The Bould and the beautiful
By Joe Fitzpatrick
Will our new assistant manager be given a prominent role?
Now that our favourite live bi-weekly soap opera is on the verge of returning for its record-breaking 126th season, we are all busy scratching our beards and pondering what plot-twists and dramas await all of our favourite stars.
Will the teenage heartthrob Jack Wilshere fully recover from his horrific injury nightmare to regain his place in the Arsenal first team? Will Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott betray Arsène Wenger and run off with another manager? Will Gervinho and Chamakh finally find the long-lost shooting-boots that abandoned them at birth? Will Nicklas Bendtner drown in the Thames after getting drunk and catching a glimpse of his own reflection? Will the trend of players advertising on their underpants take off and lead to misspelt celebratory messages being scrawled across the grass-stained (we're pretty sure it's grass) Calvin Klein boxer-shorts of our favourite players in bright blue marker pen?
Will Abou Diaby make the greatest comeback since that of our good lord and saviour? Will the least talented Brazilian footballer of all time walk off into the sunset after finding true love in his home town of Sao Paulo and, rumour has it, even a forward pass? All of these questions and many, many more will be answered for us soon enough but, without building the suspense any further, arguably the most important question to be answered is, just how big a role will Steve Bould be allowed to have as Arsène Wenger's brand new understudy?
The question is a difficult one to answer, because it is not 100% clear to most of us outside the club what Pat Rice's role within the set-up actually was, and what his day-to-day responsibilities were. Some would have you believe that Pat Rice was a nonentity with absolutely zero input into Arsène Wenger's vision of the beautiful game, while other people, such as Freddie Ljungberg, tell it a bit differently. In a recent interview with Arsenal.com, Freddie said "Pat was in charge of the defensive unit and helped the likes of Ashley Cole to develop; he helped us in midfield as well and was an important member of Arsène’s staff - he did wonders. Pat played a big part in incorporating a French culture into an English one and making it work perfectly”.
Because of Ljungberg's comments, I'm going to be working on the assumption that Pat Rice was in charge of a lot of the defensive coaching at the club, and possibly even certain aspects of the defensive organisation of Arsenal’s midfield. I'm not going to go as far as to suddenly attempt to paint Pat Rice as some sort of a scapegoat for Arsène Wenger's recent failures, but the silver lining to these comments might just mean that Steve Bould could be given a crack at organising our shambolic back four and explaining the importance of defensive cover to players like Arshavin and Song. I want to make it clear that the blame has to rest squarely with Arsène Wenger here, and if Pat Rice was not delivering the same kind of results with the players that he produced earlier on in his career, then Arsène Wenger should have let the ageing Mr. Rice retire three or four years ago when he first communicated that he had little desire to carry on.
The full picture behind Arsène Wenger's stubborn persistence with keeping Pat Rice on as his assistant for such a very long time will probably not be fully understood until the Frenchman writes his memoirs. Alex Ferguson has changed his assistant every five years or so at Manchester United, and we can only hope that Arsène Wenger will now finally realise just how revitalising, inspiring and valuable bringing in a new person with different opinions can be to a project, as long as you are willing to listen carefully to them, of course.
There is no doubt that Steve Bould knows exactly how a defence should be organised as, after all, he did play in one of the greatest defensive units of the modern era, so we should be quietly confident that if he is allowed to take control of the defensive coaching at the club, we will see a sharp decline in the number of soft goals conceded next season. Steve Bould will surely make sure that the basics are covered at the very least, and If M'Vila, Baines and Vertonghen are not going to be signed by the idiots running our club, then Steve Bould is going to have to undertake the extremely difficult task of drilling Alex Song, André Santos, Carl Jenkinson, Kieran Gibbs, Laurent Koscielny, Bacary Sagna, Thomas Vermaelen and Per Mertesacker into a defensive unit capable of challenging for the Premier League title. It will be a difficult undertaking for Mr. Bould, but it is by no means an impossible one, because our first choice goalkeeper and back four are actually fine players individually. Our squad is about as deep as a paddling pool but Szczesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Song and Gibbs give Mr. Bould something substantial to work with, and, if we can get and keep those players fully fit, we have a fighting chance of improving our shaky defence.
