Bould helping to put Arsenal's leaky defence back in business after his promotion
00:01 GMT, 31 July 2012
When Arsene Wenger promoted Steve Bould to first team coach this summer, he had a specific task in mind and that was to make Arsenal meaner.
As a player, Bould was part of the club’s famous defensive unit from the George Graham era, renowned for their clean sheets and well-oiled offside trap.
Now he is back in the first-team environment, hoping to inject some steel into a stylish but often flimsy team, which leaked 49 goals in the Barclays Premier League last season, 20 more than champions Manchester City.
You're my man: Arsene Wenger promoted Steve Bould
'It shows our defending was a big problem for us last season,' said goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny. 'We’ll do everything we can to make it better.'
Bould launched swiftly into his plans on the tour of Asia, organising his drills for the defenders, stepping in regularly to exchange views with individuals.
In China, he could be found trying to instil some defensive discipline into the midfielders as Wenger supervised some small-sided games for the rest of the squad.
Wenger confessed at the end of the tour that there was still much work to be done on this front but they have made a start and this week Bould gets his hands on the first-choice back-four.
'We’ve done a lot of shape stuff, when we lose the ball and a lot of defending on crosses,' said Szczesny.
'We’ve done a lot more work on defending at set-pieces than we did last year, which makes me believe we’ll concede fewer goals because the number we conceded from set-pieces last season was pretty high.'
Bould still cuts an intimidating figure, 6ft 4ins tall, lean and vocal, just as he was when playing alongside Tony Adams in central defence.
Some of the home-grown players know him well from his previous coaching role, in charge of Arsenal’s U18 team but those who don’t have been struck by the contrast in personality to his predecessor Pat Rice, who retired this summer.
'Steve likes to shout at players and keep them on their toes which some of us need,' said Szczesny. 'Pat was like our father and he didn’t want to scream at us. Steve is a little bit different.'
Different: Wojciech Szczesny said Bould's style contrasts with his predecessor's
Wenger has reshuffled his staff since Rice’s exit, with reserve team coach Neil Banfield also assuming first-team duties and Terry Burton returning to the club to look after the reserves.
'He has adapted very quickly and very well to the job,' said the Arsenal boss, when asked about Bould. 'His personality is good and he is accepted by the players.
'That is the most important thing, to be accepted. That will be good for his confidence. He will do a good job, because he knows his job well.'
The centre-halves in the squad are also delighted to have a kindred spirit on the staff, a coach with defensive instinct, who might help their development.
'He played the same position as me and he’s already given me lots of tips,' said Thomas Vermaelen. 'We’re working on it in almost every training session to get the shape we want into the back four and get all the team organised.
'He’s had a huge impact already. I’m happy he’s with the first team, especially for me because he’s a centre-half as well. Pat Rice was a defender as well and it’s good for the defenders to have this expertise on the staff.'
Change in style: Bould and Tony Adams used to keep a high line when they played
Kyle Bartley, a young defender who has been given an Arsenal squad number this season after loan spells at Sheffield United and Rangers, is another excited by the change.
'As a central defender, it’s absolutely fantastic to have someone like Steve Bould around,' said Bartley. 'Already, in training, you can see the influence he’s going to have.
'He’s going to have a massive input into the defensive unit. He could be as big a signing as any player could be, having Steve in the first team squad.'
Do not, however, expect Arsenal’s back four to begin charging out with arms aloft, imploring the assistant referee to raise his flag.
Changes to the offside laws in recent years mean these tactics carry a far greater risk than they did when Bould and Adams were directing traffic at Highbury.
Respect: Thomas Vermaelen wants to keep as many clean sheets as the Gunners used to
Besides, Wenger insists his philosophy will not change. 'We will always try to play with quality when we have the ball and defend as a team when we don’t,' said the Frenchman, during the tour.
Arsenal will be under orders to attack but the manager, criticised in recent years for his laissez-faire attitude to defending – preferring to adopt the adage that opponents can’t score if they don’t have the ball – at a time when some rivals devoted a forensic attention to the details of their defensive organisation.
'I don’t think it’s that easy to get the offside decisions any more,' said Vermaelen. 'But I’ll be very happy if we can keep clean sheets like that old Arsenal back four. That will mean we’re doing something good.'