Wenger the 'dictator' has Gunners going backwards
Arsene Wenger's training methods and relationship with Steve Bould, his new assistant, have been called into question following the embarrassment of the League Cup defeat against Bradford City.
Wenger overhauled his coaching staff during the summer, but, even amid faltering results, has remained unwilling to significantly delegate training.
There have been long-standing doubts about whether Wenger pays sufficient attention to defensive training and it is understood that Bacary Sagna's current uncertainty about his future is partly linked to a feeling that he is not being sufficiently improved. Bould, who was part of George Graham's famously miserly back four as a player, had been allowed during pre-season to work separately with the defence, but these sessions have since been stopped.
It is also understood that, when Wenger was unable to take training on the day before the recent 2-0 defeat against Swansea, the session was not led by Bould.
Questions are also now being raised over the working dynamic between Wenger and Bould, who was promoted to the job of assistant manager following the retirement of Pat Rice. With Neil Banfield also becoming first-team coach, it was the most significant shake-up that Wenger had made to his coaching team in 16 years as manager.
Wenger, though, has accepted only a limited input from Bould and, when the team made a strong start to the season defensively, it was noticeable that he played down his new assistant's impact.
Stewart Robson, the former Arsenal midfielder, has previously claimed that he thought there might be "a rift" between Wenger and Bould.
Robson, who previously worked for the club's in-house television station, also described Wenger as a "dictator" in his approach to training.
"Steve Bould is a very good coach, but he's not allowed to coach them – he doesn't do any coaching," he said. "Arsene Wenger is not doing enough on the training field. He's not coaching the players, they have got no game strategy and, because he won't let anyone else do it. Arsenal are going backwards and some of their players are going backwards.
"Alex Ferguson is not a coach. He realises that, to get the best out of his players, he has to get the best coaches. He's made sure his number two is not just a 'yes' man, which Arsene Wenger likes to appoint. Arsene Wenger, because he has got a massive ego, because he's a dictator when it comes to Arsenal football club, he's not allowing Steve Bould to do any work."
Wenger's coaching methods, however, have always been known to focus on possession-based drills and his track-record of delivering both results and flowing football is among the best in modern European football. Arsenal are adamant that there is no rift within the coaching staff and, inside the club, there is a sense that a period of adjustment was inevitable following Rice's departure. Wenger publicly defended his players after Tuesday's penalty shoot-out defeat against Bradford, but there were recriminations in the dressing-room both at half-time and after the match.
Arsenal had fielded a full-strength team, but did not manage a shot on target until the 69th minute against opposition some 64 places below them in the league pyramid. Ivan Gazidis, the chief executive, has apologised for the performance at a Christmas meeting with supporters.
"I think I am frankly tired of getting up here and delivering the same message," he said. "Last night was not good enough and it made us all upset and angry. I would like to apologise to all of you, especially the fans who travelled up there. You deserved better.
"We all work hard here and are desperate to deliver the success and trophies we all want. We will get this right."
Wenger retains the complete support of majority owner Stan Kroenke and the club's full transfer fund, which will amount to around £70m next year, will available to him. While also extremely disappointed with the result, Kroenke recognises that the League Cup is the club's fourth priority.
He believes that Wenger's record of finishing in the top four every year for the past 16 seasons is still strong evidence that he remains one of the best managers in the world.
Alisher Usmanov, the club's second largest shareholder, also still regards Wenger as the right man for the job, but does believe that he is forced to take on too much responsibility. Usmanov is still calling for change in the club's boardroom and a rights issue of shares that would eradicate the club's debt on building the Emirates Stadium.
The Arsenal Supporters' Trust, meanwhile, has warned that the club must "change direction quickly if Arsene Wenger's wonderful era is not to end on a sad note." A spokesman added: "One man cannot direct all transfer targets, wages, coaching and manage the team at games. It's too much for one man." (© Daily Telegraph, London)