Arsenal must set sentiment aside for visit of Vieira

It’s going to be great to see Patrick Vieira back in north London.

Fondly remembered as the marauding, all-conquering midfielder who helped guide Arsenal to countless glories in the late nineties and early naughties, the Frenchman has a special place in all our hearts.

And, who knows, if he does the business at Crystal Palace, we may even see him in the dugout at the Emirates, rekindling his love affair with red and white as our manager.

Until that particular flight of fancy comes to pass, however, Arsenal have a job to do.

As conflicting as it may be to see our iconic former captain under the lights, he will be coming for all three points and to break a few hearts too. He is not being paid to bask in the sweet serenade of 60,00 Arsenal fans as his team is taken to pieces, he is being paid to win and I have no doubt he will be doing his best to do just that.

Vieira has brought a new style to his Palace team, throwing off the caution of the Roy Hodgson-era to embrace a more modern, aggressive style of play. While nothing Palace have to offer should come as a surprise, they certainly won’t be as accommodating as their previous iterations.

I’m sure Vieira and his team will have watched closely have Brighton managed to keep Mikel Arteta’s men firmly on the back foot for most of the 90 minutes earlier this month and he would be a fool to attempt anything different.

This Arsenal team has bags of young, attacking talent at its disposal but lacks only a killer pass or two to make it truly click. It has been shown time and again that if you can press Arteta’s men high enough and with enough cohesion, you can nullify the sort of players who might cause problems at the attacking end.

Whether Vieira has had time enough to mould his side into the sort of unit that can carry out that disciplined press and contain game for 90 minutes is another matter but I fully expect him to give it a go.

For Arsenal’s part, they simply have to shift the ball quicker and, dare I say it, take a few more risks. There is joy to be had against high-pressing teams if you can move the ball through the lines at pace but we have too often erred on the side of caution under pressure.

Ben White and Gabriel are helping to shift that narrative but the likes of Thomas Partey, Sambi Lokonga and Martin Odegaard will need to play their parts too. Our home fixtures are going to be crucial to our success or otherwise this season and keeping pace with the teams setting the tone above is will be crucial. Dropping points on the road is one thing, but doing so at home won’t cut it.

It also wouldn’t hurt get a few more goals to our name after a pretty sluggish start to the campaign in front of goal. Of course, one goal is enough to win any game but some fluidity and confidence in attack is never unwelcome, particularly when players like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe thrive on confidence.

Recent history has taught me never to be confident of anything with this Arsenal side but tonight presents a good opportunity to rekindle our momentum and put some much-needed points on the board. We are in the midst of a run of games that look eminently winnable and there’s never any harm in putting together a run in the lead up to the busy Christmas period.

What we can’t do, though, is allow sentiment to blind us to what’s important. It’s great Patrick Vieira will be coming back but the fond farewells and nostalgia can wait, we have a job to do first.

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