Most of the defensive problems with the team seem to stem from poor positional play and lack of defensive cover from the midfield, so the first order of business will be to make sure that our midfield three (I'm assuming that will be Song, Wilshere and Arteta) are made fully aware of their defensive duties. We could have the best four defenders in the world, but still concede a lot of goals due to a lack of defensive cover from the midfield three in front of them. If Arsenal are not going to sign a decent defensive midfielder, then Steve Bould is going to have to play the likes of Alex Song, Frimpong and Coquelin old videos of Vieira, Makelele and Essien to show them how to play that most pivotal role for any team that plays in a 4-3-3 formation. I think it would be far easier to sign M'Vila and/or Vertonghen myself, but that's just my opinion.
The other reason that further new signings are required is that Sagna and Gibbs have injury problems that seem to constantly recur, while their replacements, Santos and Jenkinson, seem to lack the positional sense they were born with, let alone that required to play at the highest level of the game. Leighton Baines would have been the ideal signing for us at left-back but, unfortunately, Arsène Wenger doesn't seem to rate the Scouser as highly as the rest of us do, and he must be confident that Gibbs will be able play 30 consistently good games for us next season. Wenger must be equally confident of the fitness of both Vermaelen and Koscielny, as Per Mertesacker is so slow that he appears to be moving underwater, while Squillaci and Djourou are just accidents waiting to happen.
The final position for which we desperately need cover is that of back-up goalkeeper. Szczesny is an exciting young prospect, but lacks the discipline and positioning required to make him a truly exceptional goalkeeper, and he just isn't going to learn that from Gerry Peyton, the man who brought us Almunia the Morris-dancing vampire, Lukas Flappyhandski and Vito "the chin" Mannone.
Steve Bould could yet go on to reorganise the Arsenal defence into a solid unit, but I fear that, without the signings we so desperately require, he is going to face an uphill task as the season wears on and the injuries and suspensions start to pile up.
The good news is that, historically, Arsène Wenger teams have always scored a fair number of goals, and the signings of Giroud and Podolski should ensure that pleasing trend continues, even if Walcott and van Persie decide to abandon ship. Let's just try to start to concede an average of less than a goal a game in the Premier League and then see if Vermaelen, Wilshere, Arteta, Podolski, Song, Giroud and Chamberlain can score the number of goals required to compete for the title. I want to believe.
8th July 2012
User Comment and Reaction
User comments on this article are now closed. If you want to continue the debate, why not do so on the Gooner Forum.
Theo Jensen 19:55pm 8th Jul 2012
I saw Keiran Gibbs cited Bould as a major influence in his playing style, which is alarming considering how poor his positioning is! Very well-written article and humourous too. I'm not convinced much will change tbh: it's all-attack, win-or-nothing, gung ho football that Wenger loves. - Post No. 26463
jj 20:30pm 8th Jul 2012
I'm sorry mate but if you think this squad can challenge for the title without Van Persie your clinically insane. If we lose him and Walcott we need four players minimum to stand still.Even then Bouldy will need to be a miracle worker. - Post No. 26481
wrag 20:42pm 8th Jul 2012
correct me if im wrong , but wasnt steve bould the man who brought through senderos and djourou ? just to name those two massive success'es he had (tongue firmly in cheek). i hope he can help us out i really do ,but i have my doubts . its so horrible to say ,but i no longer have faith in any member of that coaching staff .. - Post No. 26483
Ronster 20:44pm 8th Jul 2012
Can Arse-ne be persuaded to stop his full backs bombing forward?...nah,doubt it.The best we can hope for is that Uncle Bouldy drums some resilience and technique into that motley crew! - Post No. 26484
richard morgan 21:35pm 8th Jul 2012
not a bad post but a bit harsh on young jenkinson who did well in his first season having to come in and cover sagna. This is the highest level he has played at and ideally is centre back not right back but did well better than Djourou in fact. He will have learnt a lot and will improve. Santos welll going forward the guys a handful but needs work on the defensive side but he admits that himself. Keown came in and did well for a few games a few seasons back maybe bould will have the same success. Let us be honest though last season was a strange one for us as well as some clubs. We conceded more than we did last season but as i said we had some strange results. - Post No. 26496
