bank holiday is over and we now get on with the task of waiting out this week until Sunday’s final league game of the season. There’ll be plenty of time to preview that in the days ahead, and a few decisions will have to be made by the boss in terms of the team, but let’s get closer to kick off before we do that.
The big news this morning is that Steve Bould is set to replace Pat Rice as Arsene’s number 2 next year. The news broke over the weekend and still isn’t official but it’s done and dusted and the man who was such a big part of the famous back four will step up to first team action next season. It’s a move that has long been rumoured and one that some of his former colleagues have been championing in recent months.
A few weeks back he spoke about his happiness doing the job he was doing, developing young players and getting them ready for the first team, so what lies ahead of him is a real challenge. Quite how much input he’ll have into the coaching etc remains to be seen but we can only hope that his grounding by George Graham means he bring some of that defensive discipline to the side next season.
While I think some players don’t need too much work (Sagna, Koscielny, the underrated Mertesacker), it’d be fantastic to see him work on players like Gibbs and Vermaelen, who clearly have room for improvement on a defensive level. The Belgian in particular could really do with sorting his game out. His forays forward are great but his goalscoring masks some of his deficiencies and he makes errors that others get slaughtered for.
And that’s not to criticise Vermaelen, a player and a character I really like, but if he could find the right balance between his defensive duties and his desire to contribute further up the pitch then he’d be an even better player and that can only be a good thing, right? Hopefully that’s something that Bouldie can bring to proceedings next season and there’ll be a further addition to the coaching staff as Neil Banfield will move up from Reserve team manager to first team coach.
For a long time people have said we needed to freshen up our coaching staff and, along with doing the Podolski business early, this is a further sign that our stubborn French leopard might just be changing his spots. I don’t want to suggest that things have gone stale in that department, I don’t know enough about the ins and outs of it plus I don’t want to sound disrespectful to a man like Pat Rice who I admire greatly, but a couple of fresh faces and voices on the training ground every day might just be what we need.
It’s also interesting that Tony Adams was considered for the job but ultimately overlooked. Whether there was a reluctance on our side because of his greater ambition – he still says he’d love to manage Arsenal – or his, I don’t quite know. However, for all he did for us as a player he has yet to suggest he’s got what it takes as a manager and the reality is some ex-players are far more suited to an assistant role than the leading man.
Anyway, the reality is that Arsene has turned to the man who has got no hair – not that we care – and good luck to Stevie Bould in his new role next season.
In other news, Yossi Benayoun says there’s a chance he could stay at Arsenal next season. In an interview with Israeli radio, he said he didn’t yet know what his future holds but Arsenal was a possibility. And of his stint at the club, he said:
You can divide it to two parts. Extremely unhappy from the earlier months, I could have given up, but I didn’t. Gladly, I started playing and scoring goals again, which for me is the most important thing.
I have to say I like him as a squad player and adds depth and experience to the playing staff. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Arsene used him in the home games against City and Sp*rs when he wanted to play a possession game. I also think he was unlucky not to feature more when we were going through our bad patches.
However, I’d be very surprised if he were with us next season. He’s 32 years of age now, Chelsea will want a fee for him, and he himself spoke about ‘dropping down’ to a mid-table team in order to play more regularly. He’s made a decent contribution this season but with Podolski’s arrival and the manager more likely to look to Oxlade-Chamberlain his second season, I think his chances would be limited. Let’s hope he can play a part on Sunday against West Brom and he’ll leave with everyone’s thanks and good wishes.
Aside from that there have been a number of transfer stories floating about the ether, in particular Yann M’Vila’s name has been mentioned. Him being linked with us so strongly is no surprise but I’m reluctant to engage in speculation at this stage. Not simply because much can happen with transfers – a deal 99% done and ready to go can collapse at the last minute for any number of reasons – but also because we’ve got to keep our minds focused purely on Sunday’s game. There’s a whole, entire, gigantic summer ahead which will be filled with transfer news, so let’s hang on until then (less than 7 days!).
And that’s about that, finally for May 8th, on this very day 10 years ago, Sylvain Wiltord did this at Old Trafford.
Here’s a match report reproduced from Arsenal World. “Oh, a mistake by Silvestre … Wiltooooooooooooooooorrrrrdd!”
Heady days indeed and who could ever have known the first part of that commentary would come back to haunt us?! Till tomorrow.