Arsenal Football Club – The Steve Bould Effect


Steve Bould must be wondering what all the fuss is about with this management lark. After his first season in charge at Arsenal he has received many plaudits for the way in which he has once again made the Gunners hard to beat by tightening up their Gunners back line.

What do you mean he’s not the manager?…

Of course I’m joking but I merely seek to highlight the influence that some Arsenal fans and members of the media have suggested the former centre back has had on the clubs “success” during last season.

After their first three Premier League games Arsenal had not conceded a goal and Bould was pretty much heralded as one on the most important strategic minds since Churchill.

This perception continued for a few weeks until…well until Arsenal reverted to type and began conceding goals again.

The Bould inspired early season cohesion was rapidly forgotten and the inability of Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal to defend was soon once again the main topic of conversation at the Emirates.

Toward the end of the season there was to be a further reversal of fortune, with Arsenal conceding just five goals in their last ten games.

If you listen to some of the stories this is apparently due to Wenger once again deciding to accept the advice of his assistant and employ some innovative new tactics, namely, actually defending.

The penny dropped and Arsenal beat their North London foe to a Champions League spot by one point and achieved their best goals against record in four seasons.

I’m sure that Bould does deserve some recognition for this but I’m not certain he merits quite the amount that’s been furnished.

Would Arsenal still have made top four if Pat Rice was still Wenger’s number two?

The evidence shows that they probably would have done, they did after all achieve that feat in every one of the previous fifteen seasons when he was in the role.

I don’t recall Rice getting too much praise for the overall team achievements then so why is Bould reckoned to be so pivotal now?

The role of an assistant is basically to provide support to the manager, of course they will offer input but one of their most important functions should be to act as a sounding board.

With the possible exception of Peter Taylor with Brian Clough I don’t think any assistant has been key to the accomplishments attained by a manager.

Mourinho does what he does, most fans couldn’t name his number two, Ferguson has used many during his years in management but his success continued while they came and went.

Liverpool during their glory years utilised the boot room and while the manager would undoubtedly have sought advice, it is clear that when the likes Shankly, Paisley and Dalglish were in charge the decisions taken were theirs.

An assistant isn’t fundamental to success, I’m sure Bould was important but it’s unfair to solely rate his influence when Arsenal are winning.

If Arsene Wenger remains at Arsenal for the next five or six seasons and they return to the heights of his early years then that success will be down to him, if they don’t, that too will be is responsibility.

If Bould wants to attain reverence for his responsibility then maybe he should request a renaming of his role.

Defensive coaches are prevalent in numerous sports; football too probably has its share even if they aren’t titled as such.

It might be time for definition of the position and then we can all happily distribute credit where it’s due.

Allen Whyte


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