Nobody at the club will forget the hard yards Pat Rice has put in for Arsenal FC; having worked his way up the footballing ladder as a player, youth coach, caretaker boss and finally Wenger's assistant during the club's most successful era.
Rice is a true Arsenal legend, and it is clear Bould will have big shoes to fill. As a player, Bould was a key member of the defense in the George Graham era, well renowned for its solidity and ability to dictate play from the back.
Since joining the coaching staff he has been heavily involved with youth development, having taken the Under-18s to the Premier Academy League titles in 2009 and 2010, as well as the 2009 Youth Cup.
Bould has molded many of the current crop including the likes of Szczesny, Gibbs and Wilshere. Evidently, Wenger has a policy of recruiting his coaching staff internally as seen with Rice, Bould and even Neil Banfield (the former reserves coach now part of the first team set-up).
Known for his outspoken nature, the intimidating 6ft 4ins figure instantly received the respect of the players on the club’s tour of Asia. He was often organising drills for the defenders and regularly stepping in to converse with them, whilst also instilling defensive discipline into the midfielders.
It is clear that Rice and Bould differ in their approach as acknowledged by Wojciech Szczesny. “Steve likes to shout at players and keep them on their toes which some of us need. Pat was like our father and he didn’t want to scream at us. Steve is a little bit different.”
These stern characteristics that Bould displays were demonstrated in the summer during his first few weeks with the team. The now departed Alex Song was deemed constantly disruptive in training and Wenger’s number two was having none of it.
The problem came to a head in Cologne when Bould reportedly almost had Song by the throat for being lazy and not listening to instructions. It’s fair to say that the remaining members of the squad would have taken note.
On first glimpse, it seems Bould’s approach has had a much needed positive impact on a team that conceded 49 goals last season (from the top 8 only Newcastle conceded more). Arsenal’s defensive unit has demonstrated a more structured and disciplined shape in their opening games, with improvements also being shown when defending crosses as well as when losing possession.
One man that has certainly benefitted from Bould’s presence is Per Mertesacker. Not known for his pace, Bould has clearly worked with the tall German on his positional play, which has subsequently allowed him to strike up a partnership with club captain Vermaelen in the absence of the inured Koscielny.
Although it is too early to judge how successful Bould will be at Arsenal, the early signs are encouraging. He is evidently having a real say on the training ground and some praise must also be given to Wenger who has allowed him to actually coach the players, almost giving him a free role to make tactical changes to the defense as he sees fit.
Showing no disrespect to Stoke or Sunderland tougher opposition is yet to come, with the Arsenal backline’s first true test at Anfield on Sunday; time to put Bould’s tactics to the test.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald