Arsenal lacks bite: Vieira
NEW YORK — Arsenal fans watching the limp 0-0 draw with Leicester City on Saturday, another game with yet another wrong result, were no doubt crying out for the passion and leadership of Patrick Vieira and his team of Invincibles as they demanded that Arsene Wenger opens his chequebook.
The Frenchman has offered his own assessment of the current situation, saying he can understand the levels of frustration at the team’s “disappointing” performances and the lack of new signings by Wenger so far this summer.
He said the current Arsenal team lack the physicality and personality of his Invincibles generation. The club should look to former players such as Thierry Henry, Freddie Ljungberg and Robert Pires to inspire the next generation, he said, and he criticised the club for shutting the door to former stars.
“In one way” he admires Wenger’s “brave” policy of not caving into pressure and bringing players in for the sake of it, even when the fans demand change.
“I quite admire that, in the world where some clubs have so much money, they go and buy players who pay £40m and are worth £10m,” he said.
“But on the other side, the team is not doing as good as it used to and you need to win football matches.
“They’ve been disappointing, losing games they should have won”, he said in New York, where he now manages Major League Soccer side New York City FC, and agreed that last season was a huge missed opportunity to win the league.
Wenger himself said after the Leicester game that he was willing to spend big money - but only on the right players - and has to be “responsible”.
Looking back at the ‘ Invincibles’, Vieira said the difference between the 2004 vintage and today’s side was stark. Arsenal have not won a Premier League title since that unbeaten season.
“My generation had lots of physically strong players. In this last five or six years, Arsenal went more with this type of mobile, technical players,” he explained.
“The Invincibles had it all. For me it was like the French national team in 1998, when we had physical players, players with flair, players with pace, it was quite a similar kind of team.
“Now when I watch Arsenal, yes they play good football but I just have a feeling they are missing something - the physical presence, the personality, this is what they’re missing.”
Vieira said he could not understand why the club was not allowing former players such as Henry, Ljungberg and Pires both to develop their own coaching and management skills and help to influence and inspire the next generation of players coming through.
“I’m disappointed not to have ex-arsenal players working at Arsenal,” said Vieira, who said he was a big fan of the club and always looked for their result first.
“It is good for the young players who could see an Henry, Ljungberg, Campbell or Keown who have been at the club a good few years working in the Academy, or working somewhere. I think they can do it a bit more.
“Players want to do it but do not have the opportunity. I don’t understand it. The per- fect example is Ajax - you see all the old players working for the club, on the field, in the office - the door is always open for them - but Arsenal don’t do it and I don’t know why,” he said.
The Frenchman said he had been given that chance by Manchester City, where in he was given a youth development role in 2011 and that he was sure his former Invicibles could make the difference at Arsenal if given similar opportunities.
Vieira’s passion for the game, which led to some of the Premier League’s most memorable moments notably his fiery clashes with Manchester United and Roy Keane, still burns strongly.
He said he was loving his first season in New York, where he manages Frank Lampard, Andrea Pirlo and David Silva, and has guided the team to the top of the Eastern Conference. While things are going well in America, Vieira’s goal is eventually to manage one of Europe’s biggest clubs.
During the transition from playing to management, the Frenchman said he has had to learn to control his temper and mentally take a step back - he has learnt from mistakes of the past, he said, where his temper got the better of him - but that he did not want to sacrifice any of his edge.
“I don’t want to change. I want to be more under control, but I don’t want to change,” the eloquent Vieira explained.
“I have to be myself, the intensity, the love for the game, the passion for the game - if I lose that, I’m not going to be a coach. That is who I am, and I don’t want to change it.”
Vieira backed Pep Guardiola to be a huge success at City - and empathised with Joe Hart, who has fallen out of favour at Eastlands and is likely to leave.
“It’s difficult for Joe of course, I know Joe really well and he did really well for City so it must be a really difficult situation for him to live with.
But when you have a new coach coming in with a new style of play, and new way of defending and the coach makes a call - but of course it’s difficult for Joe and for the manager as well because he’s an important player for the football club.”
Vieira had a word of warning for Paul Pogba, his fellow Frenchman, that the intensity and pressure of the Premier League would be hard to adapt to.
“I think he’s a fantastic player, no doubt about it, but at the same time I believe the Premier League is different, and there will be a lot of pressure on his shoulders because of the price tag and expectation.
He will have to find the right balance because if he thinks he will win games by himself that will be a massive mistake for him, if he tries to do something that he can’t do that will be a massive mistake as well,” he said.
“I read something interesting from Mourinho that he (Pogba) will win as much as Messi or Ronaldo and that is normal.
“If people are expecting him to score 40 goals a season, that will not be the case, but he can make a difference with his physical and technical ability.”
When asked whether Pogba, who has been labelled ‘the new Patrick Vieira’, could match his achievements in England, he joked: “The price they paid, he has to!”