The 49 Steps
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The 49 Steps

Fabio Vieira and Arsenal’s Creative Village

Arsenal don’t need Fabio Vieira, but I’m damned glad the club is signing the young maestro from Porto. Vieira, a mix of a no. 10 and a technical wide player, isn’t a pressing need for a squad that already houses Martin Odegaard, Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli.

That’s just the point, though. Arsenal don’t need Vieira, but it’s no reason not to sign him.

Remember the phrase “it takes a village?” It’s an apt turn of phrase to justify Edu and Mikel Arteta adding another creator to the midfield and attacking ranks.

I’ve said over and over, no playmaker thrives in isolation. It’s why Mesut Ozil struggled during Arteta’s early days at the helm.

You could see some of the same struggles in Odegaard’s performances late last season. No playmaker is an island, but teams twigged it was easy to isolate Odegaard with man marking and render Arsenal’s creative output close to non-existent.

This rather monotonous ploy became so effective because there was no-one other than Odegaard to pull the strings. That’s changed now Vieira is on board after a season in which he supplied 16 assists in 35 appearances across all competitions.

He’s still a work in progress, having started just 15 league games for Porto last season, but the tactical lineage is exciting. Vieira compares favourably to a player Arteta knows well:

Bernardo Silva is a dream player for any starting XI. He can operate wide, behind the striker or deep. No matter where he starts, Silva still brings those quick and clever feet and eye for a pass to bear. Sign me up for more of the same from Vieira.

Arteta knows how important Silva was for Manchester City, and it’s looking increasingly like The Process King is finally accelerating his efforts to turn Arsenal into a City-lite. If only I trusted him to actually make it happen…

Trust will be easier to come by if Gabriel Jesus is brought on board. His pressing from the front is apparently what Arteta wants from his main striker. So no more excuses? Yeah, right.

The real reason to doff the cap to the purveyor of the scared “Project” is how Vieira’s signing is reminiscent of the days of Wenger gone, but not forgotten. Days when Arsenal stockpiled creative midfielders for fun.

Arteta referenced those days during a previous interview with Nick Wright of Sky Sports:

An Arteta quote usually makes me cringe, but this was one of his best. It acknowledged how Arsenal had a way of playing, a style, defined directly by the type of players who ran the engine room and fed those at the tip of the attack.

Not to give Arteta a free pass (Lord knows he’s had his share of those!), but there’s no denying Unai Emery strip-mined the creative department at Arsenal. His regime banished Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, overlooked Henrikh Mkhitaryan and ostracised Mesut Ozil.

In no time at all, Arsenal went from a team criticised for trying to walk the ball into the net under Wenger, to a plodding and predictable bunch on Emery’s watch. The change was as depressing as it was swift.

Arteta’s attempts to switch back to something more pleasing on the eye have often fallen flat (hello, Willian). Yet, while I’ve pretty much dedicated this blog to questioning Arteta’s execution, I honestly believe his intention is to return Arsenal to the enterprising style the teams he was involved with used.

You only have to look at the squads Arteta has been around as a player and coach to know he understands the value of trusting a platoon of playmakers, rather than just one artful dodger.

He saw it work at Arsenal, then at City, where Pep Guardiola never leaves his team short in attacking-midfield areas. This season’s Premier League champs could count on Silva, Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez.

Silva was The Man during the first half of the season, De Bruyne and Gundogan were the closers when the title was at stake on the final day. It takes a village…

Arteta knows it and that’s why Vieira may not be the last creative-minded midfielder signed this summer:

It won’t matter who starts or where. Arsenal will be able to changes things up and not lose any attacking verve, simply by switching out one maestro for another.

That’s possible now Arsenal’s rebuilt creative contingent is looking stronger. Odegaard, Vieira, Smith Rowe, Martinelli and Bukayo Saka. With Youri Tielemans possibly to follow.

It’s greedy of Arsenal to hoard so many technicians, but it takes an unhealthy appetite to make creativity the defining feature of a team and the club as a whole.

Originally published at on June 17, 2022.



Arsenal, NFL History and Film Analysis from James Dudko

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James Dudko

Films, Footie and Gridiron, with the emphasis on Arsenal, NFL history and analysis of cinema from years past.