Let’s start by paying tribute to the soon-to-depart Pat Rice. Obviously I’ve never been an Arsenal player so can’t vouch for how much he contributed to our success over the years but 44 years of service to the club as player and coach deserves wholesome praise, respect and thanks. In an age of global exposure and mega-million value, Arsenal relies on people like Rice to ensure it remains the same club at heart.
Continuing that theme, it’s encouraging that Steve Bould – someone else steeped in the Arsenal way – appears to have been chosen as Rice’s successor.
As well being familiar with the traditions of the club, the other two major positives are that he is a defender by nature and doesn’t look like a yes-man.
My fear was that Wenger would want one of ‘his men’, somebody like Grimandi or Henry, who you would struggle to imagine challenging his views. Bould has been taught to coach the Wenger way and won’t rock the boat, but equally he’s never appeared backwards at coming forwards.
And his defensive instincts could be a welcome check on the boss’ natural desire to attack and play without caution.
Having said that, Rice was a defender and it is questionable how much impact he had on curbing Wenger’s desire for his teams to play open, expansive football.
That is because, regardless of how good their coaches are, all great managers run things the way they want to run things.
As frustrating as it might sound, in practice it makes perfect sense – every player knows who is in charge, who to listen to and who they need to impress most. If managers give coaches too much power they risk diluting their own authority which quickly leads to chaos.
So as much as we might hope Bould will be the saviour, don’t expect him to cure our defensive frailties – he’ll be working to strict orders.