In yesterday's opening installment of Life After Arsene, we broke down all the reasons why Thierry Henry could, but perhaps not, replace Arsene Wenger as manager at Arsenal. Today, we dissect the candidacy of Wenger's assistant manager, Steve Bould.
Brief managerial background: Bould was head of Arsenal's Head Youth Team Coach from 2001 to 2012, overseeing the development of many well-known Arsenal stars (Cesc Fabregas, Jack Wilshere, Wojciech Szczesny, to name a few). In this role, Bould's youth teams won a Youth Cup and back-to-back FA Academy Premier League titles. When Arsene Wenger's then-top assistant manager, Pat Rice, stepped down after the 2011/12 season, Bould was tapped for promotion.
Is there an Arsenal connection? Yes. In addition to the number of years Bould's spent working his way up through the ranks of the club to Wenger's assistant, he also appeared in nearly 290 matches in the famous red-and-white shirt. He moved to Arsenal in 1988 from his hometown club Stoke City as a center back who often shared responsibilities with Martin Keown, among others, in partnering Tony Adams.
Oh yeah, speaking of Tony Adams. One of four Arsenal legends immortalized in statue form outside of Emirates Stadium, yes?
The inspiration of the Tony Adams statue, if you don't know, is from this famous Arsenal moment:
The nifty chip to Adams was the work of one Steve Bould, which ended up being the final goal of their title-winning 1997/98 season, thus giving birth to the pose that will forever live at Arsenal.
Does he have a connection to Arsene Wenger? Yes. A very obvious one.
Pros: Familiarity. A Steve Bould appointment would be the easiest transition the club would undertake when deciding on Wenger's successor. He's familiar with the youth setup. He's familiar with the squad, how they play, what motivates them, and every other detail that a hire from outside the club wouldn't be wise to. If Wenger sees through his current contract that will give Bould five years as a top assistant, experience that should provide plenty of insight into what it takes to manager Arsenal. Bould's area of expertise is defensive, so his assistant manager hire would surely be someone who's spent a great deal of time studying and crafting how to best formulate the attacking side of the game.
Cons: While Bould's led Arsenal's youth to the highest of peaks, the question mark surrounding him is if he's capable of translating those successes to the first-team. Wenger's famously controlled every aspect of management while at Arsenal, so it remains to see how Bould would do in the muddied waters of the transfer market and overseeing the day-to-day operations of the club from the top position. Further, it could be argued that the Board would prefer to hire a Director of Football, of sorts, to allow Bould to focus on management and easing him into the aspects of Wenger's job that he simply doesn't have experience with.
Overall Assessment: Let's face it, he's not the sexiest of picks to replace Wenger. When looking at the broader scope of potentially-available managers and the demand this job will generate, it would feel like a letdown if the club opted to stay in-house rather than have its choice of the best manager available. There would, of course, be a case to be made that Bould would earn the job on merits alone and not convenience and familiarity. But given how long Wenger's been at Arsenal, and how long Bould will have been his top assistant, his ascension to manager would be smack of a "country club" hire to many, which wouldn't make the current Wenger detractors any less upset if Bould's philosophy mirrors his coaching mentor's views and opinions.
While it was apparent that Sir Alex Ferguson still wanted to maintain some sort of say in the daily affairs at Manchester United after he left the club in David Moyes' hands, it doesn't appear that Wenger aspires for the same sort of control from a safe distance. Appointing Bould, who would probably run Arsenal in a manner similar to Wenger, would allow Le Professeur a peace of mind as he heads off into the retirement sunset. Bould's currently spent over a decade learning from Wenger, but the amount of unknowns for a coach who's never managed at the top level makes it hard to believe he'll rise above other worthy outside managerial candidates when the eventual time comes.
In tomorrow's Life After Arsene, we jump outside the club for the first time - slightly - to review the credentials of a coach who's taken an unconventional, yet familiar, managerial path.