Despite Pat Rice’s status as an Arsenal legend, having served the club as a player for roughly 15 years before taking on a few different staff roles as youth coach, caretaker manager and finally assistant manager, many had dismissed him as a yes-man who would simply agree with whatever Arsène Wenger said.
This criticism is an unfair one of such a loyal servant to the club, but there’s certainly wisdom in the suggestion that a new approach might freshen things up at Arsenal, and that’s exactly what Wenger’s new number two, Steve Bould, will do.
First, some brief history: while the former centre back didn’t start his footballing years at Highbury like Rice, he spent over 10 years of his playing career as a bruising, old-fashioned defender for Arsenal in between spells at Stoke and Sunderland, as well as turning out for Torquay on loan.
After hanging his boots up, he too took up coaching, and landed the same position coaching Arsenal’s youth team as Rice had done. Bould had superb success, winning several trophies during his stint as the youth team manager, which began in 2001.
Bould was a hard, no-nonsense centre back, but while his managerial style also demands commitment and discipline from his players his apparently preferred style of play is much more free-flowing.
His time training the future generation of Arsenal players drew to a close after the retirement of Pat Rice – it’s very much part of the Gunners’ to promote from within, and continuity is highly valued within the marble halls.
Bould’s success as academy boss consisted of back-to-back FA Premier Academy League title victories, in the 2008-09 season and then the 2009-10 campaign. The triumph in the FA Youth Cup in 08-09 meant a domestic double, much like the ones Arsène Wenger presided over in the 1997-98 and 2001-02 seasons.
Considering again how highly-valued continuity is at Arsenal, it’s no surprise that the reserve and youth sides play similar set-ups to that of the first team. However, there are tweaks, made to fit with the playing staff available and the ideas of the manager.
If you take a look at the fixtures of Bould’s youth team, there were many high-scoring games, while there’s a relative scarcity of 1-0 wins, and other low-scoring results.
In terms of Bould’s ideas, his approach is somewhat influenced by his style as a player. This may seem pretty normal, but George Graham, for example, was a skilful number 10 as a footballer, but as Arsenal’s manager had a much more disciplined, defensive approach.
Bould was a hard, no-nonsense centre back, but while his managerial style also demands commitment and discipline from his players – which will have been instilled in his youngsters, an encouraging point for the future generation – his preferred style of play is much more free-flowing.
If you take a look at the fixtures of Bould’s youth team, there were many high-scoring games, while there’s a relative scarcity of 1-0 wins, and other low-scoring results. The style of football his teams play is very much moulded to suit “the Arsenal way”, which again aids continuity, and helps players transition between the youth sides to the reserves and first team.
When asked last year about Bould’s role in his development, first team left back Kieran Gibbs was nothing but complimentary. “Steve Bould had a big influence on me,” Gibbs said to Arsenal’s official website. “Obviously he was my manager for two years and I think it was at an important stage in my development as well. He taught me a lot and he taught a lot of the other players as well how to live on and off the pitch.”
Bould is known as a very pro-active coach, and often becomes quite agitated if he feels his players are going wrong somewhere.
This hands-on approach to ensure players’ productivity is very similar to that of Wenger, who made sure his players were eating the right things and training correctly. Bould will most likely have his own ideas to bring to the table for Arsenal, and there are some ways in which his style differs from that of Arsène Wenger.
To begin with, Bould is much more of a hands-on coach on the sidelines. Wenger is said to never give his players instructions while they’re on the ball, and for much of the game is sat down on the bench. Most of his anger is channelled into launching water bottles left right and centre, although he does have the occasional rant at his players.
Bould is different, and has no qualms with verbal tirades from the touch-line. He’s known as a very pro-active coach, and often becomes quite agitated if he feels his players are going wrong somewhere. It does seem as if Wenger and Bould could be a good cop/bad cop partnership, with Bould administering the majority of the discipline.
While stability in the form of Pat Rice was no bad thing, it will be good to have a slightly more modern, new approach to freshen things up.
Specifically in terms of tactics, Arsenal’s pressing of late has been slightly lax, and at times hasn’t been directly addressed. Bould, on the other hand, was more proactive when he realised that his side weren’t being productive enough off the ball, and was sure to improve that area of the academy team’s game. Of this, Bould said to Arsenal’s official website: “Over Christmas I looked at the way that our Under-18s were playing and I felt that we were fine when we had the ball, but poor when we didn’t have it. We used to sit back and let opposing teams play. Since we came back in January we have had a bigger emphasis on winning the ball back and closing opponents down quickly and that has improved us immensely, even with the ball. The players are seeing the benefits of that improvement and are now more confident and enjoying the game more too. Ultimately, if it is good enough for Barcelona and Messi, it is good enough for our lads too.”
“Bould has a reputation as something of a fearsome individual, and it is true that he often shouts at players during games in order to get the best out of them, but there is also a calmer side to him, particularly with the very young players, and he is very good at highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of individual player's games and working hard to rectify them.
He can be a little reluctant to make game-changing substitutions at times, but as a coach under Wenger he won't be afraid to offer his expertise.
When he was in charge of the u-18s the side used to start slowly a lot of the time and then he would spark them into life with a rousing half-time team talk, which sometimes even took place on the pitch. Arsenal's current 4-2-3-1 system has its origins in Arsenal's youth setup, so Bould is well aware of its strengths and limitations, even though his side were often caught out by opposition counter-attacks when the full-backs drove forward.
He can be a little reluctant to make game-changing substitutions at times, but as a coach under Wenger he won't be afraid to offer his expertise, although his footballing philosophy is very similar to the Frenchman.”
Everything that Bould has done bodes very well for Arsenal in the future. While stability in the form of Pat Rice was no bad thing, it will be good to have a slightly more modern, new approach to freshen things up. Bould will certainly bring that, as well as an important experience of how to win things – after all, it was his pass that was thumped home by Tony Adams in a fairy-tale moment to clinch the 1997-98 league title at Highbury.
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