The personal criticism directed at Arsene Wenger is hard to accept says Patrick Vieira, who admits he’s changed his attitude towards his former coach’s recent plight after experiencing life in the dugout for himself.
Since retiring as a player, Vieira, who is currently living in the USA coaching MLS franchise New York City FC, has waxed and waned in his attitude towards the man who helped bring him to Highbury in 1996.
He’s spoken openly about his disappointment at not being offered a position at London Colney but also drawn attention to his compatriot’s commitment to the Arsenal cause when things haven’t been going well.
In a new interview with L’Equipe (£), Vieira outlined why he believes Wenger has earned the right to call time on his Arsenal journey on his own terms.
“I think if it’s the end of the story, he’ll be the first to recognise it,” he said.
“And I would still like to add that in relation to everything he has done for the club, in relation to what he has built and what he has won, he is legitimate enough to decide for himself when he will retire. He has the right to make this decision himself.”
He added: “If there really is someone who loves this club and wants this club to succeed, it’s Arsene.
“Then we can discuss how the team plays or something else, but I find that the criticisms that fall on Arsene on a personal level are difficult to accept. It may have been becoming a coach myself that makes me feel differently. I remember very well every time he refused the biggest clubs to stay at Arsenal.
“I know what I’m talking about, because the same clubs contacted me and told me, when I met them, that their number one goal was to bring in Arsene. He said no to everyone to stay, and today people forget about it.”
Given everything he achieved at Highbury and tipped for a future as a top-level coach in Europe, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Vieira had to field a question about the possibility of himself taking over from Wenger when he leaves Arsenal.
Unwilling to tread on the toes of the 68-year-old, Vieira played down such a suggestion.
“Let’s say that someday it might interest me. But one day,” he said.
“I cannot say anything more because there is nothing to say about it and I do not want to offend Arsene, whom I adore and for whom I have a lot of respect. Because I know that he suffers a lot from the current results, even more than hearing what his former players say.”