And what about a new Romford Pele? 😀
We all know we tend to see our former heroes in our up and coming players. A certain way of running, a few typical gestures combined with certain skills and before you know it we believe a former great has been reincarnated in the latest hot talent. We just cannot help ourselves; it just has got to be done!
We all loved Patrick Vieira’s persona and incredibly diverse midfield football skills, and it can be argued that we never had somebody like him since he left us for Juventus in 2005 (an incredible 14 years ago). Abou Diaby had it all but his football fate was so cruel; Flamini did come quite close but wasn’t as majestic as the his fellow Frenchman; Ramsey had the potential to be the new PV04 but wasn’t strong enough defensively and also got injured too often, and; much-loved Coquelin also tried hard but just never quite got there for us.
I have heard a few fellow Gooners say that we may have a new Vieira, but to my surprise they were suggesting it would be Guendouzi of all our youngsters. I can see that Matteo has some of Vieira’s skills and characteristics: he likes to run forward with the ball from midfield, is a more than decent passer – including through-balls – he puts his whole body into the battle and likes to get involved when there is a players’ bust-up. But what MG is missing is PV04’s incredible physique and, most importantly, his reading of the game when we need to defend and his subsequent positioning and recovery skills are still well below par. I have my doubts whether the latter can be learned but, who knows, maybe Matteo will get this part right too in the next few years. The new Vieira, though?! No, not for me.
For now I see more of a new Ray Parlour, the Romford Pele, in Matteo, as the skills are similar and both are more attack-focussed than defence-focussed. The only thing missing are those screamers from well outside the box (or goals in general, which I am sure will come in the next few seasons). But in all seriousness, Guendouzi will of course become his own player and who knows how good he will become?! Time will tell.
I believe there are two players who really have the potential to become close to our ‘next Patrick Vieira’, in terms of type of player: Ainsley and Joe.
Ainsley Maitland Niles has the calm and physique, the engine and aura of Patrick. He is ideal for the defensive duties in midfield and is a good passer of the ball; he also will do those box to box runs all day long. Ainsley is more of an introvert but there is so much power in him; just watch him run with the ball and you can see the real potential of this young man. This season will be interesting for the 22 year old Gunner who produced two PL assists already. He will not be required to play in the RB position much anymore, with both Bellerin and Chambers being the better options. So now he will need to fight to get himself into midfield, starting with the cup games in which he really needs to shine. I have high hopes for Ainsley but this will be a big challenge for him, given the available quality in midfield and Emery’s love for Granit and Matteo…
Joe Willock is a player who really has it all and that at the age of just 20. He is a bit more extrovert than Ainsley and he has that same engine to run b2b all day long. For such a young lad he is surprisingly strong both mentally and physically and his reading of the game, both in defence and attack, is very impressive. Especially his runs into the box are superb and although he (as yet) misses too many chances, he did manage to score a couple already this season. His passing needs to improve further, but if there is one young player I would be happy to put in our best 11 players against a top team, next to Granit and Lucas, it is Joe Willock. That is how high I rate him.
We can analyse stats, youtube videos etc all day long, but my gut-instinct says that out of Matteo, Ainsley and Joe, the latter is our biggest prospect in midfield and he may even turn out to be our real new Vieira. Early days of course, but we can count ourselves lucky to have three such young midfield beasts donning the mighty red and white shirt. Ooh to Be!
So what do you think: will one of these three midfielders become (close to) the next PV04?