LONDON, United Kingdom, Aug 29 – How Arsene Wenger could do with Patrick Vieira in his ranks. Sunday’s harrowing experience at Anfield would never have happened on the Frenchman’s watch.
Not for the first time, Wenger’s non-firing Gunners were lucky to leave Liverpool trailing by four goals. They lost 5-1 in 2014 and were equally abject, gutless and spineless at the weekend.
More than 3,000 miles away, Vieira would have grimaced when he heard the 4-0 result. The Frenchman is manager at MLS franchise New York City.
Now 41, he remains a commanding figure. He marches round the club’s training complex an hour’s drive north of Manhattan with an authority reminiscent of his playing career. When Vieira speaks, his players listen.
Arsenal, however, is never too far from the forefront of his mind, probably even more so after Sunday’s cowardly display.
Vieira was the embodiment of all that was impressive about Arsenal under Wenger. Powerful, brave and authoritative. He could play a bit too, just ask Roy Keane.
Twelve years after he left north London for Juventus, there remains a Vieira-shaped hole in the heart of Arsenal’s midfield. The void isn’t lost on Vieira.
“If you look at Arsenal today I really enjoy watching them play, they play some really good football,” he says. “But that is not enough to win football matches or to win competitions. In our time we were winning and we had the strength to not play well but somehow manage to win the game 1-0.
“I’m not one to say, “Our generation was better than this generation”. It doesn’t make sense to compare the two generations because we are in a different period.
“The team in our generation were more physical but this generation are better football players, there’s no doubt about that. So the balance is what Arsenal need to find. We had the physicality to deal with different situations.”
Incredibly, Vieira says he wouldn’t pick himself in his own starting XI now he’s a manager.
“Now I’m coach, if I had a player like myself maybe he’d be on the bench,” he says with a wry smile, tongue firmly in cheek.
Wenger wouldn’t agree with him. The Gunners manager is crying out for someone like Vieira — he’d be the first name on the team-sheet.
It’s no secret Arsenal lack leaders. Vieira is, arguably, the most dominant captain Wenger ever had in his 20-plus years at Arsenal.
But Vieira believes there are players at the Emirates who can take his mantle.
“You’re not going to tell me Mesut Ozil is not a leader? You’re not going to tell me Alexis Sanchez is not a leader? You’re not going to tell me Petr Cech is not a leader,” he asserts.
“I believe there are different types of leaders on the field. You have the technical leader, you have the vocal one, you have the one who doesn’t talk but shows it in his desire and how he competes.
“I’m more like that: the one who isn’t as vocal as Tony Adams but will show it how he competes on the field. And you have the type of leader who will want to take a penalty in the 95th minute — this is part of being a leader as well.
“There are leaders in the team to challenge and they have the experience to win matches.”
So where now for Wenger and his side? What are the solutions? The club’s London Colney HQ will feel like a lonely place for Wenger over the next 10 days as his players disperse for international duty.
Wenger was lauded for the switch to a back three in April, a ploy that coincided with a run of seven wins in eight games at the back end of last season.
But after sticking with the system, Arsenal have conceded eight goals in three Premier League games so far, the second worst record in the division behind West Ham, who have leaked 10.
Yet the likelihood of Wenger relenting in his pursuit of attacking perfection seems improbable.
Jose Mourinho, in contrast, seems to have struck the perfect balance between defence and attack. Manchester United have scored 10 goals so far, the highest in the league, conceding none. He’d never admit it, of course, but maybe Wenger should take a leaf out of Mourinho’s book.
Vieira, who worked under both managers, says: “Would I like my team to be more like a Jose or an Arsene team? I would like to be the balance of both.
“I would like my teams to have the discipline that Jose has but also allow players to express themselves into that discipline like Arsene. Arsene always gives freedom to his players. To have that freedom is good but if you can get them to respect the tactical aspect of the game it will be even better.
“When you talk about Jose who I had at Inter Milan, he was always focused on the details, giving players information that allows them to go on the field and respect the tactical game.
“Then you have Arsene who is always positive and always giving confidence to the players no matter what. Fabio Capello could be really tough on players. Roberto Mancini would work on tactical work for an hour and a half because the tactical game was important for him
“So I take a little bit from everybody and try to use it with how I see the game and how I am as person as well.”
-By Daily Mail–