Arsène Wenger has revealed that the ability of the defenders when he arrived at Arsenal left him a little bit shocked.
The manager arrived at the club in September 1996, and inherited a famously solid defensive unit. What he soon learned was that these stalwarts, including his current assistant manager Steve Bould, were also technically skilled enough to play the game the way he wanted his team to play, and it took the Frenchman by surprise.
“I had a little preconceived idea as a French guy that the English defenders were only [about] kicking and heading the ball,” the manager told Arsenal Player.
One of those defenders was Steve Bould who has, of course, gone on to become Wenger’s right-hand man after a spell coaching the youth teams.
“My first surprise starting with Steve Bould was that he was not only a good defender but also a good player.
“When you encouraged the defenders to play they were good players. I was surprised by their technical level.”
Nothing sums up Wenger’s influence on those defenders than Tony Adams’ goal at the end of the manager’s first full season at Highbury, which saw Arsenal win the double.
Captain Tony Adams raced onto a delicately chipped through ball from centre-half partner Steve Bould to control the ball with his chest and strike it sweetly on the half-volley with his weaker foot.
These two players were truly something else. Hard central defenders who, when given some guidance and some freedom, showed how technically superb they were too.
“Steve Bould was a good football player,” Wenger said. “When I came back home at night I thought, ‘Oh, you had the wrong idea of these players. They are much better players than you thought they were’, and Steve Bould was one of them.”
No wonder he’s now trusted with sitting next to Wenger in the dugout.