You know how rumours start. They’re innocuous, they gather pace and life of their own faster than Cyrus the Virus would infect it. In football, you have the added spice of a media driven industrial strength piston driving the rumour mill to fill in the columns and news cycles.
One establishment quotes some guy on a radio station speculating about something that has no legs. Two other media establishments quote the first one as a source. The first establishment quotes the other two media establishments as their source, and we have a ball game.
Last time Patrick Vieira was the subject of the rumour mill, it was Ian Wright who started the rumour on his Talk Sport Drive time show. Honestly, he was just musing about how nice it will be for Patrick Vieira to be re-signed by Arsenal.
Next thing you know, Arséne Wenger is answering questions in an official press conference about his plans to re-sign his former captain. I mean, Thierry Henry was back for a second wind, Mathieu Flamini – why not a power house (well, a senior footballing citizen by then) like Patrick Vieira?
It wasn’t a surprise that such a story developed a life of its own considering Arsenal have supposedly been trying to find a new Vieira since the fella left the club for the Old Lady of Turin.
Of Dictators and Succession Planning
You’ve seen the script. They name their successors. You think it’s a joke then – BOOM – it happens. To be honest, at this point in time, it matters not whether Arséne Wenger himself wants to have a hand in picking his successor. Any alternative to the current managerial situation has to be better than where we are. Many in the Gooniverse would love to see a dream team of former Arsenal superstars take the reigns of management at the helm of the club.
“Heart over head” I hear myself screaming. Remind me again what happened to Tony Adam’s managerial career? Last I heard he was coaching some team in Uzbekistan. Granted, not every former player can hack it. My sense is that you’ll actually struggle to find very good former players who are also good managers. Perhaps Joseph Guardiola is an exception.
The former players are mostly milking the pundit circuit, providing what they perceive is experienced analysis and wisdom. Thing is, if they were any good, they’d actually be managing a club out there. There’s a reason arm-chair managers are not in a real job. Piloting a simulator isn’t like the real deal with a 316 tonne aircraft 37,000 ft above sea level, hundreds of passengers and crew on board.
Be Careful What You Wish For
Wenger has some words of wisdom for his former captain and compatriot. “Yes, you would be great at managing Arsenal long-term, but you need a bit more experience in the fast lane of Premier League football”. Vieira has been coaching New York in the MLS since 2016, after his 2 year stint with the Under 23’s at Manchester City. True, the Premier League is a totally different beast, but who’s to say ‘Ole Paddy can’t hack it. The only way you’ll hack the Premier League is by managing in the Premier League.
My sense is that the issue at Arsenal isn’t the fact that we need a stellar A-lister to be manager. A good manager will become an A-lister. They need to surround themselves with a good effective team, and know how to get the best of any group of players.
Does Vieira still have the fire in his belly? I bet so. Does he still have that red card in him, that passion to get in the mix and that no-nonsense approach? I bet you he can still inspire players to fight for the team at whatever cost.
Most of all, you’d hope that he will drill that team ethic; that sense of responsibility; and that tenacity for his key players to stand up and be counted, grabbing a game by the scruff of the neck if necessary.
Vacancy? What Vacancy?
You can see the sign hanging off the double glass doors at Highbury House. Even one of Wenger’s minders at the press conference had to steer the media folks away from Patrick Vieira talks – Wenger in full flow talking about his compatriot. The minder quickly reminded the media that there is no managerial vacancy at Arsenal. And therein lies the problem, the fact that the suits at Highbury House are still very comfortable with the managerial disfunction.
We have no choice until the Board grows a new pair of brass ones to deal with the elephant in the room. When change comes, Patrick Vieira must be given a chance to set out his stall. Of course they’ll say he’s currently employed by Man City to manage their US franchise, but hey – who ever stopped anyone for applying for a new job while they were still working their current one?
To be honest, I have no specific preference to who comes in next. Like many of you, I want a manager who will have the respect of players and fans; one who can weave a team into a solid playing unit, getting the best out of all the players; and one who has the determination and tactical nous to get Arsenal out of tight spots – grabbing 3 points where only one seemed available, grabbing a point where none seemed available; and pulling down the shutters and closing shop if the game has to be managed.
Have a great weekend good people.