by Daniel Snowden
Arsenal legend (and we don’t use that word lightly at the Cutter) Pat Rice looks likely to retire as the Gunner’s assistant manager after the upcoming match against West Brom, with the word on the street saying that current youth team manager Steve Bould will be stepping up to be Arsene’s new number two.
This could well bring some much needed defensive discipline to the side, which has shipped a massive 47 goals already this campaign, more than last season’s final tally of 43. Indeed, this is a record high for Arsenal under Wenger and miles from the 17 in 1999 and even 31 in 2008.
However, let’s take nothing away from Pat Rice, the final member of the “Double Club” still working at Arsenal. Not only did he win the double in 1971 (clinching the league at the Lane to boot), he was the assistant manager for the 1998 and 2002 doubles, plus the 2004 Invincible team and 2006 Champions League final, with the team setting a new records for clean sheets in Europe along the way.
On top of all this, he always wears shorts and most of the time seems to be wearing sunglasses, even on a cold wet windy evening in Stoke.
However, there have been suggestions that he is a bit of a “yes” man to Arsene, not challenging his boss enough while there has been calls for the coaching team to be freshened up a bit to give the players a bit of a change and maybe force them to focus a little more. To this end it also appears that Neil Banfield is to be promoted from Reserve team manager to 1st team coach, working alongside the long standing Boro Primorac who first worked with Arsene in Japan.
This new look line up may disappoint some fans who were hoping for a number two to come in who may be able to step up and be the top man in a few years time when Wenger calls it a day. Dennis Bergkamp and Tony Adams were both mooted at various stages, but the club has decided to stick with consistency and promote from within.
This strategy should help to reinforce Arsene’s position at the club, bringing through staff members who he knows and trusts, while someone from outside the club may have destabilised things, especially if they had their eye on the top job. This does not appear to be on Bould’s agenda, and even the number two role is a bit of a surprise as he said a number of months ago he was happy in his current role.
Hopefully he can install a bit of the George Graham mentality in the defence and midfield, helping to combine an immovable defence with a fluid attack. This may be helped by the heavily rumoured arrival of Yann M’Vila who Marcel Desailly recent described as the new Patrick Vieira while there has also been talk of Jan Vertonghen, although Spurs are also apparently in the hunt for him, as are Newcastle.
It may end up depending on who finally finishes third although given the form of all three teams recently it appears that no one wants it and would rather take the risk of finishing fourth and cheering on Bayern!