Trevor 21:36pm 8th Jul 2012
Bould will have no imput sadly.Wenger the dictator would not have picked him as number 2 if he knew Bould would disagree with him.Now Steve be a good man and put those cones out - Post No. 26497
raj 21:48pm 8th Jul 2012
Just for your information wenger did try to sign baines but he never wanted to leave everyone - Post No. 26498
Adams George 22:04pm 8th Jul 2012
A nice write up!bould is capable of doing the maggic for us!! - Post No. 26502
passcloud 22:35pm 8th Jul 2012
finally someone figured out what may have been Arsenal's real problems that no one dared to expose and preferred to blame this or that player. - Post No. 26505
nab 0:34am 9th Jul 2012
Vertoghen had already sign for the lot down the road btw. How unambitious. - Post No. 26510
DW Thomas 1:47am 9th Jul 2012
I agree with much of what you say here. But, like myself and others, we are repeating ourselves again and again. I Will wait and see what happens by the start of the season. If it's the same old same old, then we must make some serious noise and be heard by Wenger and the Board. Wenger's recent quotes about not changing his philosophy and how he is a victim are even ridiculous for him. I don't think his whole philosophy is bad, just has some problems. Like relying too much on youth, depending on players to be loyal, and not spending where he needs to, to name a few. Oh and tactics or lack thereof. Wenger is now claiming to be a victim. Well, why not stand up then and take action? More and more you can't just blame the board. Arsene has gone along with it all, made a nice salary to boot, and still believes in a plan that has won nothing for 7 years now. Not one manager of any top club in the world would have kept his job with no trophies and only CL qualification unless the club was more interested in money. Not saying we become Chelsea or Man City, but why not inject some big money over the next couple years and really push for something big. Then we might start keeping and drawing in good players again. This year if changes are not made, I believe many fans will not put up with it again. If we do, we are all mugs. We should not stomach the lack of winning that this team and club do. We need some new blood that actually work as hard on defense and winning the ball back in games as they do to score goals. I keep thinking of several players over the years, in key positions, given many minutes, that simply don't put in the required effort or aren't good enough. On at least 50K a week, that is an utter and complete joke. - Post No. 26512
Anna Mary 6:54am 9th Jul 2012
Belief is everything. Steve Bould is a very good coach. We should be good enough in defense. Wenger needs to buy M'Villa & another defender. We should be fine for the next season even if RVP & Walcott leave. - Post No. 26519
GaryFootscrayAustralia 7:34am 9th Jul 2012
This is going to sound negative and cynical but I think the short answer to your question is "no". Given the direction taken at New Arsenal over the previous five or so years, at the moment I see Bould's appointment as some kind of PR appeasement exercise and nothing more. I hope to be proved wrong one hundred percent on that. - Post No. 26522
Angry & Frustrated 8:25am 9th Jul 2012
We all want to believe Joe, but it's gone a bit beyond that now. I have wanted to believe these last 7 seasons, but that did not help me or you very much did it? Wenger has again stated he will never buy big and will not change the direction he is heading towards, or his tactic (note the singular not the plural) which means he still can't see the next car crash ahead, not just from his team but potentially this time hopefully from us! Bould should improve things at the back, as lets face it he can't make it any worse! However it's a sticking plaster job, because if Wenger's tactic remains gung ho all attack football it's the three midfielders & the two full backs who will be getting it in the neck from Wenger & Bould but from opposite directions as to which way they should be heading on the pitch. My money is on the dictator winning out, and hence the against column is unlikely to improve and might even get worse, despite no doubt Bould's best efforts to bring sanity to this neglected part of the game. As things stand we are simply heading further backwards from the teams we were supposed to be able to compete with once we had left Highbury to go to the Emirates. All I can see are some very faint distant taillights, but plenty of headlights extremely close in my rear view mirror!! - Post No. 26527
Ron 9:22am 9th Jul 2012
In short. No. - Post No. 26529
