Premier League • England

Inside Fabio Vieira’s stunning upturn in Arsenal form ahead of North London Derby

Fabio Vieira of Arsenal

Fabio Vieira of Arsenal

Fabio Vieira has given Mikel Arteta a welcome selection dilemma ahead of the North London Derby with the Portuguese in better form than big-money summer signing Kai Havertz.

Wednesday’s Champions League group stage game against PSV was Havertz’s best game by distance for Arsenal. He played in two different positions; he played as a number 8 and then, when Gabriel Jesus went off, he went up front. In both positions he did a really good job.

He had one good chance in the first half that he snatched at and put miles over, which is classic for a player who’s struggling for a little bit of confidence. When your confidence is low, you just snatch at it, you just try and get your shot away and, and he got it wrong.

But other than that, I thought he played really well. His link up play was good. He did some really nice things in and around the penalty area.

He played a lovely little ball in to set up a good chance for Jesus, had a brilliant run to start the move for the goal for Martin Odegaard in the second half as well.

You could feel the support around the stadium for him as well. There’s been a lot of horrible stuff said on social media but in the stadium there has been nothing but support for Havertz.

On Wednesday the fans were desperate for him to score. They could see the work he was putting into that performance and they really appreciated it. I’m hoping that will do him the world of good because it was by far and away his best performance from an Arsenal perspective.

Fabio Vieira’s stunning form

I still think Fabio Vieira starts against Spurs. He looks like a completely different player than what we saw in the second half of last season.

He was a player who was struggling for confidence. He seemed to be, at times last season, hiding from the ball on the pitch, and he just didn’t really want it when he had it. He got rid of it really, really quickly.

Now it’s is just the absolute polar opposite. He wants the ball, he’s making things happen. He looks really, really hungry and physically looks miles better.

You can see why Arsenal invested £35million to bring him to the club. For a large chunk of last season, you couldn’t really see that.

I wondered if Everton was going to be a bit too much for him because of the type of game it was going to be and the physicality that they were going to show in that midfield battle. I was a bit worried when I saw him in the starting lineup but he coped with it.

I think he’s just ahead of Havertz at the moment because of what he’s producing when he’s on the pitch. So as well as Havertz played on Wednesday night, I’ve got a feeling Mikel might revert back to the midfield three that we saw at Goodison Park a week earlier.

False start from Fabio Vieira

The first couple of months of last season he started well, it looked like a really smart piece of business. He scored a couple of goals – a brilliant goal at Brentford and in Europa League group stages. And he was really making things happen. But then he fell off a cliff halfway through the season.

When he came back after the World Cup, he looked like he didn’t belong there. His confidence had gone. You could see it when he when he stepped out on a pitch and in the end, that’s why he just wasn’t getting minutes.

Arteta is not stupid and the team were in the middle of a title run, you couldn’t continue to play someone who was struggling. But there was always a talented player there. Now we’re really seeing him flourish and he’s obviously adjusted more.

Preseason key to Vieira’s upturn

Preseason was big for him. He didn’t have a preseason last summer after he signed because he was injured. He had one this summer, and he went away to the USA with the team.

He came back and scored the winning goal in the Community Shield in the penalty shootout against Manchester City at Wembley, which was such a huge moment for him in a really big game to win a piece of silverware for the club.

He’s not got the weight of the world on his shoulders anymore. Now he looks free. It’s great to see because so many people were writing him off last season.

Mikel said he feels like more of a senior player around the squad. Now he’s not the new boy. That can make a big, big difference.

It’s fine margins in football, one little thing can completely change a player. And maybe it was that penalty in the Community Shield that sort of lit a spark in him.

He came on in that game against Fulham a while back and Arsenal were 1-0 down and he just turned the game by himself. He won the penalty and then he set up the goal for Eddie Nketiah. He came on the pitch with a real determination to make his mark and to turn things around.

We just hadn’t seen that from him before and fingers crossed he continues to go from strength to strength now.

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