A Bold Wenger decision for a bright ‘Bould’ future

Bould and Banfield

Not written much of late for which apolgise and I will apolgise again in advance for today’s post. Why because in essence it is purely a re-posting of a piece I wrote in February. Having said that two men and a dog followed me back then on twitter and my blog was brand new, still on tumblr and not linked to any news sites. So there is an excellent chance you will not have read this before.

However I am using this again because it was a combination of speculation and theory in February but the speculation became a reality and the theory will now be tested. So please take some time to read on below and the relevance may should become clear.

This was posted on Feb 21st under title ‘Once an Arsenal man, always an Arsenal man is no longer enough.’

I along with many others have suggested that if as I hope Arsenal are to stick with the current manager there has to be a shake up and a new approach to the coaching at the club. Only a few weeks back I proposed Stevie Bould (not claiming credit here,) for a promotion from his role with the youth team and the press are reporting this is likely to happen when Pat Rice retires at the end of the season. After all I am just a fan and the thought of Bouldie being involved with the first team gives me a warm feeling in the same way that it did knowing for years that Geordie Armstrong ran our reserves. I get a buzz thinking that our academy set up is being overseen by one of the greatest players to pull on the red and white, in Brady and I used to love the fact that Bob Wilson was our goal keeping coach. I still get goose bumps when I recall David Seaman beckoning Wilson to join him and the team on the rostrum when the Premiership trophy was presented at the end of the 2002 campaign at Highbury, as Bob was retiring. After all it was Wilson who had famously said “Once an Arsenal man always an Arsenal man.

Once an Arsenal man always and Arsenal man Bob

However perhaps I/we have got it wrong. Perhaps in the modern game at the top level having a coaching set up that bleed Arsenal is not the be all and end all. Indeed why should ex-players, however legendary they may be, necessarily be the top coaches of today? I personally do not claim to know what coaching badges Steve Bould has attained, although I am sure he has been through several FA levels. I certainly do still want Steve involved, not least for his passion for the club. I am in no doubt that the power to motivate players and to instill what it means to pull on the shirt is absolutely essential right now (not at the end of the season.) Steve is the correct man for this role on so many levels. He has been there seen it and done it is the recent past and has worked with and inspired many of the current squad. But, and it is a big but I believe we also need to freshen up the team with a new first team coach with a new modern approach to training pitch methodology. If Steve Bould is to replace Pat Rice as Assistant Manager, we must also look to replace Boro Primorac as 1st team coach.

The behind the scenes Bosnian has been with Wenger since before he was at Arsenal, but let’s just look at the 15 years in question and assess how a successful alternative role model has adapted. Yes no apologies but we need to look at Alex Ferguson and Manchester United. Now we know how strong a personality both Wenger and Ferguson have and we know how stubborn they can both be. So why then in the 15 years that Primorac has presumably coached our teams with largely the same methods has Ferguson overseen multiple changes in his coaching set ups?

When Arsene Wenger arrived at Highbury in October 97 he brought Boro Primorac with him and installed the softly spoken ex Yugoslavian international as 1st team coach, but sensibly he retained Pat Rice and made him Assistant Manager. In the first season the new team took Arsenal to the League and Cup double. At Old Trafford the great working relationship between Ferguson and Kidd was showing signs of strain. Kidd wanted more and Blackburn offered it to him. Please bear in mind that promoting from within was the norm and Kidd himself had been promoted to assistant to Ferguson in 1991 having been Youth team coach previously. Logic therefore might have suggested that Ferguson promote Jimmy Ryan from his position as Reserve team Manager but the Scot decided otherwise. Ryan was promoted to Assistant Manager but in a departure for United Fergie employed a separate 1st team coach. He had sought advice from people whose opinions he respected and appointed a relative unknown in Steve McClaren, Jim Smith’s right hand man at Derby County. McClaren was known for using modern coaching methods at the time, particularly video analysis and sports psychology. United won the title back from us in 1999 in his first full season, as part of the historic treble and two further titles in 2000 and 2001, and after the first season Ryan stepped back down to the reserves leaving Maclaren as both Assistant and coach.


McClaren gave Fergie new impetus

 McClaren, by now also assisting England part-time wanted more and seeing himself unlikely to succeed Fergie moved on to become Manager of Middlesbrough for the start of 2001/2. Looking back it was the season that Fergie announced he was to retire and he took his eye off the ball. He re-promoted Jimmy Ryan to Assistant and this time promoted from within to bring Mike Phelan in as coach, from the Youth set up. I have always look backed considering this Arsenal’s finest ever year, clinching the double, and of course securing the league at Old Trafford. I now on reflection wonder whether the combination of Fergie announcing his retirement and his skilled coach leaving might not have contributed.

