18 October 2021

At long last, Vieira returns to Arsenal!

It's true, and not for the first time. Some are saying that he may soon be here to stay. Not me, though. That's a bit of madness, but it's understandable, such is Vieira's legendary status, Arsenal's difficulty in finding his "heir", and the fact that we find ourselves mired midtable, just three points clear of Monday's visitors. Of course, on Vieira's first return to Arsenal, his erstwhile friend, colleague, and compatriot Robert Pirès greeted him with a somewhat impertinent tackle that left Vieira frustrated as Pirès launched a counter that saw Henry feed Fabregas for the opening goal in a 2-0 win, taking us one step closer to that 2006 Champions League final. Ever since Vieira left, we've hungered for someone to fill the role from which he dominated and domineered. Ever since Wenger left, many have wondered if Vieira could return as Arsenal's manager. Come Monday, we have have more (or less) to wonder about.

For those doubting Arteta's stewardship, Vieira's visit must feel tantalising. He is, after all, a club legend and one of the best midfielders of his era. While we've had goalscorers (van Persie, Alexis, Aubameyang...) and playmakers (
Özil) who could at least remind us of brighter days, we've never found that dominant, box-to-box midfielder who could disrupt opponents' attacks, launch our own attacks, and get into the box to score. Abou Diaby showed flashes of it before Dan Smith ruined his career. There were rumours of us signing Michael Carrick, Xabi Alonso,or Yaya Touré , but of course none of that came to pass. Ramsey showed the occasional flashes but wasn't enough of a defender to really fit the bill. There are hopes that Thomas will help us forget Vieira if only by being an upgrade on the likes of Xhaka, Coquelin, and other forgettable players.

More to the point, though, is that many are looking at Monday's match as a showcare for Vieira's heir but for Arteta's, um, abdication? Sorry. I kind of painted myself into a corner with the rhyming, and nothing quite rhymes with "Arteta". Anything less than a confident win for Arsenal will increase calls for his sacking, presumably to pave the way for Vieira to slot in...as if he doesn't have a contract of his own to deal with. More to the point again, though, is that Vieira's managerial CV is only slightly longer than Arteta's, and his performance has hardly impressed. Yes, yes, he did do quite well with New York City FC, but his record at an actual club, Nice, where he lasted just a season and a half as Nice were eliminated from the Coupe de France in the round of 64 and from the Coupe de la Ligue in the round of 16, finished bottom of their Europa League group, and lost five matches across all competitions.

It's quite likely that Vieira will prove to be a good or even great manager, but there isn't much in the way of evidence of that yet. His Crystal Palace side haven't really impressed yet, other than a 3-0 win over Tottenham due in some small part to Tottenham being reduced to ten men for the last half hour (during which time Palace scored all three of their goals). Vieira does seem to have the makings of a good manager. He doesn't seem to project the kind of imperial arrogance that so many great players have, the kind of arrogance that makes it hard to communicate effectively with less-talented players. Very few great players go on to become great or even good managers. Instead, it seems that it's the pretty good players who become the best managers. In time, Vieira may be one of those who bucks the trends. I wish him well. 

Just not on Monday.