With Arsene Wenger’s long-awaited official announcement to step down as manager of the North London side Arsenal FC and end his 21-year reign, talk immediately sprung up about who would replace the manager who built this modern Arsenal team (for better or worse... let’s just leave it at that). The name that seems to be at the top of many lists is the current New York City FC boss, Patrick Vieira. Vieira became a household name as a Gunner under Wenger’s tutelage and was an integral part of the fabled “Invincibles” squad for the 2003-2004 season. Vieira — being very familiar with the club — has often been rumored to replace Wenger whenever he finally decided to step down and now that he has, Vieira is the consensus betting favorite to replace Wenger at Arsenal.
But is there any merit to the rumors?
It’s prudent to remember a few things: City Football Group gave Vieira his first taste of managing at the youth level in their academy system with an idea that he would be able to move up and manage one of Manchester City’s sister clubs: Melbourne City or New York City. Vieira eventually took over for Jason Kreis as the NYCFC skipper in 2016 and has established himself as one of the top managers in MLS in just his third campaign. His sudden success, name recognition, and legendary status to the Arsenal faithful vaulted the Frenchman to the top of the Gunner’s list of hopeful managers. Vieira himself has mentioned a desire to return to Europe “someday” and that he would love to manage his former Arsenal side.
Is that desire to play for his former club enough to pry him away from the resources and success of City Football Group?
Looking at CFG, they’ve already invested a lot into Vieira as a manager. Pep Guardiola — the current manager of CFG’s flagship club Manchester City FC — while successful likes to seek new challenges and new hardware to win. In ten years, Guardiola has managed the first teams of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and now Manchester City. One wouldn’t be wrong to assume that Pep may only stick around with Manchester City for a couple more seasons at best before leaving for a new title contending club elsewhere. And that’s where the investment in Patrick Vieira becomes important. In allowing Vieira to cut his teeth in a blooming league such as MLS with talented footballers both young and old (see David Villa and Yangel Herrera) and have success there, the conclusion to draw is that CFG are planning for Vieira to take over at Manchester City as the first team manager some day. Would CFG be willing to relinquish that investment over to a competitor?
Some would argue that Manchester City has a system that is much better suited for success than Arsenal’s (peep the Premier League Table). They’ve allowed Vieira to do things his way and have brought in players to help him win in New York, so it would be safe to assume that the same would hold true in Manchester. Whereas the Arsenal ownership may not be as interested in titles or championships and could pose a real challenge to the success for the young manager and the storied club.
Still, there is the unknown variable of how important it is to Vieira that he have an opportunity at his ‘dream job’ as the Gunners’ manager. How it all shakes out is hard to say, but looking at the cards on the table it would seem that Patrick still has some hardware to win for the Pigeons of New York.