Vieira has a role to play

The signing of former Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira from Inter Milan in January was met with a mixture of criticism and shrugging shoulders. The newspapers did their obligatory doubling of any new arrival at Manchester City's probable weekly wage, every idiot vaguely capable of stringing a few words together, and some not, were quick to label the signing as puzzling, bar a couple of his ex-Highbury teammates, and overall the cheaper of only two major arrivals in January was thought of as being underwhelming.

There are some things that can't be denied here. Vieira is thirty-three, and past his prime. When that 'prime', however, was almost a decade as one of, if not the best central midfielder in the country, possibly Europe, you can appreciate that emphasising that fact is pretty pointless. The body can only take so much before it begins to decline, and hunger levels will inevitably drop once any player is in the autumn of their career, particularly if they've been lucky enough for their time served to be decorated with major honours.

His City career so far hasn't involved a great deal that may prove the doubters wrong, but in my opinion there are signs that he'll prove a useful acquisition, that he brings something none of the other candidates for his position do, or at least are doing at present, and that he might possibly just have as much impact on the pitch as he's expected to have off it.

What he's blatantly not capable of is dominating a game like he once could. His body, after a tough fifteen-year slog in Europe's elite divisions, just isn't up to it. So far we've seen mistimed challenges and a depreciated reading of defensive duties in general, yet at times he has demonstrated that his football mind at least, when given time on the ball, is still as sharp as it needs to be.

With Stephen Ireland struggling to command a regular place in the starting eleven, Vieira is at least open to the idea of passing the ball through the middle of the park, something Barry, de Jong, even Zabaleta when he's shifted forward, seem incapable of doing. None of those three players are confident enough on the ball, willing to take a few touches or able to spot the run of a teammate. They're all there, very occasional instances excepted, to be spoilers, to break up play and give.

I honestly don't think Vieira is or has ever been, since he became a regular at Arsenal at least, a defensive or holding midfielder, yet his introduction is often met with grumbles from fans and talk of substitutions being defensive. If anything he's showing glimpses of being a player who can have an impact on games in an attacking sense, both in terms of occasional defence-splitting passes and as an extra bit of bulk in the final third.

Whats undeniable is that the next ten games will decide whether we achieve our goals for the season, and i think Pat can play a big part, especially given Wayne Bridge's recent surgery. Noise from the club seems to indicate that Javi Garrido will come in as a like-for-like replacement for Wayne, and although the Spaniard did okay in patches when called on earlier in the season, i'm not convinced he's the best option.

Ruling out the ridiculous calls for our best player over recent weeks, Joleon Lescott, to shift to full-back, i'd be more confident about either Gareth Barry or Pablo Zabaleta filling in for the short-term. Both have proved themselves capable when called upon to play there of late, and though neither are the most mobile of creatures, at least they're capable of putting their foot in now and again.

We'll see how things pan out, but i really think that Pat could prove a useful weapon over the final weeks of the season. I appreciate that most Blues want to see Stevie back in the side, but if Mancini doesn't fancy him, and more so when he's given the chance he doesn't impress, then that's that. Vieira, taking that into consideration, then, in terms of a central midfielder player being capable of changing a game, like it or lump it, and though many of us will have questions about if being fitting of the world's richest football club, is the next best we've got.


  1. thank god, I have been banging my head against the wall arguing with people that Vieira isn't and has never been a defensive midfielder.

    He came on last match, looking fitter and sharper than what we had seen before. He held the ball well, isn't quick, but then again Barry isn't too rapid himself! His passing is far superior to any one in our midfield, he had the presence of mind in the box to create a great chance for the bellamy shot too.

    I was delighted when he signed, and retain high hopes that he can deliver for us this season!

  2. He was impressive when he came on at Sunderland. I thought he really took control of the midfield and we came into the game far more and had our best spell as a result.

    I would be surprised if he doesn't start from here on in.