Bergkamp, Adams, Bould, Banfield Or Keown: Who Should Replace Pat Rice At Arsenal?

The Gunners assistant manager is set to step down this summer, after holding off retirement last season to assist Wenger for one more term. But who should fill his shoes?
Avatar:
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
4
The Gunners assistant manager is set to step down this summer, after holding off retirement last season to assist Wenger for one more term. But who should fill his shoes?

404

The Gunners assistant manager is set to step down this summer, after holding off retirement last season to assist Wenger for one more term. But who should fill his shoes?

Pat Rice embodies Arsenal Football Club probably more than any other person in the world. With over 400 appearances during a 15 year playing career in North London, the former right-back went on to spend nearly 30 years on the clubs coaching staff.

Initially installed as a youth team coach, the Northern Irishman took temporary charge of Arsenal in 1996 after the sacking of Stewart Houston. Shortly after he became assistant manager under the incoming Arsene Wenger. 'The Professor' and 'Patrice' formed a beautiful partnership as they brought the club into the 21st century and with it a string of success that established Arsenal as a major domestic and European powerhouse.

However, the curtain is set to fall on Rice's illustrious near 50-year association with the Red and Whites at the end of this season. A quote from Wenger that is portrayed on the outside of the Emirates Stadium explains, “Pat Rice is a guy who is ready to give his life to win.” Wholly Arsenal and a tenacious competitor, he will be surely missed in the Emirates dugout.

'The Professor' and 'Patrice' formed a beautiful partnership as they brought the club into the 21st century and with it a string of success that established Arsenal as a major domestic and European powerhouse

But the club are in need of a new number two. In their barren spell of seven seasons without a trophy, it has often been remarked that Rice has acted as too much of a yes man to his boss, which in turn fuels Wenger's stubborn reliance on his rigid set of principles.

With the Gunners looking rejuvenated after the mire that was the beginning of this season, a new assistant may be exactly what the club, and Wenger, need to bring new ideas across and compete for the title once again.

A whole host of names will be in the frame for the job, but the five most likely are Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Steve Bould, Neil Banfield and Dennis Bergkamp. Who has the best skill set to be Arsenal's next assistant manager?

1. Coaching credentials

Dennis Bergkamp is the only one currently working as an assistant manager, to Frank de Boer's Ajax. At first undertaking a trainee coaching role at his boyhood club under previous boss Marco Van Basten, Bergkamp is now the right hand man in Amsterdam. And a good job he is doing too, helping to mould Swedish star Christian Eriksen into a highly sought after playmaker within a talented team that very nearly knocked Manchester United out of this seasons UEFA Cup. Athletic Bilbao got all the credit, but it could quite easily have been Ajax with the Red Devils scalp. Bergkamp's appointment has also coincided with domestic domination for Ajax this campaign, who currently sit six points clear of the Eredivisie.

Tony Adams is the other man with proven coaching experience on the top rungs, having worked for two years under Harry Redknapp at Portsmouth. During his time as No.2 on the south coast, Pompey achieved their highest league finish (9th) in over 50 years and won the F.A. Cup. When Redknapp left for Spurs, Adams was given the opportunity to manage the club himself, but things soured shortly into his spell and he was sacked after just 16 games in charge after picking up only 10 points. We all know what has happened to Portsmouth since, but Adams has been a bit of a mystery. In May 2010 news surfaced that the legendary Arsenal captain had taken control of obscure Azerbaijani club Gabala F.C. with the intention of building a successful outfit from scratch. The dream died before the end of Adams' first season in charge, as he departed due to family reasons. A failure as a top boss, Adams still has a lot to offer as an assistant.

If Wenger wants to promote from within, Neil Banfield is in with a great shout. Reserve team coach at Arsenal for nearly a decade now, the 50-year-old oversees that crucial passageway at any club between promising youth talent and established first team stars. Banfield has nurtured the progression of stars like Jack Wilshere, Alex Song and Gael Clichy during his time at the club, but lacks the top level C.V. of others on the shortlist.

Steve Bould heads the youth team at Arsenal, having coached youngsters at the club since 2001. The Gunners have been famed for their talent production in recent years, which Bould has been a key part of, leading the academy sides to the Youth Cup in 2009 and back-to-back league titles. Has minimal experience with older players, though.

Martin Keown is a surprise name on the agenda considering he has spent more time on the punditry sofas than out on the training pitches. But a short spell aiding the ailing Arsenal back-line in the 2005/06 season boosted his reputation as a burgeoning defence coach, and Wenger may see Keown as someone who could grow into the role.

Full marks (10) – Dennis Bergkamp
Second best (7) – Tony Adams
Bronze medal (5) – Neil Banfield
Not quite last (3) – Steve Bould
Wooden spoon (1) – Martin Keown

2. Is he another yes man?

There isn't much chance Tony Adams would conform to all of Wenger's idiosyncrasies, but Wenger certainly trusts Adams opinion, sticking with his captain following his public admittance of alcoholism in the nineties. Wenger played a big part in Adams' recovery and rehabilitation thereafter, and the centre-back rewarded his manager by leading Arsenal to two Premiership and F.A. Cup doubles in the 1997-98 and 2001-02 seasons. So important at Arsenal that he has his own statue alongside Gunners luminaries Herbert Chapman and Thierry Henry, Adams would provide an authoritative voice in the dressing room.

