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Football: Palace boss Vieira setting emotions aside on return to Arsenal


LONDON (REUTERS, AFP) – Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira is looking forward to an emotional return to Arsenal as he prepares to face his old club for the first time in his managerial career.

Vieira heads to the Emirates Stadium tomorrow (Oct 18) for an occasion that will stir countless memories for the former Arsenal and France star.

The 45-year-old won three Premier League titles and four FA Cups with Arsenal, including captaining them through their unbeaten “Invincible” top-flight season in 2003-04.

He played around 400 games for the Gunners after joining from AC Milan in 1996 – proving one of Arsene Wenger’s most astute signings.

“I am really looking forward to it,” Vieira said. “I arrived at this football club when I was a kid and I left as a man. That is the club where I played my best football.

“Going back there will be emotional, but I will put that on the side because it will be important for us to perform well and to get points.”

He eventually left for Juventus in 2005, but his contribution to Arsenal’s glory days guarantees him a rousing reception from Gunners fans today.

Arsenal have not won the Premier League since Vieira left north London and have been mired in mediocrity for several years.

“That’s a question to really ask people who have been inside this football club,” Vieira said of Arsenal’s malaise.

“I don’t want to get into details because it’s difficult to talk about when you don’t have all the information.”

He was generous in his praise for opposing manager Mikel Arteta and said he saw parallels in the Spaniard’s qualities with that of France’s World Cup-winning coach Didier Deschamps, who also made the switch to coaching after ending his playing career.

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During his playing days, Arteta had spells with Paris Saint-Germain, Real Sociedad, Everton and Arsenal.

“When he was playing, you knew that Didier was going to be a football manager. And I think Arteta is quite in the same kind of mindset,” Vieira said.

“He was a really good player, he had a wonderful career… And he learned the job before getting a chance at Arsenal. I think he did everything the right way.

“When he was under pressure, he did quite well because he’s always been calm and composed. Winning and losing games… the way he was conducting himself is a really good sign of a person who has everything under control.”

Arteta called on the home fans to deliver “the reception (Vieira) deserves for what he did for the club, not only as a player but also what he transmitted as a person”.

He was looking forward to pitting wits against the Frenchman, adding: “Patrick knows the league much better probably than any other manager because he has experienced it himself as a player.

“You can see the touch that he is trying to put in the team and the things he is trying to implement there.”





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