Joe Fitzpatrick 11:15am 9th Jul 2012
Fellow Gooners, Things are bad. Things are very very bad. We have to decide as a collective that if the club are not going to finally use THIS transfer window to spend some serious money improving this squad we are to finally have to grow a pair. Support the team and I mean let's really get vocal inside the stadium now but, when the wheels come off at the end of the season due to another wasted transfer window and we are out of the race for the so called minimum requirement of fourth place, Protest. Don't renew your season ticket for the following season and write a letter to Ivan the terrible and Silent Stan explaining that although you won't be attending matches you will attend the protests outside of the stadium every Saturday before and after you watch the match for the price of a few pints in the pub. Finally please remember that the only way to get rid of Stan and Ivan is to hurt them enough financially that they are forced to either invest significantly in the club or sell to someone who will. - Post No. 26534
Bard 11:53am 9th Jul 2012
Couldn't agree more Joe. This season is the tipping point. The board are mugs if they think we will sit idly by while the ship sinks. I will fully support protests outside/ inside the ground if we don't see a change of direction. It happened at Liverpool and they got rid of Hicks/Gillett. Silent Stan needs to wake up and smell the coffee. If Wenger leaves because of it so be it. Something has to give. - Post No. 26536
Theo's off 11:59am 9th Jul 2012
The two full backs at start of the season will be Jenkinson and Santos and the DM will still be Song.So will things improve defensively?No - Post No. 26537
GoonerRon 12:35pm 9th Jul 2012
@ Bard - You say 'the board are mugs if they think we will sit idly by while the ship sinks'. Didn't we improve our league position last year, whilst finishing above two clubs with higher wage bills than us? 'I will fully support protests outside/inside the ground if we don't see a change of direction.' So you'll be protesting outside our state of the art £400m stadium then that we are paying for ourselves? It may have happened at Liverpool but that was outside a decrepid old stadium after an 8th place finish and £100m net spend with the 3rd highest wage bill in the league. Seriously, people planning protests after the igmony of being beaten to the league title by a team who have spent half a billion on players and another who are the biggest club in the world? Unberfrickingleivable. - Post No. 26538
Red Member 12:40pm 9th Jul 2012
anyone who thinks Arsenal will compete for the title without RVP must be mad - Post No. 26540
Tony Evans 12:50pm 9th Jul 2012
Can't see anything improving, Joe and I don't think we will need to wait very long for the wheels to come completely off now. In fact for me it will be a relief when they do because I firmly believe it has to get worse before it gets better. These last seven years or so have been torture with Wenger just doing enough (for him and the board I hasten to add) to scrape by and it is about time he is forced to face up to reality. I am just sorry it is my club that has to be dragged down with him. - Post No. 26542
fozzy's mate 13:03pm 9th Jul 2012
Joe - a humurous and amusing read for a Monday lunchtime. I think the influence of any "defensive coach" will be limited with OGL in charge as he has scant regard for the defensive side of the game. Remember he recently castigated Spain for playing a more cagey game. As we all know OGL has a different measure of success to the rest of us. He choses to ignore the ugly nuts and bolts type of stuff. At the end of 2010-11 season when we threw away another good tilt at the title after the Wembley Birmingham debacle having conceded a silly amount of goals from set pieces he sadi this fault was quite easy to address by buying taller players. Who was it that transformed a team of giants into a team of midgets? I know opinion is split re the RVP rant but I felt genuinely sorry for RVP last season, particularly in the Norwich home game. Having single handedly mitigated another defensive disaster he witnessed another with the equaliser. OGL has encouraged or at least allowed 2 of out best defensive players "oh Vermaelen" and Song to maraud forward relentlessly ignoring their basic duties, leading us to conceding in excess of 50 league gaols last season. I hope "uncle bouldy" will be a success but I fear his hands were tied. Pat Rice became a non-entity over the last few seasons but as OGL says "who can teach him anything" about anything? I hear he thinks Andy Murray is the best Tennis player in the world for consistently reaching semi-finals and finals, as he says we are the most consistent club is the world. Remember that our definition of a trophy is different to his, that is why when players talk of winning trophies he can't accept it becasue in his eues we have won a trophy every year. - Post No. 26543