Once Ferguson had reversed his retirement decision he set about re-energising his first team set up and again having done his research surprised the footballing establishment by bringing in a new Assistant with fresh ideas to work alongside himself and Phelan. Carlos Queiroz, brought huge experience having managed Portugal, Sporting Lisbon and the UAE amongst others. However he has earned his reputation as a coach of talented young players and in winning the World Youth Championship in 1989 and 1991 he was largely responsible for bring through Portugal’s ‘Golden Generation.’ When Fergie enticed him to Old Trafford he had just achieved the impossible and qualified South Africa for the 2002 World Cup Finals before falling out with the SA football authorities. With the new fresh set up Fergie once again took the initiative back from Wenger and Arsenal winning the Premiership in 2003.

Portuguese influence and new ideas


The following season Queiroz received an offer he could not refuse to coach Real Madrid. He only lasted a year and then returned but in the one year Ferguson and Phelan muddled through Wenger/Primorac and Arsenal went on to make history. Worryingly I not sure about you guys but I have spotted a trend here. Every year Arsene Wenger won the league it was in the first year of a new coaching set up or a transitional year at old Trafford. This is not to lessen in anyway Arsenal’s achievements but more to reinforce the message of how important getting the coaching set up and chemistry right can be.

Between 2005 and 2009 Ferguson, Queiroz and Phelan reunited as a team shared 5 Premierships with Mourinho and Clarke, whilst Arsenal struggled along with the same management and coaching team, and one assumes methods utilised in early successful years. However coaching and methods to improve players, even at the top level have moved on and I fear that perhaps at Arsenal we have not moved with the times. Perhaps the test of greatness in management terms, as with great players is not to be as proud and conceited as to think you cannot improve further, learn from others and crucially embrace new ideas. There are many managers of today who freely admit that they learned from Wenger and Primorac when they first arrived. The diet regimes and training methods were copied by others at the turn of the century and no one has truly managed to emulate the fast movement and passing football of a great Arsenal sides in their pomp. However in other areas the world of football and football coaching has moved on and I fear our set up has not. What was radical in 1997 is old hat in 2012.

The point is pressed home the most emphatically during the final phase of the Manchester united and Fergie story. Whilst you all know who Mike Phelan is how many of you have asked yourself or others who is the other guy always sat with Fergie in the dugout? Well he is United’s 1st team coach and he is a Dutchman called Rene Meulensteen.

Allo Allo Rene

 This final chapter emphasises again the forward thinking and ever adapting approach under Ferguson at old Trafford. Meulensteen achieved little as a player becoming a youth team coach at Nijmegen before retiring at 29. He now holds the UEFA Pro Coaching license which he completed in 2006, but this is not what I suspect appealed to Fergie. Meulensteen knew what his coaching beliefs were from a young age. He was an admirer of the Wiel Coerver who had been a successful trophy winning coach at Feyernood in the 1970s and had gone on to pioneer a new method of football coaching. Whilst in the Netherlands Rinus Michels is called the Father of ‘Total football’ Wiel Coerver is known as the ‘Albert Einstein of football.’

The Coerver Method is a coaching technique which Coerver created. By analysing videotapes of various great players including Pele he devised a new concept in football which advocated that skill could not only be inherent with the young players but could also be passed on in a comprehensive academic way. Under this technique, players progress in a structured manner, pyramidal, from basics of ball mastery to a tactically driven group attack. They would be exposed to the other essentials like receiving and passing, moves (1v1), speed and lethal finishing. (Sound familar?)

Coerver has inspired a multi-national franchised coaching regime set up in 1983 by ex Chelsea legend Charlie Cooke and ex Wimbledon player Alfred Galustian using his methods. Coerver coaches and often Galustian himself provide technical assistance and programmes to federations and clubs all over the world. You have to google Coerver Coaching to find multiple advocates from the top echelons of football and the length of this blog prevents the numerous tributes and quotes but suffice to say Houlier’s revival of French football in the 1990s he puts down to Coerver methods and this quote from closer to home is worthy of inclusion:

“We at Arsenal are strong believers in the Coerver Program..we want all our young players to be exposed to it so we invited Alfred Galustian to instruct our Academy Coaches in his Method”

