Rift between Wenger and Bould 'causing problems' at Arsenal
Former Gunner Stewart Robson suggests Bould and autocratic Arsene are not rubbing along well
ARSENE WENGER deployed his diplomatic skills yesterday to quell disgruntled Arsenal shareholders at the club's Annual General Meeting, but should the Frenchman be worried of insurrection closer to home?
According to former Arsenal midfielder turned broadcasting pundit Stewart Robson, "a rift between Arsene Wenger and assistant Steve Bould is causing problems" at the club.
Bould replaced Pat Rice as Wenger's assistant in the summer in a move that was welcomed by Arsenal fans. There was a feeling that the 63-year-old Rice had outstayed his welcome and no longer had the energy and ideas to help move the club forward. There was also a belief among some Arsenal fans that the genial Rice was too much of a yes-man, going along with Wenger whatever the Frenchman said.
Bould is cut from a different cloth. Like Rice, he made his name as a hard-nosed Arsenal defender, playing more than 280 times for the Gunners. He was also a member of the double-winning side of 1997-98 under Wenger. But Bould has always been his own man and according to Robson it's this steely streak that is creating friction with Wenger.
In an interview with Talksport, Robson – who made 150 appearances for the Gunners in the 1980s – claimed that Bould is becoming frustrated by the Arsenal manager's intransigence. "I hoped that he would do more with the defence," said Robson of Bould, "but I'm not sure whether he's being allowed to do that by Arsene Wenger."
Asked if this was causing problems, Robson replied: "I think there might be a rift in the camp between those two from what I've heard."
Wednesday's humbling defeat to Schalke in the Champions League offered a glimpse of what may lay behind any alleged fall-out. Bould was in charge of the team because Wenger was still serving a UEFA touchline ban carried over from last season. Arsenal started against the Germans with Andre Santos at left-back, a player with a reputation for defensive indiscipline.
By the half-hour mark it was clear the Brazilian was out of his depth against Schalke's outstanding Jefferson Farfan, and it cried out for a change at half-time. But instead of substituting Santos with Laurent Koscielny (switching Thomas Vermaelen to left-back and pairing Koscielny with Per Mertesacker in central defence), Arsenal continued with Santos. The consequence of which was two second-half goals for the Germans.
When Bould was asked afterwards why he hadn't made any changes at half-time he admitted it was because the "substitutions were certainly pre-planned". In other words it appears Bould was powerless to make any changes at half-time because Wenger had issued instructions earlier in the day about when the substitutions would be made.
Wenger is known for his autocracy but when mixed with such apparent inflexibility it makes for a dangerous brew. If Robson is right and a rift has opened up between the two coaches, Arsenal fans could be in for many more months of misery.