There’s a theory doing the rounds that Arsenal’s slide began when Pat Rice retired, but there’s very little evidence to suggest this is the case.
Rice called time on his career in 2012 after many decades of service to Arsenal.
The man is undoubtedly a legend, but suggestions that the team has been worse off without him have little basis.
Some fans believe that Arsenal’s defending has gotten worse since Rice was succeeded by Steve Bould.
Yet, this isn’t consistent with the narrative that Bould himself improved Arsenal’s defending during his first season as assistant manager.
When Arsenal showed signs of improved defending during the 2012/13 season, it was Bould who received the credit.
Then, when the defending returned to normal – that is, comically bad – people thought Wenger had stopped Bould working on the training ground.
So either Wenger continues to ignore his assistant – an accusation levelled at him when Rice was at the club – or Bould isn’t doing a good job coaching the defence.
If it’s the latter, it’s worth noting that Arsenal’s league positions have been no worse off since Rice retired, barring last season.
Arsenal have finished 4th, 4th, 3rd and 2nd after 2012, before last season’s 5th placed finish – a season where Arsenal earned enough points to finish fourth in every other league campaign. We conceded 194 goals in that time.
For the sake of comparison, Rice’s last five seasons at the club saw us finish 3rd, 4th, 3rd, 4th, and 3rd. We conceded 201 goals.
Another argument is that players haven’t improved since Rice left.
This one falls firmly in the realm of opinion, but it’s important to note that Rice worked during a time where Arsenal had several young and very promising players. Bould has worked with older, more established stars with less room for improvement.
If the feeling is that the current crop of players don’t care as much about the club, it’s worth pointing out that Bould is every bit an “Arsenal man” as Rice was.
There are many reasons for Arsenal’s decline in recent seasons, but the loss of an assistant manager, even one as well-respected as Rice, is simply not on that list.