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Should Wenger Bring Back Vieira?

Murmers abound: Arsene Wenger may be planning a move for old Arsenal stalwart Patrick Vieira. This is either the perfect plan or a complete waste of time. I haven’t figured it out yet.

The Vieira who once helped lead Arsenal through the glory days of trophies and titles could be what the Professor needs right now. Wenger’s kids are in dire need of core leadership and defensive stability. There’s a Lord of the Flies comparison in here somewhere, but I can’t quite flush it out. Arsenal definitely need a grown-up on their island to keep them grounded and direct them. And Vieira is an obvious candidate. A legendary defensive midfielder with undeniable leadership and experience, a Vieira-type presence could be the thing Arsenal need to steady the ship and give it direction once again.  But can Vieira bring anything near the old stuff?

He’s 33 years old. Well past his prime. He’s struggled with form. He’s struggled with injury. He might step into his old boots with success or he could spend most of the season on the physio’s table. Wenger knows he won’t be getting the old Vieira. He knows he’d be investing in a hit-or-miss package. So the question becomes, will the off-the-pitch influence of Vieira outweigh any on-the-pitch inconsistency?

With the market’s inflated prices I wonder if we’ll see more aging players going to big English clubs. Owen to United. Vieira might go to Arsenal. Who else? If big club can get a discount price on such established-yet-fading talent, who can blame them for trying to integrate the old and young? Owen and Vieira won’t start every match, but if they can perform well in small doses and influence younger, still-developing players, such moves can pay off.

Arsenal have also been connected to Blaise Matuidi from Saint-Etienne. The 22-year-old defensive midfielder can give Arsenal the tactical difference they need and help balance their flowing attack-mindedness with some central rigidity. But what Vieira can bring as a veteran might be as important to Wenger as the vitality Matuidi can bring as a young player. Wenger should probably grab them both. The best of both worlds and two promising options in deep midfield, a place Arsenal have shown a painful vacancy.

Last season, Wenger relied on his plethora of youngsters. But what was missing was someone to teach them. There was no Vieira, no Henry to look up to, to follow. Vieira could do wonders as a leader and a teacher, helping works-in-progress like Fabregas, Nasri and Walcott bloom into their fullest potential.

The remaining quesiton is would Vieira embrace the move? He wants to play in South Africa in 2010. He wants to spend the next year proving he’s up to that challenge. Playing in the Premier League again could mean less starts than if he landed in a gentler league. The roughness and intensity in England could put him at a higher risk for recurring injury. At his age, he might be more likely to get the starts he wants at a smaller club. He might be more likely to enjoy a full season of play in a gentler league. Can his history with Arsenal and his relationship with Wenger outweigh these considerations?

Like Owen for United, Vieira shouldn’t cost Arsenal much. Owen came on the free. Vieira only has a year left on his contract. If Arsenal can convince him to come and bring him in at a modest price they’ll have no complaint if he doesn’t give them the old stuff every week.

I guess all this thinking out loud leads me to this: If Wenger can get him, Wenger should go for him. Why not? Set up a performance-based deal akin to Owen’s and Wenger will get what he pays for with Vieira. As when Robbie Fowler came back to Liverpool in 2006: Fowler didn’t tear up the pitch every week and he didn’t magically regain his old abilities, but he scored 10 goals in all competitions and gave his teammates a lift just by being there. A dose of a Vieira could be a great thing for the ailing Gunners. I wonder if he’d embrace a return to north London.

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  1. Geovanni

    August 4, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    No he should bring Henry back

  2. Randy

    August 4, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    yes and Henry Reyes Pires

  3. Brian

    August 4, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    He probably won’t spend much time past the halfway line if Wenger’s able to pull it off, but everyone’s been pleading for some bite in midfield since Vieira left. But can Wenger guarantee him playing time? Especially since he’s been out for so long, and when he does play it’s in a less physically-demanding league. It’s hard to look at this potential deal as a bad one for the Gunners if Vieira’s not just looking for a starting job to stay in France’s sights.