LIAM BRADY: Academy Director – Arsenal FC

Meulensteen however followed Coerver to Quatar, where he was still coaching well into his 70s to learn from the original master and not his disciples. He worked with his hero learning from him whilst coaching the Quatari Youth. He then went on to coach a Championship winning club side but Ferguson had been watching and in 2001 thinking well ahead he convinced Rene to come to Manchester as ‘Skills Development Coach’ responsible for installing a Coerver inspired coaching regime for all players from 9 to 21 at Old Trafford. In 2005 whilst retaining this role Fergie promoted him to run the reserves as well. Such was Meulensteen’s success and growing reputation that Brondby tempted him away to in June 2006, but Rene felt many promised were broken in Denmark and he promptly returned in January 2007, but this time as Technical Skills Consultant to the first team. When Queiroz left again to manage Portugal for the second time it was the influential behind the scenes Dutch technician who Fergie turned to. He promoted Phelan to his assistant and installed Meulensteen as his full time first team coach. Wiel Coerver passed away in 2011, aged 86 but not before seeing his young protégée coach United to 3 Premierships.

Hugely long blog I know but it is a wide and serious subject which creates a compelling argument. The argument being that whilst Manchester United have continually changed their coaching set up, sought out top new practioners and embraced new technology and coaching, Arsenal have retained the same 3 individuals. Old Trafford has seen Fergie and Kidd, Fergie, McClaren and Ryan, Fergie and McClaren, Fergie and Ryan, Fergie, Queiroz and Phelan, Fergie and Phelan, Fergie, Queiroz and Phelan and Fergie, Phelan and Meulensteen over the 15 years of Wenger’s regime. In that time we have seen Wenger, Rice and Primorac, and for the whole 15 year Primorac has been responsible for our 1st team players coaching and the most we know about him is that Ray Parlour once said he was a nice chap!!

Sorry Boro but we need radical change and it needs to be more than just the introduction of a good old Gunner legend, with no hair. Steve Bould will motivate I am sure but Ferguson has demonstrated that bringing in new thinking and ideas at the right time proves a invaluable and that time is long overdue at the Arsenal. One positive is that Bould has been working for Brady and the quotes do suggest coaching based on high technique has been embraced within the Arsenal Academy. Nevertheless now is the time for the board and Wenger to think outside the box as Alex Ferguson has done time and time again to keep his team ahead of the pack.

Sorry to drone on today and thanks if you have made to the end but this one has been bothering me for a while…. Oh really Dave!

So there you have it. My thoughts on the 21st February 2012. I believed in Arsene Wenger but I was questioning his bag men. Sorry Pat you were my first Arsenal Captain but your retirement was the catalyst for changes long over due. Boro is still hanging in there in some capacity but the first team sqaud are undoubtedly being coached by Steve Bould and Neil Banfield.

Please do not under estimate the significance of this change by Wenger. Primorac has been his right hand man for over 20 years and is a close personal friend. This will have been a difficult decision for him, as Bob Wilson himself said about Boro: 

“No one should underestimate his importance to Arsenal. He is an integral part of it and he and Arsene are practically joined at the hip. He is an absolute walking encyclopaedia on world football. You could ask him about any player and he would give you his age, weight, his preferred kicking foot and a complete list of his habits. He and Arsene also share the belief that the three most important things in the game are technique, technique, and technique.”

Steve Bould as Wenger’s Assistant is most certainly ‘Once and Arsenal man always an Arsenal man’ and he has been coaching at the club for 11 years, having won numerous honours under Graham and Wenger. However Banfield as the main coach was not an Arsenal man as a player and there will be a huge responsibility on his shoulders, but his work in producing young Arsenal talent since 1997 is unquestioned.

So we have the shake up I felt was required and the results, certainly defensively look almost instantaneous. However it would appear that the change in policy does not stop there. One might have expected B&B to be replaced by ex-Arsenal players but this has not proved the case. I am certain there was no shortage of interested parties but Banfield’s Reserve team role has gone to the much travelled and experienced Terry Burton, whilst Bould’s position as Youth team Manager has gone to Hammers legend Patsy Holland.

My theorizing does not stop with the here and now though. Now I am gazing into the Goonerdave crystal ball and have been prompted in this by last week’s news on Wenger being offered a new deal. Why. because it is strange as every one associated with Arsenal from board to fan knows that Wenger has never signed an extention this far ahead of his contract end.

My theory therefore is that The club want Wenger on a long term deal so as not to be faced with the situation Manchester United had in the year Ferguson announced his retirement. It is my hunch that Arsenal and Wenger have already determined that the successor to Wenger, will be Steve Bould. Why else promote Bouldie to Assistant Manager and not first team coach, when on paper Banfield was the senior coach? The reason perhaps why the club want ‘Le Boss’ on a longer deal is so that they can chose the timing of the transition and effect this gradually.  Bould can work with Wenger for a period and then Arsene might move upstairs, which would be beneficial for all. With both Bould and Wenger on long term deals Arsenal and the individuals concerned can plan in advance for a gradual transference of power/roles.