Peter Wain 13:12pm 9th Jul 2012
The problem with our squad is that it is very thin and very injury prone. if we do not sign a quality centre half and at least one midfield player it is hard to see any improvement on the last three seasons and difficult to make a case for us competing with the other top clubs in this country. If RVP goes it is difficult to see who could replace him and although Walcott has been very inconsistent I am reminded that Clichy was aways accident prone when he played for us. He was not last season and I think that Walcott could also improve froma move. This makes you thinlk about our coaching. Gibbs positional play is non existent and causes so many of the problems in the centre of the defense and Song's inability to cover compounds this. If when Wiltshire is fit again this could solve some of this problem. However we need substantial investment which under the current management is unlikely and also the quality of the recruits in the last three years has been poor. What we really need is for Usmanov to give us £100 million and let the new manager spend this hopefully wisely. Any thing else is mid table obscurity waiting to happen. - Post No. 26544
Nick 13:13pm 9th Jul 2012
If you find yourself in a jungle full of predators , you either BECOME a predator, or you become prey, the purists may not like it but if we want to compete in a world of oil barons and Russian billionaires, we MUST find the money from somewhere or we will continue to be preyed upon by the likes of City And Barca, and simply hoping Bouldy will drill our defense into a competent unit will not be enough , i dont like it, in fact i hate the way money is god in football but its the way it is and the FFP wont effect the status quo one bit, as much as i admire Wenger for past achievements, i simply dont think hes got what it takes to be a winner in shark infested waters, hes too much of a nice guy , and like the old saying says nice guys never win . - Post No. 26545
Tony Evans 14:21pm 9th Jul 2012
GoonerRon - I can only speak for myself but finishing behind the two Mancs clubs is not the issue for me. I can accept that (much as would obviously rather we were above them) because, as you rightly say, just look at what those two clubs spend. My cause of deep frustration with Wenger is because he virtually ignores the defensive side of the game and also his backing of sub-standard players like Djourou, Almunia, Denilson, Bendtner and many others. These are the reasons I would join a protest and I know many others feel exactly the same way. What do you think about the issues I have with Wenger - surely we must have some common ground there? Of course it is not just Wenger but the whole set up from Kronke downwards that needs a kick up the backside to make them remember that we are a football team first and foremost with loyal fans that aspire to better times rather than a business in the true sense of the word. - Post No. 26552
Any Old Iron 14:22pm 9th Jul 2012
Bould's appointment will change very little. In retrospect the damage done by psycophantic fans; Arsene knows, In Arsene we trust, continuous vocal idolatry has caused the growth in arrogance by OGL. Invariably, the fans now should equally voice, display their discontent, and objections. Dear Arsene are you governing by consent now? - Post No. 26553
Bard 14:26pm 9th Jul 2012
GooneRon, Soundslike you're quite ok with things as they are. I'm well aware of what the club have achieved but you're blind if you can't see the slid. The money issue is a red herring. I don't support spending billions. We have wasted shedloads on sub standard players/wages. What are you suggesting that we just sit back and watch it all dissipate ? - Post No. 26555
chris dee 14:58pm 9th Jul 2012
Before all the organistion and drilling of the defence can be effective one thing is essential, a good keeper. Sirchesney is a fantastic prospect,but that's all his is,Arsene has to make sure he has an experienced back up when sirchesney needs a break or his form dips and at his age it will. We need a Friedel,Swartzer,Given or evem a Robinson from Blackburn who are at the end of their careers who would be ideal as a backup or even first choice.We will not win anything with mistakes like sirchesneys against Birmingham or Greece in the Euros,both down to inexperience. Any of those goalkeepers and I'm sure we would have had a couple of trophies these past seven years. - Post No. 26558
wrag 15:14pm 9th Jul 2012
