Steve Bould claims Arsène Wenger's hunger and will to win is stronger than ever despite continued scrutiny over the Arsenal manager's future. Wenger had appeared set to leave the Gunners last season, only to sign a two-year contract extension, a decision that split opinion among supporters. Arsenal are sixth in the table and look likely to miss out on Champions League qualification for the second campaign in succession, although they could yet earn a place in the competition by winning the Europa League.
Total admiration for Wenger
Addressing the media on Friday in place of Wenger, who was unwell, assistant manager Bould offered a passionate defence of the Frenchman. "I admire him immensely," the former defender, a Premier League title-winner under Wenger in 1997-98, said. "He's takes an unbelievable amount of stick off everyone. He is one of the great managers. I understand that he's doing a great job as far as I'm concerned."
Questioned on whether or not Wenger has retained the hunger that saw him guide Arsenal to three league titles, including the famous Invincibles season in 2003-04, Bould replied: "Absolutely, he's remarkable. Behind closed doors, I've never met anybody who is as hungry and determined to win football games. It [the hunger] is as big as I've ever seen, for sure."
Bould hopes Wenger will remain in the Arsenal job
Asked if Bould could offer an exclusive that Wenger will remain at the club next season, he jokingly replied: "Yes of course, I'd love to. I'd love to."
He also dismissed reports that Arsenal are unhappy with England's treatment of Jack Wilshere, the midfielder having left the national team camp due to a knee problem. Pressed on the possibility of a falling out between the Gunners and Gareth Southgate's set-up, he said: "Not that I'm aware of. I'm not sure where the reports are coming from. Jack had a bit of a knee problem, he's come back and is fine."
Bould refuses to be drawn on Wilshere
Bould also declined to offer an update on the future of Wilshere, whose contract is due to expire at the end of the season. "I'm not here to answer those questions," he said. "I'm sitting in for Arsene to talk about the Stoke game, I'd much prefer you talk about football," he added, referring to Sunday's Premier League clash at home to Paul Lambert's strugglers.
Arsenal's hopes not pinned on Europa League
Bould also claimed Arsenal are not prioritising the Europa League as their most likely route back into UEFA's elite club competition, despite the first leg of a winnable quarter-final against CSKA Moscow looming next week. "We're concentrating on Sunday. It's a big game for us, we need a result," he said. "We're not stupid. You never know. To win games now is better for us, you never know if you're going to win a Europa League final."