No one need take my word for it but you might pay more heed to the word of Patrick Vieira. Paddy in an interview for the ‘Metro’ in December was asked who he felt should replace Wenger ultimately

‘Steve Bould has been doing really well.

‘If I had to say a name then it would be him because he deserves it.’


Good enough for Paddy is good enough for me


Until next time thanks for reading.

Like what you read? Agree/disagree? Leave a comment below or follow me or comment on this blog on Twitterhttp://twitter.com/goonerdave66


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  1. Another well thought out article. I am one of the first to criticise Wenger during out recent ‘lull’ in the trophy area but have to say that with Bold seemingly improving the defence and the recent match against Southampton showing that the misfield and forwards are gelling, things are looking good.

    However, let’s not get over confident. We have some big games coming and these are the ones where we get an idea of how thing are really progressing. Let’s just hope AW and Co have got it right.

  2. You are not the only one who’s noticed that Arsenal have won trophies exactly when Ferguson has been in transition with his coaching set-up. I’ve seen this same point discussed by gooners and others on various websites, tho not as often as I’d like. It’s a point that’s very underappreciated.

    I’m very glad you’ve written about the antiquated coaching set-up at Arsenal which has not changed since 1996. While Ferguson has changed and adapted frequently, Wenger has remained still.

    I think this is incredibly important in understanding Ferguson’s success with trophies and Wenger’s comparative lack of them. Let’s hope the Bould and Banfield changeover has the right affect.

  3. outstanding,well researched and very thought provoking!!!!makes a lot of sense to me!!! thank you!!!

  4. Opinion’s, especially on football, are like clouds. At different times you see different patterns, and if you look hard enough you will see whatever you want to. But how about looking at facts now. I will start you off with two:
    1. Stadium build restricted Arsenal’s spending to acquire the players we needed to take us over the winning line.
    2. Petro dollars and unsustainable spending by other clubs (including Man.U) skewered the league tables more then changes in training/tactical methods by any club.
    Hopefully with funds available and FFP we will now be able to get on with entrusting in Arsene to bring back some more glory to the club. Why do you think Wenger would not assess his his training staff/methods on a regular basis when hs himself regularly says he assesses his own ability to manage Aresnal.

    1. I don’t think he has not I know he has not. This is the 1st change in 16 years. I am however very pleased he has.

      1. “I know he has not” – I see it in the clouds. However, I too am pleased that he has going by what some of our players have said.

  5. As always Dave,quality piece,well written and thought out..
    One question,why beg Pat Rice to stay that extra year? Sureely Bouldie waaould’ve been ready to step up the year previously..and Pat wanted to put the feet up..
    The improvements are there for all to see,but i don’t know if i agree with Bould as next manager,for 1 reason,alot of players who sign,sign because of Arsene Wenger,and can’t see Bould having that influence on foreign players,whereas Dennis Bergkamp is going through the ranks simultaneously,and maybe Bould is being groomed as the assistant manager for years to come,and not the manager for years to come,to learn from Arsene,and then to always have that knowledge on the bench for lets say Dennis or whoever eventually comes in…
    But i for 1 don’t want to even think about Arsene going for a long while yet…

    1. Not sure we can ever see DB10 unless he conquers fear of flying. Just not practical. I also think the big name thing is a myth. Wenger was not at outset and nor was/is David Moyes. It is the club, the institution and the what we stand for but it is also why I want a good period of them working together now.

  6. An interesting read until it became a history of Man United’s coaching. I have no idea why you would have such in depth knowledge about Man Utd and spout on about their coaching practices like they’re so good, but it became impossible to read after that. Your love of Man Utd seems odd considering what you said about our ex players. Perhaps you jumped ship when Rioch was appointed, when United were starting their glory period, I don’t know. You may be one of those fans with a 2nd team, a concept I’ve always been baffled by. Anyway, I noticed there was some more Arsenal stuff at the bottom on the way down here but I was a spent force by then. I need recovery time now to get over the Man Utd adulation I just read.

    1. Ha haha Arsenal1 u sound genuinely pissed, the man united part literally sapped out the zeal to read on. But the article is nontheless good. Just another gooner researchin on our frailities n strengths of our rival team..

    2. Only a fool would not learn from his enemy and respect a worthy foe. I hate Man U as much as the next healthy Gooner and Fergie as an individual more. However I am desperate for us to regain our position as their main rivals. A posotion we took for grabted for 7 years.

      Perhaps if you read some of my other posts you will feel my love of AFC.