  4. twar

    August 4, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Another “oldie but goldie” (sorry couldn’t resist) coming back this year is Andriy Shevchenko. He started 9 games for AC Milan last year and could be an impact sub when Drogba is having one of his off days… Definitely won’t get as much play time as Owen or Viera, but I think there could be some play time for him in Ancelotti’s 4-4-2.

  5. DaveMo

    August 4, 2009 at 9:45 am

    “Arsenal definitely need a grown-up on their island to keep them grounded and direct them.” …I think this is what Wenger was after last season when he brought in Silvestre – an older professional with loads of experience winning trophies who could show the kids how to conduct a long campaign. Of the two, I think Viera would be the much better move – Silvestre was never a leader at United and did not become one at Arsenal. Both being French, I wondered if Wenger had a relationship with Silvestre that led him to believe there was greater depth to the man, but in this instance, Wenger’s French connections let him down.

  6. Thomas

    August 4, 2009 at 1:46 am

    I think this move would be great for Arsenal.

    In hindsight, Wenger should have never sold him in the first place. No one has come to close to filling the void left by Viera, who at one point was probably the best DM in the world.

    If not Viera, Wenger needs to put some of the money he got from Ade and Kolo and invest in some steel in midfield. Teams like Chelsea, Man U, etc. will feast on Arsenal if they can’t lock down the midfield.

    Arsenal look great going forward, and I don’t think that their back four are even that poor. It’s the hole between midfield and defense that has been porrous for the Gunners.

  7. SamSpur

    August 4, 2009 at 1:02 am

    so I guess he’s not going to Spurs then? half of me thinks Redknapp was on the verge of signing him, then when Arse got wind of it they became interested.

  8. WIll

    August 3, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    V4’s comingback will endelight all the gunnner fans

  9. Stevo

    August 3, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    I’ve been calling for this move since the summer started. Do it now.

  10. tyduffy

    August 3, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    I think he gives club morale a massive improvement. There wasn’t a clear alpha-male after Henry left. I think Viera fills that gap.

  11. Rebecca Jill

    August 3, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    The more I think on this after reading this brilliant post and in general, the more I think that the positives of bringing Viera back outweigh the negatives.

    Even if he isn’t playing all the time his veteran presence and leadership from the sidelines “off the pitch” and in training sessions during the week will only help the team.

  12. Joe

    August 3, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    If Viera came back he would probably play the amount of games that Makelele played at Chelsea in his last seasons. Only the big ones. The games where a player with his skill set would shine. Wenger has all this money from Toure and Adebayor and he needs to spend it on something productive. There are players out there that he should find that can help this team.

  13. brn442

    August 3, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    He is probably past his prime but as the others have said, Viera can produce the steel and leadership the Gunners have been missing since he left.
    Wenger’s fetish for ‘building for the future” has been a failure so far. With the likes of Man City and Everton coming on, this so-called top four “birthright” that Arsenal has enjoyed the last 10 years will be a thing of the past soon if they don’t take it to the next level soon.

  14. SMOOTH

    August 3, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    Viera whoah,
    Viera whoah,
    He comes from Senegal,
    He plays for Arsenal!
    If Viera comes back Cesc better give up the # 4 in a heart beat.

  15. Brandon

    August 3, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    as long as United bring Keano back haha! 😉

    Stephen, I agree with you on this. Arsenal lacks bite in their bark when it comes to toughness and when it comes to laying the law down in the mid-field teams like Chelsea, United, and Liverpool who have the guys to put out a hard foul or 2 to change a teams pace or tactics Arsenal has a couple pretty boy 19 yrs olds running around. that wont scare any mid-field except in attack.

  16. stephen

    August 3, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    The arsenal team is so weak and small and lacks a backbone, he would add the steel that the midfield is sorely lacking.

  17. bjohnson

    August 3, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    Yes – Can only benefit Arsenal and the young players.

  18. David

    August 3, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    I would compare him to Giggs or Scholes at Man U. he would not be on the pitch for every minute of the season, but would provide leadership and timely play.

  19. thor

    August 3, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    Excellent article, I agree with all your points.. Wenger should go for both Vieira and Matuidi..

  20. Mike K

    August 3, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    Solid article. I agree with most of what you’re saying, definitely the point about the lack of a leader like a Vieira or Henry missing.

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