I am an occasional peruser of Newsnow’s Arsenal page. For those of you not familiar with Newsnow, it’s a website that pulls together any and all current stories on a wide range of topics, updated every few minutes.
If you’re financially minded you can visit its Business pages; if digital is your thing you might go to the Technology pages; if you like comedy you can drop in on the Tottenham Hotspur page.
But, naturally, it’s the Arsenal page that is in my bookmarks.
So imagine my surprise yesterday when I started browsing said page only to encounter a barrage of headlines saying that one of our erstwhile sons – a former Invincible, no less – was slagging off the current Arsenal team.
These were some of the headlines:
“Vieira Says Arsenal Lack Leadership.”
“Vieira: Arsenal Lack Leadership to Win PL.”
“Patrick Vieira Undermines Arsenal’s Title Bid By Suggesting Gunners Are Not Capable of Winning Ugly.”
Apparently our former captain trotted out the well-worn complaint that today’s Arsenal lacks the sort of natural leaders that were sprinkled throughout the Invincibles era team like raisins in a bagel: Keown, Adams, Campbell, Bergkamp and, of course, Vieira himself.
It’s always a bit disappointing to see one of our old heroes having a pop at the current crop of Arsenal players (or indeed the manager).
But, reading the full story of the Vieira comments, a couple of things sprang to mind.
First, we have to remember that although he may have been one of our greatest heroes while in an Arsenal shirt, Patrick Vieira now happens to work for one of our rivals, Manchester City. (His current role is “Reserve Team Manager” which, at City, must be quite amusing: most reserve team managers have to coach a bunch of has-beens, kids and returning crocks. Vieira presumably manages a reserve team worth more than the gross national product of some countries).
So, as someone currently representing a rival – a rival we’ll be playing this weekend – we should not necessarily expect him to be bigging up the Arsenal, regardless of his history with us.
But, more importantly, I read that the Vieira comments came as part of a documentary that will air tonight on ITV4. It’s called Keane and Vieira: The Best of Enemies and brings together the two great midfield hard men of their generation to reminisce about those happy days when maiming opponents and picking fights in the tunnel was looked on as high spirits.
The documentary is more than an hour long and I can tell you that sixty-minute documentaries do not get made overnight.
In fact it usually takes a minimum of three months to get one from pre-production to broadcast (the editing alone for a one-hour programme can be up to six weeks).
So it is reasonable to assume that whatever comments Paddy makes in the film were made either very early in the season or even before the season began. The only reason they’re all over the press now is that the producers have a documentary to promote.
And it’s hard to argue with the fact that, looking back over the past few years from the perspective of this summer, Vieira would have had a point about our continuing problems with leadership and failing to win when playing badly.
But do you think Paddy would make those same claims if asked today about the Arsenal team of right now?
He would look at players like Vermaelen, Koscielny, Flamini, Ramsey and Arteta and accept that we do now – at last – have a decent crop of leaders.
And he would also acknowledge that, so far this season, we have been able to get results when not at our best.
So, fellow Arsenal supporters, let’s not get on our high horses about Vieira and his comments. They were almost certainly made quite some time ago and by someone who works for our opponents.
Nothing to see here, move along please.
As for the main theme of the ITV4 film – the rivalry between Vieira and Keane – I throw that over to you: who was the better player? Who was the more influential? And who was the harder?