at 112th min. He requested the coach not to put him on the list of PK takers as he did not want to take a penalty shot against his previous club. The match ended 5-3 for Red Star after a 120min 0-0 game. Marseille eventually won the Champions league, but I dont think stojkovic was even on the bench for that final… Read more »


Nice to know there’s an understudy waiting on the wings! Stojkovic is surely aware that once AW retires or moves on or up, then he’ll be invited to the short list. Managing Arsenal would be any top manager’s dream and with the youth talent and worldwide support we have, it is a no-brainer for him to move here. AW isn’t getting any younger and the stress,strains and idiotic fanboys like James above have taken their toll. He may bring Stojkovic in as a coach and groom him for the manager’s role over a few seasons.

[…] to the topness, might make him the ideal man. One name not mentioned though is Dragan Stojkovic. Have a read of this to see why he might just be the man beknighted by the sword of […]

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