Steve Bould, moved to Arsenal from Stoke City for a mere £390,000 on 13 June 1988 and became the part of the famous defensive four of Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn and Tony Adams. He played in the 1989, title decider against Liverpool where Arsenal won the League 2-0 in the last minute of the last game of the season, a match regarded as the starting point of a renaissance in English football and the moment where people started to see the untapped commercial potential of live football on television. On 15 August 1992, he had the distinction of being the scorer of Arsenal’s first Premier League goal on the opening day of the season at Highbury.
So, What does Steve Bould bring to the Arsenal Defense?
Recently appointed as the Assistant Manager, after the departure of Pat Rice, he effectively counts as a ‘Fourth Signing’ this summer, a much need new voice in the dressing room, someone who can challenge Arsene Wenger’s decisions. Looking at Arsenal, scoring goals has never been a problem, excluding last season where Van Persie scored the largest chunk of the 74 goals scored. Its the Defense that has cost us dearly in the last few seasons. Apart from injuries to key players at key moments, the defense has been like a bowl without a bottom ( forgive for the tacky comparison). A staggering 49 goals were conceded last season, the worst ever from Arsenal since 1994/95 season when we let in the same amount of goals. So, a major revamp in tactics and organisation is needed, and if pre-season friendlies are a benchmark for whether the team can compete for honors, that’s exactly what we are about to get!
The Offside Trap: This tactic has been used a lot by Arsenal in the past seasons, but to little effect. Though it works great against lower teams in the EPL, we found out the hard way that the defense needs greater organisation and leadership when Lionel Messi tore up the defense scoring 4 goals, and leaving the Arsenal faithful red faced. Having a solid, consistent back 4 would probably make this work, but due to injuries we had 18 (correct me if i’m wrong) different back 4 combinations last season which doesn’t help the cause as this tactic requires more communication in the defense.
Watching Arsenal in pre-season, specially in their final friendly game against FC Koln, the difference in organisation was brought to notice and a very different approach in tactics. Now many of the football lovers who might have seen Jose Mourihno’s defense tactics might have noticed the similarity. When playing against the top sides, he would organize his defense as such there would be 4 players closing down the opposition wide players the moment they got the ball, hence cutting off the width and forcing the side to play through the center (remember Arsenal vs Chelsea Carling Cup final of 07). Also this gives the opposition much less time on the ball hence forcing errors.
Conclusion: A similar approach was seen implemented by Arsenal this summer where they closed down the Wingers, outnumbering them 4 to 1. Also a greater organisation in defense was seen, while defending deeper in their half as opposed to previous seasons. Better organisation in Midfield is still a problem but a little more work and it should be sorted. All in all the signs are there for everyone to see, the effect of having a new voice in the Dressing room, someone who has been-there-done-that! If they can manage to keep everyone fit, a serious challenge can be mounted on the Title this season. The fans can expect a great season ahead of them.