Arsenal Focus – Stoke sniffing around Bould as Gunners move closer to Champions League

Arsenal continue to stay focused in the race for a place in next year’s Champions League, winning 1-0 at Fulham to leapfrog Chelsea, who could only draw at Liverpool, into third place. But speculation persists about the make-up of the Gunners team next season – not only on the pitch, but off it too.

As Tony Pulis continues to feel the wrath of Stoke City fans, Arsenal assistant manager Steve Bould has emerged as a surprising front runner to replace Pulis in the Potters hot seat, according to the Daily Mirror.

The 50-year-old, who played over 300 matches for the Gunners between 1988 and 1999, was only appointed as Arsene Wenger’s right hand man last summer, having been promoted from his position with the academy after the departure of Pat Rice.

A no nonsense, uncompromising central defender in his day, it was suggested that Bould would transform the Arsenal defence, which had become increasingly leaky over Wenger’s tenure at the Emirates Stadium.

That he certainly did, moulding the likes of Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker into a cohesive unit which, a few freak results apart, were capable of dealing with overly physical teams in a way in which recent Wenger teams haven’t been able to.

It is perhaps that aptitude for working with a solid unit that supposedly attracts Stoke chairman Peter Coates to the possibility of Stoke-born Bould coming in. As well as that, his background working with the Arsenal youth teams will be of interest to the Potters, who are keen to improve their youth development setup.

But while Wenger and Bould have reportedly fallen out on several occasions this season due to different opinions on the direction of the Arsenal team, losing his right-hand man would be a blow to the Gunners manager, who is already having to shuffle his backroom staff in the near future.

The Frenchman is mulling over the possibility of bringing in a new goalkeeping coach as his current set of stoppers continue to drop clangers. Meanwhile Liam Brady, who heads Arsenal’s youth academy, is leaving the club at the end of his contract in 2014 and Wenger is keen to secure his successor sooner rather than later.

While Wenger seems to be omnipresent, there is a constant sense of change and adjustment elsewhere in the red part of north London. Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy and Cesc Fabregas are just some of the personnel who have exited the Emirates in the past few years, setting the Gunners’ development back a season at least on each occasion.

If Arsenal can’t even hold on to their relatively inexperienced backroom staff, this ever-evolving, never-improving ethos will continue. It would surely be better for the football club if Bould, who has ambitions to move into management, was groomed with the top job at Arsenal in mind. That is, when Wenger eventually decides to vacate his seat.

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