ARSENE WENGER will sit in the stands tonight and watch Steve Bould prove his managerial talent.
By CHARLIE WYETT
The Arsenal boss begins a three-game touchline ban as the Gunners face Montpellier in the Champions League, leaving Bould in charge.
And Wenger has no doubt that Bould, his recently-appointed No 2 and the man credited with Arsenal’s new-found defensive resilience, is destined for the top.
Wenger said: “Steve is focused and intelligent. He is doing his job well.
“I have always said many of our older players from his generation can be managers.
“That is not down to me to choose that, so it is up to him — but there is no reason why not.
“I have seen many strong personalities but the ones who succeed are those who make decisions under pressure. Steve has those qualities.
“What is important is we have a style of play.
“Everyone has his own personality and I chose Steve because I felt he would add something to our team.”
Wenger, preparing for the club’s 15th successive campaign in the Champions League, has been hit with a third UEFA suspension in the space of 12 months.
He will be banned for Arsenal’s first three European games because of an X-rated rant in the tunnel at Slovenian referee Damir Skomina after the Gunners’ 3-0 Champions League win over AC Milan last season.
Former centre-back Bould replaced long-serving Pat Rice in the summer as Wenger’s No 2 and has already made his mark on the training ground.
He has helped to organise a defence that has been breached just once in four Premier League games.
Wenger said: “For this game, I will speak to the team in the hotel before leaving for the ground and talk to Steve.
“But there is always the element of the unexpected. You always have that feeling of being powerless even if you are on the bench, let alone up in the stands.
“But it is a nightmare. It is restriction of work. I do not make a fuss of it but they love to suspend me.”
Last summer, Wenger was given a one-game ban in the 2010-11 season. And a two-match rap followed when UEFA decided he had passed information to the bench in a Champions League play-off against Udinese.
Wenger smiled when asked whether he would try and enter the dressing room in a laundry basket like Jose Mourinho when he was handed a ban while at Chelsea.
He said: “They punish you financially and then ban you. Honestly, no one knows the rules. Not even at UEFA. When I ask, ‘What is it about?’ no one can tell me.”
Arsenal face a Montpellier side that shocked French football last season by winning the title — but they have suffered a nightmare start, winning just one of their first five domestic games.
Wenger added: “What they did is a miracle. Three years ago, they were in the second division and one point from relegation to division three.
“Three years later, they’re champions of France. It is unbelievable. Particularly with the competition from PSG.”
Montpellier owner Louis Nicollin ended up selling striker Olivier Giroud to Arsenal for £12.8million — but admits he would have him back on loan.
Nicollin said: “When a player leaves my club, I no longer follow him, even though I like Olivier a lot.
“If Arsenal want to loan him to us, we’ll take him.
“We’ve made a bad start in the league. The essential thing is not to go down and we will fight not to.
“The ground will be full against Arsenal and I’m happy for our fans but no more than that.
“The Champions League is good but it’s not the be-all and end-all. What we’re savouring is being the French champions.
“Our coach, Rene Girard, will have to sort things out. He’s coaching the French champions. He’s going to have to manage, that’s what he’s paid for.”