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Patrick Vieira Says He Had No Contact with Arsenal over Manager Job

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistDecember 23, 2019

Nice's French coach Patrick Vieira smiles as he sits on the bench during the French L1 football match between Brest and Nice on December 14, 2019 at the Francis Le Ble stadium in Brest. (Photo by Fred TANNEAU / AFP) (Photo by FRED TANNEAU/AFP via Getty Images)
FRED TANNEAU/Getty Images

Patrick Vieira has said he wasn't contacted by Arsenal about becoming manager before his former club hired Mikel Arteta. A Gunners legend during his playing days, Vieira was thought to be among the front-runners for the job in north London.

However, he told Canal+ (h/t Metro) that wasn't the case, and he also reaffirmed his commitment to Ligue 1 side Nice: "I do feel for Arsenal because I had nine fantastic seasons there and they're going through difficult times. Was I contacted? No. It's flattering (to be linked) but I know how lucky I am to be at Nice. I don't have intention or desire to go elsewhere."

There were reports Arsenal technical director Edu had earmarked former team-mate Vieira as his first choice to replace interim boss Freddie Ljungberg in the dugout. The latter replaced Unai Emery, who was sacked in November.

The Athletic's David Ornstein also reported Arsenal held a meeting with Vieira in London about the job.

Ultimately, the Gunners opted to give Manchester City assistant coach Arteta his first chance as a senior boss. The appointment was made official Friday:

Arsenal @Arsenal

🥁 Introducing our new head coach... Mikel Arteta ✍️ https://t.co/PTmElGDMR3

Edu played alongside Vieira in the Gunners' engine room during the club's historic 2003/04 season. Arsenal won the Premier League title without losing a game.

It was Vieira's third title, following league and FA Cup doubles in 1998 and 2002. The healthy haul of silverware, along with his ascension to captain, made Vieira one of the greatest signings in Arsenal's history after he was brought to the club for a modest fee from AC Milan in 1996.

Vieira was an imperious player at the peak of his powers. He was a colossus who effortlessly combined imposing power with exuberant flair and natural elegance.

The Frenchman bossed games from every phase of midfield and provided the platform for Wenger's ideas about free-flowing football.

His stature as a player means Vieira would have brought more gravitas to the job than Arteta. The latter also played in the Arsenal midfield and became skipper on Wenger's watch.

Yet despite winning two FA Cups, Arteta was never the marquee performer Vieira was nor can he match the managerial experience of the man not even contacted by his old club.

Vieira spent two seasons in charge of Major League Soccer expansion side New York City FC before taking over at Nice in 2018. A seventh-placed finish in the French top flight last season spoke volumes about Vieira's ability, but things have been tougher since.

Issues over ownership and recruitment have destabilised Vieira's project at Nice. As Get French Football News detailed in an online thread, however, the 43-year-old has also been guilty of a few missteps:

Get French Football News @GFFN

@GGanaye And yet he has continued to make alterations on a weekly basis & after 3 months still hasn't taken a position on key questions: Is Youcef Atal more impactful at LW than RB? Is Ignatius Ganago better served in a front 2 with Dolberg than at RW?

Vieira's team has improved lately, moving up to 10th after wins over Metz and Toulouse. Despite any problems, there is little doubt hiring Vieira would have been seen as less of a gamble than appointing Arteta.

The 37-year-old has never taken a senior job before, hardly an ideal background given the scale of the job in north London. Arteta, who took training for the first time Sunday, needs to fix a leaky defence, win over underperforming established stars like Mesut Ozil and get Arsenal back to playing the expressive game Wenger made a club staple for nearly 22 years.

Arsenal @Arsenal

📺 TRAINING VIDEO: Loading... ⬛️⬛️⬛️⬛️⬛️⬛️⬛️🔲🔲🔲 While we wait, here's a quick look at part of today's session! 😎 https://t.co/UZGuhWixOJ

Arsenal @Arsenal

Session one. Work has begun. https://t.co/FcREaxgoNr

Arteta represents a significant risk for a fallen giant of a club already enduring a period of prolonged hardship. In this context, it's more than a little surprising Arsenal opted against at least reaching out to Vieira to gauge his interest.