Big Lang Theory: In praise of Steve Bould



Wojciech Szczesny has two reasons to be fed-up with his lot in life. Firstly, there's that name, the only possible advantage of which (huge Scrabble score) is ruled out by the very laws of that game (it's a proper noun*). The Pole may dream of Arsenal's invincibles, but he's more likely top a list of football's great unspellables.

Secondly - and more fundamentally - Szczesny has had the misfortune of trying to make his name as Premier League-standard goalkeeper behind a group of players that wouldn't recognise good defending if it introduced itself to them at a party. Simply put, Arsenal cannot defend. Or at least they couldn't. Until one man came along.

The owner of both a gentle smile and a head that looks like it was hewn from a rock face, Steve Bould is perhaps the most important man at Arsenal Football Club at this moment in time. Already a folk hero among Gunners fans for his exploits as a player, he has instigated a phenomenal turnaround in the club's defensive performance since becoming Arsene Wenger's assistant in the summer.

His relationship with the Frenchman has been long and prosperous. When Wenger arrived at Highbury, Bould was approaching the end of a distinguished career, in which he racked up three league titles and well over 300 appearances for the Gunners. Wenger, with his grasp of the importance of diet and focused training, helped to prolong the careers the "1-0 to the Arsenal" vintage, which also included Lee Dixon, Tony Adams and Nigel Winterburn. In return, Bould left the legacy of one of the most stolid defences ever seen in the domestic game.

Now, thirteen years after vacating the dressing room at Highbury, Bould is back on task. He has, in fact, been coaching in the club's youth set-up for years, away from the public eye. But this, one senses, is his real vocation; alongside Le Professeur, knocking the Arsenal back four into shape.

The results so far have been impressive. The Gunners have kept clean sheets in all three of their league games so far. Thomas Vermaelen, a defender only in the loosest sense possible, has been a rock at centre-back. Per "BFG" Mertesacker, whose performances last term channelled a failed audition tape for Bambi on Ice, has been similarly convincing. Carl Jenkinson, meanwhile, who previously looked like the unfortunate beneficiary of some job swapping reality TV show, still looks awkward, but has improved enormously off the ball.

Imagine what Arsenal can do when two more of their first-choice defenders - Bacary Sagna and Laurent Koscielny - return to the fold. The season is still young, but in Bould, Arsenal may have made the signing of the season. The Evan Davis look-alike could help make the Emirates a Dragons' Den to rival the glory days of Highbury.

And Wojciech Szczesny might just need to find something else to be peeved about.


*At least until this nonsense happened. #Endtimes


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