Arsenal: Five possible Rice replacements

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Arsenal assistant manager Pat Rice will sit in the Gunners' dug-out for the final time this weekend, as Arsene Wenger's trusted aide retires after 44 years with the north London club.

The 63-year-old bid an emotional farewell to the Emirates Stadium faithful on Saturday, following the home side's 3-3 Premier League draw with Norwich City.

Rice is out of contract this summer, and will bow out of the game due to the chronic knee problems that are forcing him to give up the post he has held since 1996.

The retirement will prompt the biggest shake-up to Wenger's coaching set-up in all of his 16-year reign, with current reserve team manager Neil Banfield and academy coach Steve Bould set for promotion to the first-team fold.

Both are under serious consideration to succeed Rice as the Gunners' No.2, alongside former goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, Dutch legend Dennis Bergkamp, and ex-Arsenal captain Tony Adams, who are also in contention.

Speaking less than a fortnight ago, Wenger confirmed his preference to appoint somebody that is familiar with the fabric of the football club, and revealed it could lead to the return of a fans' favourite.

"It is possible," said the Frenchman. "Everywhere I go I keep somebody who knows the club and worked inside the club, so it is a possibility.

"Pat is fantastic. He works every day hard. It (his future) will be decided very, very soon and I will decide after that. It looks like he could stop, but it is not official yet."

With Rice's retirement imminent, GiveMeFootball considers five leading candidates in line to be appointed Arsenal's new assistant manager.

Tony Adams

The 45-year-old has been a regular visitor to Arsenal's training complex at London Colney since leaving Azerbaijan club Gabala FC in November last year.

Adams is believed to have already held discussions with Arsene Wenger, having declared an interest in the position at a club he served as a player for 22 years.

As one of the most revered leaders in Gunners history, the former skipper - who saw a statue of himself unveiled outside the Emirates Stadium in December - would be welcomed back by the club's fans with open arms. But, the fact that Wenger wants to promote from within could ultimately work against him.

Neil Banfield

Banfield has been involved in Arsenal's coaching set-up since 1997, and has established himself as a key part of Arsene Wenger's backroom staff over the past 15 years.

The 50-year-old started as youth team coach, where he played a crucial part in the footballing education of many of the club's current crop of first-team stars, including Jack Wilshere, Johan Djourou and Kieran Gibbs.

After spending seven years in charge of one of the most talented Academy sides in the country, winning two FA Youth Cups, as well as U17 and U19 League titles, Banfield became reserve team manager in 2005 - a position he has held ever since.

Dennis Bergkamp

Based on sentiment alone, this would be a hugely popular choice with Arsenal supporters.

Bergkamp is regarded as one of the club's greatest ever players, and would command immediate respect, because he has played recently enough - under Arsene Wenger - for his exploits to be remembered by both old and younger members of the squad.

The 42-year-old actually turned down an offer to become an Arsenal scout in the Dutch leagues when he retired in 2006, but began studying for his coaching badges in his native Holland two years later.

Bergkamp was given a trainee coaching role with former club Ajax, and was appointed assistant manager to ex-teammate Ronald de Boer last summer.

Steve Bould

Bould spent 11 years as a player at Arsenal, winning three league titles, two F.A. Cups and a Cup Winners Cup in 372 appearances.

Whilst Tony Adams took much of the media spotlight for his stint at centre half for the club, Bould was the quieter and more cultured of the two.

A true thinking man's defender - an attribute that appears to have translated into his coaching career - Arsene Wenger has been impressed with his attention to detail, and will hope to tap into his defensive expertise to help improve a first-team rearguard that has conceded 47 goals this season.

The 50-year-old is in his eleventh year of working with the club's academy set-up and is the current favourite to replace Pat Rice as the Gunners' assistant manager.

Jens Lehmann

The 42-year-old former German international has been spending an increasing amount of time with Arsene Wenger as he completes his coaching badges at London Colney.

Lehmann has expressed an ambition to one day manage in the Premier League, and an appointment as Arsenal's No.2 could be seen as a perfect stepping stone for the ex-Gunners stopper.

As a member of Arsenal's 'Invincibles', playing every match of the club's famous unbeaten title winning season, Lehmann is well respected in north London, and his brief playing return in 2010-11, acting as cover during a goalkeeping injury crisis, only added to his reputation.

He is probably the least likely of the five candidates to become Wenger's next assistant, but if the planned coaching reshuffle goes ahead as expected, there could be another role on offer for Lehmann this summer.

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