According to a report in French publication Nice-Matin, Patrick Vieira has emerged as Arsenal’s first-choice replacement for Unai Emery.
The ex-Gunner is head coach of French side Nice with whom he has a contract until 2021. He led them to a 7th place finish in Ligue 1 last season but they are struggling this campaign and currently sit in 14th.
It sounds like life on the Cote d’Azur has been somewhat complicated by matters off the field, financial shenanigans by the former owner and a takeover by British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe.
Last season, against all odds, Nice finished 7th, 10pts away from Europe during Patrick Vieira's 1st season in charge. This was phenomenal as, owing to Vieira's fall out with Mario Balotelli, they played the entire season without a fit recognised striker in their 1st team squad.
— Get French Football News (@GFFN) December 4, 2019
For what it’s worth, before last night’s 4-1 capitulation at Saint Etienne, Viera said: “I get the feeling that it [the rumours] disturbs you more than me or the club. There is nothing to say about it, there is nothing serious, nothing real I have no comments to make about that.”
It’s believed that Arsenal have cast a wide net in their hunt for a new head coach with Freddie Ljungberg, currently interim, and Mikel Arteta, Pep Guardiola’s assistant at Manchester City, fellow ex-Gunners in the running. Experienced heads including Max Allegri, Carlo Ancelotti, Rafa Benitez, Maurichio Pochettino and Brendan Rodgers have also been mentioned.
Vieira played for Arsenal between 1996 – 2005 winning three league titles and three FA Cups (four if you count 02/03 when he was injured) before Juventus came calling. Already World and European champion with France, the midfielder won the Scudetto in Turin (later rescinded) before hot-footing it to Inter Milan when the Bianconeri were relegated for match-fixing. Four further Scudettos followed.
He was linked with a return to Arsenal in 2010 only for Manchester City to make him a better offer. After winning the FA Cup at the Etihad he was offered the chance to start his coaching career becoming their Football Development Executive. Within a couple of years he became Elite Development squad manager.
Vieira stayed under the City umbrella when he took up the head coach position of new MLS franchise New York City in 2015. A year later Nice came calling.
It’s too early to tell if there’s any truth to this story. We know that Vieira was approached by Ivan Gazidis when the search for Arsene Wenger’s successor began but our former captain didn’t make the final shortlist.
Does the club think he’s garnered sufficient experience in Europe in the last 18 months to have bolstered his cause? Obviously, the romance of a reunion with one of the club’s greatest players is romantic, but romance enough isn’t going to help us get back on track.
It would certainly be a bold decision by Raul Sanllehi given his reputation is on the line if he appoints another dud.