Patrick Vieira makes a sentimental return to Arsenal on Monday Night. by Dan
In tribute this week I will do articles based on our ex-skipper and review how previous Gunners have fared as managers.
While not officially Arsene Wenger’s first signing, having agreed to a contract the Frenchman advised the Gunners buy the 20-year-old he was familiar with from his days at Monaco.
It was the first of many examples of Mr Wenger using his knowledge of the European Market to steal an advantage over his competitors.
It was amazing for someone so young to settle into English Football.
In his second season the midfielder formed a partnership with Petit that would be crucial in us winning the double and culminate with France winning the World Cup.
Crucially he had walked into a dressing room of the famous back 5.
While new signings forced the likes of Tony Adams, Lee Dixon, Ray Parlour, etc to follow new dietary and training methods to prolong their careers, they could bring the best out of the new faces by teaching them the club’s values.
With the likes of Keown, Seaman and Bould role modelling the standards of the badge, Vieira immediately brought into the ethos of The Arsenal.
It meant when club stalwarts retired, Vieira was ready to pass on the principles that Arsenal stood for.
That’s how such a French influence grew. Vieira would teach Henry, Pires, Wiltord, etc, everything he had been taught.
In the history of the Prem, very few foreigners would become caught up in the traditions of a club like the French Connection at Highbury.
For someone not from this country, yet alone North London, it was unique that a foreigner got caught up in the fabric of the club.
He played the North London Derby and Man United like he had a lifelong association with the Gunners.
His battles with Roy Keane are stuff of legend, almost the apex of the Premiership. Two players who played believing they were the best in their position playing for the better club.
That’s not to say his loyalty wasn’t in question.
It became a yearly tradition to spend the summer of Vieira pushing for a move away, only to change his mind at the last moment.
Often, he would cite refs in England targeting him. His disciplinary record at Arsenal reads 76 yellow cards and 8 reds.
The irony being it felt the one year there was a lack of a transfer saga Arsenal chose to sell him to Juventus.
Years later we would learn that due to building the Emirates, the club had to raise money every year to repay their loan back. At 29 this was the last chance to make money on their captain.
Therefore, fittingly Viera’s last kick in a red and white shirt won us the FA Cup.
It also signalled a change in philosophy from Arsene Wenger, replacing Vieira with the shorter and smaller built Fabregas, and from that point onwards prioritising technique over strength.
It seemed Mr Wenger’s stance was justified when Fabregas scored against Juve in the Champions League in a move that started when Vieira lost the ball.
The consensus is that we broke up the Invincibles too soon. While we missed Vieira’s experience off the pitch, in reality he was never the same player in Italy (despite winning Serie A every year) due to injury.
Having worked with him at Inter Milan, Mancini brought Vieira to Man City.
It was clear that this was for his leadership off the pitch and that he was preparing the Frenchman for life after retiring as a player.
Once retrained he transitioned into City’s Football Executive and after 4 years stayed part of the City family by taking charge of their US version in New York.
Throughout the game Vieira’s reputation was growing as a coach, with it believed he was being groomed to replace Pep Guardiola, hence why the job in the MLS was supposed to act as his apprenticeship.
While not impacting on his status, it did feel weird that another Prem team were giving him his apprenticeship and not us.
If there is one criticism, I will throw at Mr Wenger it took him too long to trust ex-players to come back and help him.
It’s been suggested that like Tony Adams, Vieira was hurt by his old boss not giving him the opportunity to return to the club, and that may have had a knock-on effect with his relationship with those in power.
When Arsenal were shortlisting to replace Emery, Vieira was disrespected not to be offered an interview, even though he had more experience then Arteta and who like the Spaniard used to captain us.
Any ill-feeling doesn’t exist now with Vieira publicly saying how classy it was of his old boss to ring him after he was sacked by Nice.
It was Mr Wenger who gave Vieira a very strong reference to Steve Parish.
Don’t underestimate how managing in the Prem could be in terms of Vieira being our next manager.
Sometimes this sport is about being in the right place at the right time.
If Arteta were to finish outside the top 6 for the third year running and they looked across the capital seeing a club icon doing well, it would make sense to ask the question. Especially with the club clearly now open to hiring ex-players.
They hired Arteta purely because he played for the Arsenal.
Vieira not just played for us, he was the face of the most successful period in our history.
Monday will be only the third time a Gunner who played for us in the Prem faces us in the League as a manager.
David O’Leary took teams to Highbury, Tony Adams was in the opposite dug out at the Emirates, while we faced Remi Garde at Villa Park, but he was sacked by the time the return fixture came about.
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