Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Just get another one of those unique things, it’s easy

Morning. A quickie before I go and try and hit a small ball into a hole many times (well 18 times, but there will be many attempts).

Mikel Arteta held his pre-Crystal Palace press conference yesterday, and I have to say, I was expecting a lot of questions about the Newcastle takeover. Surprisingly, there were none in the main section – although it was sort-of touched on in the embargoed section which will appear over the next few days.

I also expected lots of Patrick Vieira questions, for obvious reasons, and there were lots of those. Monday’s game is interesting: two former Arsenal captains, both of whom had success in the role (one obviously more than the other), but it’s such a fascinating dynamic. Both managers have addressed age profile issues in their squads this summer, Vieira has had a big impact on how Palace try to play, and it was inevitable that Arteta was asked about him.

He is an Arsenal legend and I hope he gets the reception he deserves for what he did for the club, not only as a player but also what he transmitted as a person. He was captain of the club in the most successful era in the last many years and it is great to have him back.

The pair faced each other a couple of times in the Premier League, but not when Vieira was at his best. Arteta was in good form when asked if he’d have fancied playing against him at his peak, laughing:

No! He was very dominant. He was physically really gifted, technically too, he had the right temper, he was brave and he could score goals. He could do a bit of everything and he was a remarkable player.

I also thought his answer about Arsenal never really replacing Vieira was good too. He said:

There have been some really good midfielders and Patrick was Patrick. There’s not going to be another one like him.

Sometimes I think we took it for granted that in Vieira, Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires, Arsenal had four of the best players in the world at the one time (with one hell of a supporting cast too). Imagine that now. It’s hard to get your head around.

I also think the ‘Just get another Vieira’ idea is a bit crazy. It’s like saying, ‘Go get another Thierry Henry’. Well, everyone’s trying to do that. A similar thing is applied to the captaincy when people bemoan the fact we don’t have a Tony Adams anymore. I’ll tell you why – it’s because players/leaders/captains like Tony are so unbelievably rare, you’re blessed when you get one. Everyone would have a Tony Adams if they could, but they are not ten a penny. They stand out as much as they do because they just don’t come along very often.

I’m sure Arsene Wenger would have loved to just go get another Vieira, but he could never find one – even though he did try. Unai Emery would have loved the next Vieira, and Arteta himself would probably even sacrifice Granit Xhaka (in metaphorical terms, maybe even literal) if there was another Vieira to be had. I don’t think there is though.

There are players who may share some aspects of his talent or his physicality; there are players who have his temperament and desire to win; but I’ve yet to see it in one package, ready to go at the age of 19 when he took everyone’s breath away on his first appearance. Sometimes you have to just acknowledge you had a singular talent, and all you’re doing is chasing the dragon trying to find a like for like replacement. There will be plenty more Vieira chat over the coming days, I’m sure.

Right, I’m gonna leave it there for now, but there is some extra reading for you to flesh out your morning. First, a really interesting piece on Arseblog News from Tim, who was given some insight into Arsenal’s new partnership with a company called STATSports. Secondly, Tim’s column on what the Newcastle takeover means for Arsenal is a sobering read at times, but something we have face up to in the not too distant future.

As ever, there is a brand new Arsecast for your listening pleasure. I chat to the Man from East Lower about all the Arsenal stuff, there’s Palace/Vieira chat with Dan from HLTCO, and you can win a football manager board game too. Get stuck in. All the links you need to listen/subscribe are below. For now, take it easy.


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