It emerged last night that Arsenal have sacked Steve Bould after two years in charge of the club’s U23 side.
With Arsenal U23s having come close to being relegated this season – they only secured safety in their final game of the season – it perhaps isn’t a major surprise that Bould has been dismissed, although it is worth considering the circumstances that he had to deal with.
Last summer Arsenal took the unprecedented step of loaning out the vast majority of their experienced U23 players, with the likes of Daniel Ballard, Tyreece John-Jules, Harry Clarke, Zech Medley and many others heading out on temporary transfer.
That left Bould with a very small group of players to work with initially, and the club then made a host of signings from elsewhere. Swedish striker Nikolaj Moller settled in well and enjoyed a productive season overall, but some of the other acquisitions were rather baffling at the time and still are now.
Centre-back Jonathan Dinzeyi, for instance, was released by Tottenham before being picked up by Arsenal. Despite being one of the older players in the U23 side he often struggled and by the end of the season he was being outperformed by U18 players such as Zane Monlouis and Alex Kirk.
Midfielder Tim Akinola, who was previously at Huddersfield, played the most amount of games for the U23s this season but his performances were often erratic and he appeared to be a level below his team-mates in terms of his technical attributes.
Winger George Lewis was perhaps the most unusual signing of all having arrived from the Norwegian third tier. Lewis found the net in the EFL Trophy but failed to score in ten appearances for the U23s, while he was also outperformed by a younger player in his position in Kido Taylor-Hart.
When all of the above factors are taken into consideration (as well as the likes of Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka being in the first-team) it is clear that Bould’s job this season wasn’t a particularly easy one.
That said, he made errors on some occasions, with his tactical selections not getting the best out of some players, while Arsenal remained vulnerable defensively.
At times Arsenal lacked the dynamism that they had when Freddie Ljungberg was in charge, and it was perhaps the right time for a change.
Bould deserves a lot of praise for the work that he did in charge of the U18s previously, winning the FA Youth Cup in 2009 and two league titles. The step up to the U23s, however, hasn’t quite gone so smoothly.
Arsenal are now on the lookout for their fourth U23 coach in just over three years.