Home sport Patrick Vieira’s return will remind Arsenal of their leadership deficit

Patrick Vieira’s return will remind Arsenal of their leadership deficit

by drbyos

In the summer of 2009, Arsène Wenger found herself struggling with temptation. Arsenal hadn’t acquired anyone who could patrol a midfield like Patrick Vieira in the four years since his departure, and they were still struggling to become leaders in a talented but short on leadership locker room. Who better to solve at least one of those problems, perhaps, than the former captain himself? By then, Vieira was a declining force at Internazionale and was looking to return to London. “There is a football decision and there is the psychological impact of a player of that stature,” reflected Wenger. “We are not ruling it out and we are not saying we will.”

In the end, Wenger did not succumb, admitting later that it had been a “really difficult decision”, and Vieira stayed at Inter for another year. Arsenal got their injection of nostalgia through Sol Campbell’s brief return a few months later, but he spent the next decade seeking a healthier relationship with the past.

There will be nothing inappropriate about the reception Vieira receives as she drives from Crystal Palace to Emirates Stadium. Legends must be celebrated and in those few minutes between emerging teams and Mike Dean blowing the first whistle, due tribute will be paid to the greatest midfielder most fans have ever seen. Yet for the next hour and a half, Mikel Arteta’s players are expected to offer the last ray of hope that they can write their own story.

When Vieira, Campbell, Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry are your benchmarks, it’s hard to keep going, and Arsenal have never made it. “It’s because they usually become heroes when they are successful, when you win soccer games and trophies,” Arteta said, offering a kind of platitude. “To do that, you don’t just need an individual, you need a really good team and generation, in this context probably the best generation in the history of the Premier League to become champions of this league.”

Henry and Bergkamp are immortalized through statues outside the Arsenal house. That honor has yet to be bestowed on Vieira, perhaps because his contribution isn’t all that catchy in impressive goals and gauze assists, but there is a curious paradox. During the endless discussions about what Arsenal has lacked since Invincibles day, the hunger for a “new Scallop” has surfaced. Outstanding scorers and creators, even if not quite in the group of their predecessors, have still found their way to North London during the barren years; however, no one has come close to the extraordinary general influence that Vieira could exert in the engine room.

Patrick Vieira’s physical attributes and mental toughness were key to Arsenal’s successes during his time at the club. Here he surpasses Everton’s Abel Xavier in 1999. Photograph: Tom Jenkins / The Guardian

There have been near misses, or at least attempts at a succession plan that would have eased the post-Vieira transition and perhaps given smarter talents a stronger platform. In 2004, a year before he left for Juventus, Arsenal expected Vieira to join Real Madrid and had lined up Michael Carrick to take his place. A deal to sign him from West Ham was almost done until Vieira changed her mind and decided to stay at Highbury. Wenger was hardly distressed: Cesc Fàbregas was approaching the rails and was convinced that the teenager could finally take Vieira’s place.

Fàbregas’ quality was never in doubt, but neither was the fact that Arsenal felt largely rudderless until his departure in 2011. It is well documented that, three years before the increasingly disillusioned Spaniard left for Barcelona , Wenger could have associated him with Xabi Alonso. High-level figures at Arsenal lobbied for the move to take place, some pointing out that they had never seen a footballer so desperate to join them. In the end, Wenger objected, unwilling to splurge when Denílson, Alex Song and Abou Diaby were making a claim. It was a quixotic project but surely Alonso would have offered the presence, balance and know-how that was so lacking.

Vieira summed up the persistent theme many years later, speaking in 2016. “Now when I see Arsenal, they do play well, but I have the feeling that something is missing: physical presence, personality,” he said.

Initially, the Arsenal hierarchy had viewed Diaby as a recruit who, like Vieira, could do it all. The horrendous injury he sustained at Sunderland in May 2006, throwing his body off balance to the point where it never reached its impressive potential, ruined that vision. Perhaps the Vieira comparison would have been, in any case, a very specific and unrealistic charge. It has been awarded to numerous players, often unrealistically or inaccurately; Thomas Partey is the latest figure to be similarly touted and Arteta had a point when he said that players must find a way to go their own way.

Patrick Vieira (center) with Thierry Henry and Arsène Wenger during a victory parade to celebrate their 2003-04 Premier League title with an unbeaten record. Photograph: Peter MacDiarmid / Reuters

“When you get that comparison you must immediately accept that if you don’t win three or four Premier League titles you will always be worse than the last one, because he has already done it and you have just started,” he said. . “Then focus on who you are as a player, what your coach asks you to do: be yourself and don’t try to be anyone else.”

Easier said than done: Arsenal haven’t won a Premier League title since Vieira’s penultimate campaign, so the task at hand, if they want to put the shadow aside entirely, is obvious and grim. . If his former hub oversees an away win for Palace, who took five points in his last three Emirates games with Roy Hodgson, it will affect the semblance of momentum that Arteta and Arsenal have built over the past month and will emphasize the struggle they have. face in moving away from the middle of the table. However, a resounding victory at home could raise hopes that the prop and steel of yesteryear are not unrecoverable.

The Fiver – Sign up and receive our daily soccer email.

That result could also help to disabuse Arteta’s skeptics of any idea that, when the club selected an admired general midfielder to take over, it could well have chosen the man in the opposing technical area. Perhaps the stars will align in the future for Vieira, having thrived at Palace, to take the reins in an iteration of Arsenal that feels as comfortable looking forward as it is looking back at history. That day is a bit far off but, for a time on Monday night, any examination of conscience can be put on hold. Vieira’s acclaim will be deserved and pure.

See also  Welcome to the latest FIFA.com news - Ronaldo: The hairstyle was terrible!

Related Videos

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.