Despite their mutual respect, Bergkamp is a free thinker and would be prepared to counter some of Wenger's much defended beliefs. With a legendary status at Arsenal and seen as one of the most gifted players to ever wear the shirt, he would have the backing from the terraces to be his own man as his old boss' number two. Having said that, he predominantly works with the strikers at Ajax and may not wield an influence across the entirety of the Dutch side's squad. A side issue remains over Bergkamp's refusal to board aeroplanes due to his chronic fear of flying. Arsenal worked round this before, sending the non-flying Dutchman out to European away games a few days early by road or train, but if he was working closely with Wenger this may be an issue. One to mull over, Arsene.

Martin Keown may be most remembered at Arsenal for his taunting of Ruud Van Nistelrooy  at Old Trafford – when the Gunners defender jumped all over the striker following his penalty miss – but that didn't particularly impress Wenger. Keown is certainly his own man, and judging by his on-screen thoughts of his former club, he wouldn't be afraid to stick his neck out and criticise aspects of Wenger's approach.

Neil Banfield and Steve Bould are more likely to fit the 'yes man' stereotype. Both currently work at the club, and both are in the running for promotion, but neither would bring a drastic alternative in style from Rice. Bould may be the more single minded of the two, having developed his own approach to the game (within the Arsenal mould) as leader of the youngsters at the club for the best part of ten years. Banfield has his own methods but is used to working inside Wenger's framework as reserves coach, chopping and changing his playing staff to suit the senior and junior set-ups.

Full marks (10) – Tony Adams
Second best (7) – Martin Keown
Bronze medal (5) – Dennis Bergkamp
Not quite last (3) – Steve Bould
Wooden spoon (1) – Neil Banfield

Keown is certainly his own man, and judging by his on-screen thoughts of his former club, he wouldn't be afraid to stick his neck out and criticise aspects of Wenger's approach.


3. Experience in the game

Bergkamp made nearly 80 international caps for the Netherlands, scoring close to a goal every two games and is remembered as one of the best strikers ever to play for Arsenal. He was even named in the top 100 players of all time by Pele. He fits the Alan Hanson criteria of possessing a 'football brain' and was always one of the senior figures at Highbury that Wenger turned to for inspiration on and off the pitch.

A dogged defender of an ex-pro, Bould epitomises everything about old school English centre backs. Appointing him would definitely help to improve Arsenal's defence

Martin Keown is hot property in the world of football sofas at the moment, enjoying a raft of punditry jobs and part-time scouting and coaching. He has certainly kept himself busy since retiring in 2005, and now discusses footy for the Beeb, ESPN, Al JazeeraTV3 Ireland. But is Keown all talk and no action? He has done some coaching at Arsenal and is getting his badges, but is doing so rather tentatively. Whilst Adams threw himself into opportunities in England and across central Europe after hanging up his boots, Keown has been less proactive. But it may just have worked for the Oxford born defender, as his opinion holds a slightly higher value than his former team-mate.

Adams on the other hand has a rather mixed reputation. On the pitch he went undoubted, a leader of men and a true winner, but off it he had his issues. Since going into coaching things haven't panned out quite as the 45-year-old would have imagined, but he is still held in high esteem at Arsenal. It could be a great partnership, or it could all go horribly wrong. That seems to be the way with Adams.

Bould played with both Keown and Adams at the back for Arsenal, but despite their fame now, he enjoys a quieter position on the production line at the Emirates. A dogged defender of an ex-pro, Bould epitomises everything about old school English centre backs. Appointing him would definitely help to improve Arsenal's defence, something that Wenger is notorious for not bothering to train. But the point remains that his skills have been honed and toned working with young players, which could well make the step up to coaching established stars a tricky one.

Banfield may well have the best all-round knowledge of the bunch, having worked on the sidelines for the longest. But he is also the least known, and it remains to be seen how many Gooners would be happy to see him step into Rice's position. As reserves coach he holds the role closest to Wenger's number two in terms of importance, but the Frenchman may be better equipped with one of his former lieutenants.

Full marks (10) – Dennis Bergkamp
Second best (7) – Martin Keown
Bronze medal (5) – Tony Adams
Not quite last (3) – Steve Bould
Wooden spoon (1) – Neil Banfield

Dennis Bergkamp would be my recommendation for the next assistant manager at Arsenal, when Pat Rice finally does decide to pack it in. Bergkamp would offer clever and measured judgements to Arsene, holds the respect of the players and is already proving a more than capable number two at Ajax. This summer Wenger should jet out to Amsterdam and try and move heaven on earth to bring back the Dutchman. If he doesn't, who knows Dennis could end up in the boardroom at Man United. Well, Patrick Vieira seems to think that was a wise move. Unlikely, but Bergkamp is the thinking man's choice.

Final scores

1. Dennis Bergkamp (25/30)

2. Tony Adams (22/30)

3. Martin Keown (15/30)

4. Steve Bould (9/30)

5. Neil Banfield (7/30)

Other recent stories you might like:

Meet Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Arsenal’s Next Defensive Stalwart

Arsenal, Adebayor And The Science Behind Scoring Goals

The Greatest Goal I Ever Saw: Arsenal’s Andrei Arshavin v Barcelona

Arsenal Didn’t Under Perform, Wigan Played Like Barcelona

Click here for more Football and Sport stories

Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Twitter

Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Facebook