After his first friendly in charge of the u23s, Steve Bould told the media his priority is to develop players, not necessarily win matches.

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LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 30: Steve Bould, Arsenal assistant manager gives his team instructions during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal at White Hart Lane on April 30, 2017, in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

An ‘Arsenal XI’ took on Boreham Wood in the opening friendly of the club’s pre-season on Saturday, but in real terms, it was simply the u23s (with a few u18s to make up the numbers).

As a result, new u23 coach Steve Bould took charge of the match instead of Unai Emery, in an exciting comeback for the Gunners that finished 3-3.

Afterwards, Bould spoke to the Arsenal website about his plans for the side, revealing that he doesn’t necessarily care about the team’s results as long as the players continue to improve.

“The only interest I have is development and I mean that,” Bould said. “That’s not necessarily winning games, it’s about players learning the next step, the next level and improving themselves tactically, technically, mentally and physically.

”The question after that is whether they can go and grab themselves a career – and hopefully we can have one or two come through our system and play for us. But if we don’t, we try to produce well-mannered and respectful men who can go and get a good career in football.”

Bukayo Saka Professional Terms
Bukayo Saka signs a contract for Arsenal with Academy Manager Per Mertesacker. Arsenal Training Ground. London Colney, Herts, 11/9/18. Credit: Arsenal Football Club / David Price.

That last part is very reminiscent of academy manager Per Mertesacker’s early interviews after taking his role on the staff, and it’s good to hear. Academies should be about developing players on and off the pitch, and the titles they win are secondary to that.

It’s all very well winning the Premier League 2, as Arsenal did recently in 2017/18, but if none of those players ever make it into top-level senior football, if none of them leave having learned the values they need to succeed in life, what’s the point?

On Saturday’s game, Bould was pleased with the way the young Gunners held their own against much bigger and stronger opponents.

He revealed what he thought the biggest positives from the game were:

“I think the fact that they stood up to a very physical side. Boreham Wood did well last season at their level so it’s a learning curve for them.

“Most of these lads have rarely encountered adults on the pitch so it’s a completely different outlook for them in terms of any game that they’ve played. I think the boys will learn something from this.”