i come here loyal and read these posts and after i have read them ,i sit back and think why are we wasting our time ? its so sad but im losing heart and interest in my club ,seems they dont care about the fans ,aslong as they fill their pockets ! this is the last straw ,we as fans must finally show what we are thinking at matches and vent our frustration at being taken for mugs year after year ! - Post No. 26559
LJB 15:54pm 9th Jul 2012
Gooner Ron,our so called "State of the art" staduim that you and the board are so proud of,is an architectural monstrosity that is already out of date.By the time its paid off it will resemble one of those concrete 70's shopping centres so common in depressed towns up and down the country.You want to go to some venues around Europe if you want to see Staduims to be proud of.Its not a UEFA five star venue is it? Still the diamond clubs nice by all accounts.Arsenal fans are the only ones who take more pride in a Staduim than in their team. Costs an arm and a leg for a ticket,the teams rubbish but hey the seats are comfy. - Post No. 26563
Jeff 16:28pm 9th Jul 2012
Sorry to disappoint, But I went on the legends tour last week with Kenny Sansom. I asked him outright,will Bouldy have any influence and will Wenger listen to him? Kenny's response, "not a chance"! He also confirmed what we already knew, that Wenger does nothing on preparation for the opposition. I wonder why we keep making the same defensive mistakes then..Not! But what do I know, I've never worked half a day in football! - Post No. 26574
Angry & Frustrated 16:41pm 9th Jul 2012
Joe - A lot of us have already stopped going and giving a penny to the club, and don't want to wait until next season for change. Alas some of you (obviously including you Joe) have already given your money again to these American money grabbing leeches, which now will help prolong the change for all of us. As I commented a while back, if you have renewed your season ticket that is your perogative, but don't then come on here complaining as it's your renewal which has helped contribute to this torture continuing!! Money, or rather the lack of it is the only way that change will happen!! - Post No. 26577
maguiresbridge gooner 18:33pm 9th Jul 2012
Joe it could also be a case of RVP and cesc before him feeling betrayed with players around them not up to the job on inflated wages and contracts that they don't deserve and haven't earned and having to put up with it season after season.I also dont't want to make a great servant like PR a scapegoat but if he was like freddie said in charge of the defensive side of things he wasn't exactly successful.I also think bouldy can sort the defensive side out and he will certainly have his work cut out if he can,t nobody can but the question remains will he be allowed to ? will he be allowed to do it his way or arsene's way and we know what his ways like to be fair to PR i think there was a very good chance he was doing it arsene,s way.Goalkeeper is definitely a priority and so is a new coach the current one hasn't exactly covered himself in glory with flappy and the waiter. - Post No. 26604
GoonerRon 21:38pm 9th Jul 2012
@ Tony Evans - I share your frustration of Wenger in many ways, he certainly isn't perfect and has made mistakes and continues to make mistakes. Perhaps I am more accepting of the current 'situation' because I try to balance my opinions. I.e, for every Denilson there's a Vieira, for every Bendtner an Henry, for every Djourou a Vermaelen, for every Almunia a Chesney. Now, it might be over his 16 years the balance of his transfer successes vs failures isn't 100% but this will be the same for most managers. Perhaps he is too loyal to players deemed sub standard, but this increased sense of loyalty has also benefitted us when he chose to stay when Real Madrid and the French federation came calling after the invicibles. His stock was at its highest then, much like RVP's is now, and he didn't sell out but chose to do the honorable thing. His substitutions can baffle, the balance of midfield needs to be improved, he uses the words 'mental' and 'strength' far too often, but I do honestly believe he has done a brilliant job in keeping us competitive at a time when we chose to invest £400m on the stadium, rather than half a billion on players like Chelsea and Citeh. I'm guess im prepared to play a longer game than some. - Post No. 26617
Tony Evans 12:20pm 10th Jul 2012
GoonerRon - Fair points you have made and I admire your patience with Wenger. I can hardly believe it is the same manager that we all worshipped up to 2006. It's good to share opinions though and the next few months are going to be very interesting one way or another. - Post No. 26634
15th May 2013
Online Ed: Job done in final home game of the season