Bould Over, Theo & More
If you’re looking for a scapegoat to all of the Arsenal woes then starting with Pat Rice is a good place it seems. His knees have been giving him gip as my Gramps would have said; retirement was supposed to happen last summer but Arsène talked him out of it. This time it is going to happen and not a day to soon as the disrespectful frequently observe. If Pat has read some of the abuse he has received online, there will be no deferral of the decision again.
Saturday felt bizarre in this respect. Talk of a club function is all well and good but it was an opportunity missed to celebrate the career of a long-standing club servant. In fact it was typically Arsenal for this to happen. Perhaps there is a good reason for this that will become clearer over time. Did the upper echelons of the club believe that the negativity surrounding him needed to subside before any appreciation could happen? If that is the case, it is an absolutely shameful reflection on Arsenal supporters.
Heir apparent is a tough choice. Overwhelming favourite from the outside is Steve Bould who has done an excellent job with the younger players, the momentum behind this choice already gathering pace. Having strong opinions is one thing but Bould needs to be persuasive as well; it’s no good shouting loudly when nobody listens. Tony Adams is another name mentioned, dismissed in favour of an internal promotion with Neil Banfield also mentioned. I am not sure if that is a diplomatic answer to the former captain whose managerial fortunes have fluctuated to say the least.
Taking the Assistant Manager role is less of a risk for Bould and the club. Managerial potential will become evident in a quieter way, out of the limelight and Bould’s influence can grow over time enabling a seamless transition to replace Wenger when the time comes. Either that or as Liam Brady will attest, management is lot harder than youth work. It is an interesting prospect for Bould. He was, in media terms, the quieter of famous defence. That translates into a perception of the least likely to stay in the game post-retirement. Arguably he has been the most successful in that sense although Dixon and Keown are palatable pundits.
It is natural to presume that he will have a positive impact upon the defence. That cannot be taken for granted, it is easily forgotten that Pat Rice was a capable right back himself, a double-winner. The problem for Arsenal is curbing the natural attacking instincts of the defenders, Kieran Gibbs for example, was particularly adventurous on Saturday which was a little foolhardy given the lack of cover in front of him. In his defence, having his manager exhort him to overlap is mitigating enough. Worryingly, notably in the second half, the attacking impetus came when Vermaelen and Koscielny both forced a path to the central striker. Maybe it is the manager’s attacking instinct that needs curbed?
Elsewhere Theo Walcott – not a Bould protegé despite some reports this morning – is set to return to action on Sunday at The Hawthorns. Walcott’s absence has seen more marked appreciation of his play, tempered by his inconsistency, and was partially the reason for a lacklustre first half. Gervinho’s presence on the right neuters his threat and noticeably his more dynamic moments came from the left when Oxlade-Chamberlain was stretching the Norwich defence on the right. What the arrival of Podolski means for either remains to be seen.
Transfer rumours are picking up pace following on from the German’s signing and it ties in with the manager’s desire to have his new players delivered before Euro2012. This morning’s Player du Jour is Yann M’vila. Depending upon which source you believe, M’vila is either (i) signed but kept quiet, (ii) has given his word that he will sign, (iii) all fees agreed, just the t’s to be crossed, i’s to be dotted, (iv) meeting with the club this week or (v) total fantasy signing as €22m is out of Arsenal’s price range.