  7. Wow, I learnt alot from this article. Always learn alot from your articles, but this was really behind-the-scenes details.

    Someone earlier asked why you focused on Man Utd – but I would answer that by saying that Arsenal need to know their enemy.

    Thanks for the continued high quality reading.

  8. Very enjoyable read again, nevermind the same stuff but I had already forgotten few noticable points from this article. When there is change in mannure’s coaching set-up (or in management team), then we have won the league and/or cup. Any news from old trafford this season? Maybe change in our coaching team, along with slight change of personal at mannure gonna get us treble? anyone….

    1. Sorry Rag you must have been one of the 500 or so who found me early and I am grateful. Feel free to DM me ideas I am lacking in inspiration but did feel this worthy of a revisit.

      1. I think when things are going well there isn’t much to write and I feel its a good thing. Yours comes from the heart of a true fan so its always a treat to read . That’s why was expecting something new 😀

  9. Hi Goonerdave66!
    I have seen this theory being discussed a lot but Sir how true it is- yours is as good as mine. My only reservation is that at the end of the day, Wenger is THE manager of the Club. Comparing Ferguson’s working ways with Wenger’s is unfair as each has his own style and way.

    How do we know that it is Bould alone who is behind this defensive solidity and not Wenger and varied factors like the back four remaining unchanged, no injuries to the first choice players, Arteta moving to DM etc.

    I still remember the streak of clean sheets in Jan 2011 when all the praise was heaped on Djourou- football and everything related to it is a team-work. No one individual, perhaps the only sole exception being the manager, can claim credit.

    So has Bould done nothing? No- he may have as well done a lot but it is not solely down to him. People need one hero and one scapegoat to praise and pillory respectively endlessly. Let us no get carried away.

    Also, if our defence starts leaking again, in all likelihood it will be Wenger who will be blamed not Bould. I feel it is fair only to praise and blame the same guy when all’s well and not respectively.

    To finish, here is AW’s quote from today’s(18 Sep 2012) The Telegraph,
    “We have not changed our training, I build the training sessions and they will remain like that,” Wenger explained. “I’ve been coaching for 30 years not just since Steve Bould arrived in August. He’s doing a great job.”

    1. Wenger may have said that but the players are saying different. This piece is not a criticism of Wenger or a priase of Ferguson but everything evolves and coachimng ideas are not different. I love Wenger but everyone needs to be challenged and be open to change to stay at the top or return there.

      1. I remember the defenders praising Pat Rice last year- and he was not hailed as the saviour; between Wenger and the players, I know who has my trust.

        Sir, I would like to just make my one and only point- Bould is an assistant to Wenger. Ultimately, it is Wenger who decides everything at the Club, including what and how Bould is to train the defenders.

        You have very passionately theorized but that is what it is- a theory as we don’t have real information. You have over-simplified, however, without considering the numerous factors of which a few I’ve listed above and all of which are directly under Wenger’s charge.

        To end, when you say coaching evolves and Wenger needs to stay abreast with it, I’m most agreeable. The portrayal of Bould as someone who has revolutionized( or will, as your original article suggested) Arsenal, however, is a long shot. It might well be true but I don’t know and regrettably, so don’t you. Till then, Wenger is the only man behind everything Arsenal are on the pitch.

      2. We will have to agree to differ but I will not assume to tell you what you do and don’t know my friend. I also have no recollection of saying it was all down to Bould at any point. My theory is that he and Banfield have made a difference and there are numerous journalists and players who have said the same. However my source for training being 100% different is a 1st team player and an international so I will assume he does now what is happening.

        Thanks though for taking time to comment. I am not precious about my opinion being correct, although I do aim for realism and do try to ensure good research.
        It is why I enjoy reading others blogs as well as writing. We can all learn and enjoy others writing and opinion.

      3. Sir, when you went as far as to say that Arsenal have only been winning trophies when there are changes in coaching set-up at Man Utd along with a desire to replace Primorac, I can only infer that you attribute the new defensive solidity to Bould.
        I do not contest Bould and Banfield’s contribution, they are coaching the first-team after all, but it all being down to Bould. If you did not say so and I have inferred incorrectly, I’m sorry.
        I never meant to assume what you know and don’t but you had not quoted your source in the article in which case, I could only infer that it was merely a theory taken from media reports and not from a personal insider source.
        I do not think we disagree too much- we support the same Club after all.
        Cheers! Good luck.

  10. Well done Dave, another great piece.
    A change is as good as a rest, so they say. we have already seen some, with very positive results.. fingers x we will go on from here to greater things. I can’t see Steve as manager. I don’t know if he would want it either.

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