It seems wrong to be talking about Arsène Wenger’s potential replacement – he’s still so lively and almost boisterous that you kind of get the feeling that he’ll be managing Arsenal forever; indeed, he pretty much manages the club as if he will be the boss in 100 years or so.
Some may be pleased that Arsène won’t be around forever – he has his share of detractors. Whether that’s fair or unfair is for another day, but among the candidates to replace him in the future is Steve Bould, the current assistant manager.
Under the current management there’s no precedent to follow in terms of new managers being picked – Wenger was chosen by David Dein who no longer works for the club, so it will be interesting to see how they go about choosing a new manager. You imagine that with the Arsenal philosophy of promoting from within, Bould would be right up at the top of the list to come in as the new manager.
Bould is a no-nonsense task-master (and I’m not just assuming this because he’s bald) and as well as having a good tactical knowledge is known for superb man-management skills.
At Anfield and White Hart Lane we’ve seen the reversal of this at the beginning of the season – Rodgers and Villas-Boas have had to work on implementing their philosophies at their new clubs and it’s led to a transitional opening to the season. At Barcelona, Tito Vilanova has stepped into Pep Guardiola’s shoes from the assistant manager position and the transition seems to have been smooth.
Bould has been coaching for Arsenal for a few years, and by the time Wenger leaves he’ll have been assistant for a few more, so will be singing from much the same hymnsheet. The players will also be familiar with him, although he won’t be exactly the same as Wenger – for one, as an assistant manager his transfer policy is completely unknown as yet, while he also seems more proactive on the touchline.
That brings me to my next point. One thing that Arsène Wenger has received criticism for is not being intimidating enough. He often gets worked up on the touchline, but there’s a question to be asked in terms of whether his players fear him. A manager shouldn’t be hated of course, but rather his players should be inspired and motivated in the best way possible. If that means busting out the infamous ‘hairdryer’ once in a while, so be it, and Bould seems less reluctant to do so.
Wenger is an intelligent man and interesting to listen to on the topic of psychology, but his motivational tactics aren’t exactly world-famous. Bould is a no-nonsense task-master (and I’m not just assuming this because he’s bald) and as well as having a good tactical knowledge is known for superb man-management skills.
It’s important to remember that George Graham, manager of ‘boring boring Arsenal’ was a skilful attacking midfielder, yet his side played with very little flair
Most can acknowledge Wenger’s knack for on-pitch tactics going forwards, but what has been lacking for a while has been defensive organisation. He seems at times to sacrifice defensive solidity for fluidity in attack, and when that doesn’t come off, the leaky defence becomes Arsenal’s downfall.
However, Bould, having been a defender, has instilled his excellent knowledge on the academy side he coached before he made the step up, and has already had an effect on the first team, with three clean sheets out of three so far this season. It’s early days but it seems like he’s working his magic already.
Some might say that Bould, having been a no-nonsense defender, would have his side playing boring football, which would harm the Arsenal brand and not be ‘the Arsenal way’. It’s important to remember that George Graham, manager of ‘boring boring Arsenal’ was a skilful attacking midfielder, yet his side played with very little flair compared to him as a player, so coaches don’t always have their teams playing as they did.
The ex-Stoke defender comes across as thoughtful and intelligent in interviews, displaying some good qualities – he shows an ability to step back and critique his sides fairly and honestly
Bould had his academy side playing free-flowing football through-out his time as the coach, and it might be a disservice saying he was simply being pragmatic because that’s what the players he was given were best suited to. Wenger probably insisted on that style of play, but he’s not the only one who buys into that – Ivan Gazidis and Stan Kroenke, chief executive and owner respectively, are also keen on attractive football.
The ex-Stoke defender comes across as thoughtful and intelligent in interviews, displaying some good qualities – he shows an ability to step back and critique his sides fairly and honestly which would stand him in good stead as a manager.
All in all, there are certain aspects of Bould’s management ability which are as yet untested – firstly his transfer policy as mentioned earlier, and also his ability to work under huge pressure. Still, from what we’ve seen so far from him, the signs are promising.
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