The fixture list was announced on Friday and Arsenal are to face Newcastle(A), Liverpool(H) and Manchester United(A) in their first three Premiership fixtures of the 2011-12 season and also, they will have to play the Champions League qualifiers which could be tricky and further adds to the difficulties that the Gunners face in the opening month of the season.
Arsenal will need to start on a positive note because if they do not start well, they will be under severe criticism from a number of supporters and critics early in the season. This difficult start to the season has an advantage that Arsenal will, hopefully, have a fully fit squad for the start of the season and have been good in the first half of the season in the past.
However, these difficult fixtures in the month of August would mean that Arsene Wenger would have to make his moves early in the transfer market because it is important that the new players are accustomed to Arsenal's style of play and also, they have a good pre-season with their team mates. With this tough fixture list at the start of the season, it is probable that Wenger will try to finalize his dealings before the end of July.
The Gunners will need enough depth in order to challenge for different competitions in the season and will look to reinforce the squad which did do well until their spectacular collapse towards the end of the season. Though Arsenal are financially capable of spending good money on the market, they lack the financial strength of Manchester City or Chelsea and Arsene Wenger will probably look for value in the market and even look for free agents, who can be of good value.
The Premiership clubs have submitted their lists of players who will be free agents in the summer and one player in that category, who will interest a number of Arsenal supporters, is former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira. He was released by Manchester City, though they could offer him a new contract in the summer.
Vieira was predominantly used as a substitute in a team which had the likes of Gareth Barry, Nigel de Jong and Yaya Toure who are all capable of playing in defensive midfield. Arsenal had been linked with the former France International in a coaching capacity and could be interested in acquiring the services of the midfielder either as a coach or as a player/coach who could give experience to the team.
In this article, the advantages and disadvantages of signing Patrick Vieira as a player/coach is discussed.
There was a certain amount of speculation regarding the immediate future of Pat Rice as assistant to Arsene Wenger but later, the French tactician confirmed that Rice will continue at the Emirates as his assistant for the 2011-12 season. Wenger and Rice share an excellent relationship and if Rice does retire, it will be important to bring in someone who will understand the club and also work positively with the manager.
Patrick Vieira has worked with Wenger in the past and shares a good rapport with the manager. He is currently 35 years old and could retire in the near future. The combative midfielder has played in a number of Cup games for City and also as a substitute in many league games as well. It is evident that he is clearly past his peak but he can do a decent job against lesser oppositions.
Arsenal do not have depth in the defensive midfield role with Alex Song virtually having no competition or replacement. However, the Cameroon International has developed at a good pace in the last few years and has established himself as a regular for the Gunners. However, playing a number of games without rotation seems to hurt him as he has had muscle injuries/strains in the last two seasons around the month of April.
The main problem which has been cited by most supporters is not the lack of talent or even the poor defending; it has been the fact that their mentality has been poor in many games and their desire to win and leadership was absent on the pitch. The Gunners have frittered away their leads in a number of games and need to bring in more experienced players, who can guide these young talented players.
Vieira is a natural leader and youngsters will look up to him for advice and he can create a positive atmosphere in the dressing room. Mario Balotelli, who has been criticised for a number of immature actons, has admitted that Vieira is one of the few players he listens to in Manchester City and the stature of the midfielder is certain to help youngsters cope with criticism and other comments.
Also, the Frenchman can be brought on for the last half hour of a game if the Gunners are in the lead because he can help them in keeping their cool and finishing the job. He is an experienced player, who has won trophies in the past and also, shares a good rapport with the fans, who will welcome him to the Emirates.
Though he is a free agent, the Gunners will most certainly not be able to match the sky-high wages he earned in Manchester City or compete in terms of wages if City offer him a new contract. Arsene Wenger is a manager who will spash the cash only if absolutely necessary and on the footballing side, it does not make sense to offer a six figure salary per week to a player who is nearing the end of his illustrious career.
If Wenger is convinced that Vieira still has some years left in him, then he is likely to offer a one year contract with modest wages in addition to decent wages as a member of the coaching staff, who can take over from Rice when he retires. The Frenchman could also be offered a role in coaching capacity by Manchester City under Roberto Mancini and it is probable that the wages they offer could far exceed that offered by the Gunners.
However, Vieira shares an excellent rapport with Wenger and Arsenal is the club where he enjoyed the best part of his career and also, won trophies with the club. As a player, it depends on how physically and mentally fit Vieira is because age is catching up with the member of the legendary "Invincible" team and Wenger will make a judgement as to whether he can still be of use in a bit part playing role for the Gunners.
Though most supporters would be glad to welcome Vieira back in a player-coach capacity, wages could be an issue and another one is the requirement of only 25 players in the squad including 8 homegrown players. If Nicklas Bendtner, Gael Clichy and Denilson leave the club, then it could mean that the Gunners might have to include some of their youngsters to meet the requirement.
Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs and Carlos Vela, who were named amongst the youngsters, would have to be named in the 25 man squad and space would have to be accomodated for the new transfers as well. This means that Patrick Vieira would be consuming an important place in the non-homegrown players in the list of 25 players.
The idealistic situation for Arsenal is to sign Vieira as a coaching staff for the Gunners and offer him a contract if there is a place in the 25 man squad. However, it is likely that Vieira will snub such an offer if he gets a player-coach deal at City or another good club. Arsene Wenger will know that there are few players in the world who could bring in leadership and instill strong mentality in the team like Patrick Vieira can do and could look to bring him to the Emirates to help Arsenal win trophies in the next season.
If interested, read Arsenal Transfer Prospects: Pros and Cons of signing Jermain Defoe, Peter Odemwingie, Jan Vertonghen, Radamel Falcao, Ricky Alvarez, Scott Parker and Gervinho in this series of Arsenal Transfer Prospects and also, you can follow me on Twitter