In the summer of 2012, Pat Rice finally called it time on a magnificent career spanning four decades at Arsenal. Quite the gentleman, Rice had always been the consummate professional and for Arsenal manager, fans and anyone associated with the club, he shall always be remembered in the highest regard. How fitting was it when Arsene Wenger hugged Pat Rice during the last game (W.B.A.) of the 2011-12 season. Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, paid tribute to his colleague “He had 100 per cent genuine commitment every day and you respect that when you see that from somebody, and he is someone you could go to war with. You would love to be in the trenches with Pat and those are very difficult qualities to find in modern society.”
The departure of Pat Rice created a mammoth void at Arsenal. The decision to appoint Steve Bould was a rather simple one, considering the club policy to promote from within. An Arsenal man through and through, Bould had spent 11 years at the club as a player and made 287 appearances during that time. He was one of the best defenders in the league and was always known for his no-nonsense attitude. After a successful playing career, Bould was entrusted with the role of Head Coach of the U18 academy side. He propelled the team to the Premier Academy League in 2008-09 and 2009–2010 and the FA Youth Cup in 2008–2009. Upon his appointment as the new assistant manager, many envisaged a drastic improvement in Arsenal's defense, one which shipped a staggering 49 goals in the previous term.
With Bould at the helm, Arsenal conceded just 8 goals in their first 10 games, (EPL) a significant improvement over 21 conceded during the same period last season. After 27 games the Gunners boast of having the second best defensive record (joint with Chelsea) conceding just 30 goals (38, same time last season) and, stand only behind Manchester City who have conceded fewer (24 goals). Bould's influence has been quite evident with the defense looking stronger. The team as a unit, seem to defend better and look more secure on set-plays. On the flip side, Arsenal seem to have lost their fluency and quickness of passing. An extraordinary large number of horizontal passes between the two center-backs and back-passes to goalkeeper have been witnessed this season.
However, as a unit Arsenal's defense appears stronger and there would be no greater evidence than a quick look at the EPL table. Yet, there are a few loop holes which do require a fix. Steve Bould has certainly had a positive impact and only certain final touches are required to ensure this defense becomes the best in the league.
|Goals conceded in the last five seasons|
|After 5 Games||2||14||4||8||2|
|After 10 Games||8||21||10||13||10|
|After 15 Games||16||23||17||19||19|
|After 20 Games||22||28||22||23||23|
|After 27 Games||30||38||27||30||25|
|After 38 Games||??||49||43||41||37|