Arsenal's Arsene Wenger still hungry, determined to win - Steve Bould
LONDON -- Arsenal assistant manager Steve Bould launched a passionate defence of Arsene Wenger on Thursday, insisting that his hunger to win remains "as big as I've ever seen."
Bould filled in for Wenger during Thursday's news conference ahead of Sunday's home game against Stoke City as the club said the Arsenal boss had lost his voice.
With speculation about Wenger's future continuing to swirl amid a disappointing season, Bould insisted that his boss is still "doing a great job" and hasn't lost any of his passion for wining.
"He's remarkable. Behind closed doors I've never met anybody who is as hungry and as determined to win football games. It's as big as I've ever seen, for sure," Bould said. "I admire him immensely. He takes unbelievable stick off an awful lot of people. And he's just one of the great managers. It's a pleasure for me to sit next to him. He's doing a great job as far as I'm concerned. He's done a great job for an awful long time."
Wenger's future could depend on winning the Europa League this season as Arsenal look set to miss out on a top-four finish in the Premier League for the second year running.
But Bould insisted that Arsenal won't look past Stoke despite having the first leg of their Europa League quarterfinal against CSKA Moscow coming up next Thursday.
"We concentrate on Sunday. It's a big game for us. We need a result," said Bould, the former Arsenal defender. "Of course it's tough [to finish in the top four]. We're not stupid. But you never know. Winning games is much better than [losing]. If we are going to win a Europa League final, to win games now is better for us. The more games we can win the better the season becomes. And what happens in the end is what happens."
Bould said midfielder Jack Wilshere should be fit for the Stoke game after missing both of England's friendlies with a minor knee injury, although he was unsure if Wenger will throw Alexandre Lacazette straight back into the squad after the striker returned to training this week following knee surgery.
"He's trained yesterday," Bould said. "Whether he'll be involved on the weekend, I'm not entirely sure."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.