Vieira is the per­fect fit for Ar­se­nal, in­sists Pires

Belfast Telegraph - - SPORT - BY MARK MANN-BRYANS

PA­TRICK Vieira is “ready to man­age Ar­se­nal,” ac­cord­ing to for­mer team-mate Robert Pires.

Arsene Wenger took charge of his last Gun­ners game at Hud­der­s­field on Sun­day as the cur­tain came down on a 22-year spell at the helm.

It is un­der­stood a num­ber of Ar­se­nal’s back­room staff have fol­lowed Wenger in leav­ing as the club pre­pare for life af­ter the French­man.

Two for­mer club cap­tains Mikel Arteta and Vieira, cur­rently head coach at New York City in the Ma­jor Soc­cer League, are among the favourites for the role.

Mas­si­m­il­iano Al­le­gri of Ju­ven­tus and for­mer Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti both con­tinue to also be linked with the va­cancy.

Arteta has, though, emerged as the fron­trun­ner and is re­port­edly the pre­ferred choice of Ar­se­nal chief ex­ec­u­tive Ivan Gazidis.

The 36-year-old, how­ever, holds no di­rect man­age­rial ex­pe­ri­ence, hav­ing served un­der Pep Guardi­ola at Manch­ester City since his re­tire­ment at the end of the 2015/16 cam­paign.

Vieira is also a firm favourite with Gun­ners fans, hav­ing helped drive Wenger’s In­vin­ci­bles team through their un­beaten league sea­son of 2003/04 and it is un­der­stood he has been con­tacted by the club.

French­man Pires — who en­joyed a suc­cess­ful six-year spell at High­bury be­fore join­ing Vil­lar­real in the sum­mer of 2006 — be­lieves all of the names linked could take on the role, but is in no doubt of the man he would like to see suc­ceed Wenger.

“I have seen the short­list: Al­le­gri, Carlo Ancelotti, Mikel Arteta — why not? I think all of them could man­age Ar­se­nal,” Pires (right) said.

“There’s maybe a small ad­van­tage for Al­le­gri and Ancelotti as they both have a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence in Italy, Ger­many and Eng­land.

“With Vieira — and this is only my opin­ion — yes. Not just be­cause he’s my friend. For­get this.

“He is do­ing very well with New York City, and he told me the job is very hard and dif­fi­cult.

“How­ever, he has a very good pro­file to re­place Arsene Wenger be­cause he knows foot­ball, he knows the Premier League and of course, he knows Ar­se­nal.

“So that’s why I say yes, Pa­trick Vieira is ready to man­age Ar­se­nal.”

While the man­age­rial va­cancy re­mains to be filled, the club have wasted no time in clear­ing the decks for the new regime.

Boro Pri­morac, a long-term coach and friend of Wenger, was al­ways likely to leave and, as the out­go­ing man­ager pre­pares to clear his of­fice later this week, a num­ber of other back­room staff have also been re­lieved of their du­ties.

Colin Lewin, head of the club’s med­i­cal depart­ment, has been at the club a year longer than Wenger, but will also be de­part­ing — as well as coaches Neil Ban­field, Gerry Pey­ton and Tony Col­bert, with Paul John­son leav­ing his post as equip­ment man­ager.

As things stand it ap­pears Wenger’s as­sis­tant Steve Bould and Jens Lehmann, re­cruited to the coach­ing staff just last sum­mer, will re­main un­der the new man­ager.

Another name touted as a po­ten­tial suc­ces­sor has been Hof­fen­heim head coach Ju­lian Nagels­mann, although the Bun­desliga side in­sisted yes­ter­day that the 30-year-old will be go­ing nowhere. It also re­mains un­clear what Wenger’s next move will be.

The 68-year-old re­vealed last week he has some work to do in France early this week be­fore re­turn­ing to Ar­se­nal’s Lon­don Col­ney train­ing cen­tre to clear his desk.

Speak­ing to the Ar­se­nal web­site, in quotes pub­lished yes­ter­day, Wenger said: “It will be very dif­fi­cult for me (with­out Ar­se­nal).

“At the mo­ment if I want to con­tinue to work, I think I have to move out of the coun­try, be­cause my gut feel­ing at the mo­ment is that I would feel I would be­tray my club by stay­ing in Eng­land. Peo­ple might feel that I’ve be­trayed what I’ve built here.

“That is the prob­lem I face at the mo­ment. My club is here, my heart is here and will be for­ever. As I said in my speech on the pitch af­ter the Burn­ley (home) game, I’m a fan above all.”

Show­ing po­ten­tial: Pa­trick Vieira is do­ing well with New York City

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