There’s always something that springs up and tries to put a dampener on the good work Arsenal have done in recent weeks. Little mention of how good Arsenal looked while on the attack against Liverpool, instead people continued to gravitate towards the ghost of Robin van Persie scaring the life out of Olivier Giroud in front of goal. This time, is it worth looking at Steve Bould’s influence over the defensive, and more specifically whether many Arsenal fans are getting carried away too early.
The suggestion is that Arsenal are yet to play a really good attacking team in the Premier League. So far, they’ve been up against a team who don’t want to play football; a team who can’t play football; and a team whose striker could have fired in shots all weekend and still would have struggled to find the net at least once. If this were Uefa’s competition, they would have fined Arsene Wenger by now for serving up such bland opposition for the eyes of the football world.
But is it really worth undermining Steve Bould’s good work after what has been three fairly positive results? Yes, it is early days, but it was these types of games that Arsenal have crumbled in so regularly in the past. How often have Arsenal let in late, late goals when a win seemed moments away? What about the aerial threat of teams like Stoke and their desire to bully their way forward? Rather than looking at the lack of depth in Liverpool’s attack, why not applaud Arsenal for seeing out a full 90-minutes in a hostile ground (apparently) where even the champions conceded twice.
What we can take from these games are the consistencies of the Arsenal back line, not just the inconsistencies of their opposition. Arsenal have a good mix in the defence, with the steady, reliable and underrated Per Mertesacker, who really excels in his reading of the game and subsequent good positioning. And what about the never say die attitude of Thomas Vermaelen? Even as Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard raced to pick up on the rebound from Jonjo Shelvey’s shot, the Arsenal captain flew in and cleared the danger.
The problem is, if people are going to brush away the good early work done by Bould and Neil Banfield with Arsenal’s defence, wouldn’t those be the same people who would be critical of their appointments if the team failed to hit the ground running? I really don’t think you can lay Arsenal’s three clean sheet at the doors of poor opposition. It would be an incredible discredit for a pair of coaches who have instilled a good deal of discipline into a very leaky defence.
We’re rarely seeing Vermaelen’s attacking instincts kicking in, as Bould seems to have tied the captain down with an invisible rope preventing him from crossing the half way line. And if by chance one of the full-backs are caught out of position, Mikel Arteta or the hard working Lukas Podolski are more than willing to fill in temporarily. The attacking quality of this Arsenal team haven’t been curbed as there is still a good deal of settling in needed to be don by certain members of the squad. But instead, the defence have been properly drilled on how to use their strengths at both ends of the pitch. So far, all that’s missing is a quartet of hands in the back line going up in sync to signal for an offside.
At this stage, it really does look like Steve Bould has been one of the best acquisitions in recent years for Arsenal. We look to newcomers and forgive their mistakes due to the nature of the Premier League and it’s demands. But why should we be so dismissive of people or players who are able to have an instant impact in English football? Isn’t that exactly what every club would want?
Steve Bould’s work with the defence has been nothing short of exceptional, and it’s extremely telling. It would be very un-English of us to assume Arsenal’s clean sheet are coincidental, especially considering the impatience we have as a footballing nation. Wanting everything now but questioning it’s merit when we actually get it.