Three games into the new Premier League season and Arsenal have survived meetings against Sunderland, Stoke and Liverpool without conceding a single goal, the former two being teams the Gunners traditionally struggle against.
Steve Bould’s appointment has seen a vast improvement in not just the back four but the team as whole. The deep-lying midfielders in the resurgent Abou Diaby and the ever-reliable Mikel Arteta track back tremendously well to break down counterattacks, something which cost Arsenal dearly last season.
The wide men in Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain assist too to provide a sturdy shape to the team overall.
Thomas Vermaelen praised Bould earlier in the month by saying:
“Steve is really good to work with, especially for defenders as he has been a defender himself. He knows what it is all about and gives us a lot of tips. He works a lot on the shape of the team and that is very important, so I am very happy he came to work with the first team. He is very focused on details. A lot of players, because we are getting older, we know how to play. But he looks at details and the shape of your body and to be honest I am learning a lot from him,” (thomasvermaelen.co.uk)
Kieran Gibbs follows the Belgian internationals sentiments and said that, "Steve makes you want to play for him and everyone is really excited with the work we are doing in training, especially us defenders." (Gaurdian.co.uk)
So it seems Bould, who was part of George Graham’s resolute back four in the late 80’s and early 90’s, has made radical changes to an Arsenal side who at this point last season had already conceded ten goals.
In terms of attack, Wenger has more than borrowed the expertise of Lukas Podolski from the German national team. With the guile of Cazorla and speed of Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho, Arsenal have all the ingredients to be just as efficient and ruthless in front of goal as the Germans are. Per Mertesacker’s inclusion in the squad seems all the more necessary in this respect.
Though Arsenal have only scored two goals in three games, there was always going to be a bedding-in period for Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla, who are tasked with replacing the goals of Robin van Persie. Wenger and Bould’s new-look team have started organisation at the back first, taking potential added pressure to score off the new recruits.
Given Bould’s obvious influence on the field in such a short space of time, what might he be capable of doing if he were to take the reigns from Wenger in the long term?
Rather surprisingly, Wenger’s future has come into the spotlight in the media once again. A debate has risen over whether he will extend his contract past 2014 and who could possibly succeed him?
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph journalist Jeremy Wilson, Arsenal Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis said:
We're really confident about the direction that the club is heading. We're coming through strongly and we believe we're really well placed. We hope and believe that Arsene will be a part of that as we move forward.
At the same time, as a club, we have to make sure that all of the things that Arsene has brought to the club are enshrined in our DNA to make sure that when the day comes when Arsene decides it's time to hang up your boots – I don't know what the expression is as a manager – that we are in a position to take his ideas and work forward.
The values that Arsene has brought to the club together that the values the club had before Arsene are what will inform us – and I don't want to give any indication that this is happening – and give us the framework as to who might take over from him in the longer term. (thedailytelegraph.co.uk)
It is clear that the Arsenal board wish for Wenger to remain as boss for some time, but at the same time would respect his wishes for retirement, should that be the case.
I for one hope Wenger lasts at least another ten years in the job. There is no manager quite like the Frenchman in world football. But a long-term successor must be considered who has the ability to move the club in the direction Wenger, Gazidis and Peter Hill-Wood have been planning for over a decade.
A previous player under Wenger would most likely be an ideal candidate such as Tony Adams, Dennis Bergkamp or even Thierry Henry. I believe Bould would be the top candidate, as he has worked in the Gunners youth academy, ten years prior to becoming assistant manager, and will no doubt learn a lot from Wenger about attacking techniques too. Suddenly, the future looks ever so promising at the Emirates Stadium.
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