Patrick Vieira is relishing his return to Arsenal as Crystal Palace manager, but refused to be drawn on why his old club have struggled for success in the years since his departure.
Vieira was a member of the last Arsenal squad to win the Premier League, as part of the famous Invincibles group of the 2003-04 season. Despite some domestic cups, there have been some tough times for the Gunners since. Last season, they finished a lowly eighth, missing out on European football.
Nevertheless, they kept faith in one of their former midfielders, Mikel Arteta, as manager. On Monday, he will be in the opposite dugout to another ex-Arsenal midfielder in Vieira, who is taking his Palace side to the Emirates Stadium.
The Frenchman is feeling positive about the challenge, but is focused on what matters for his current side rather than the one he used to play for.
Vieira said: “I am really looking forward to it.
“I had the chance to play for this football club for nine years. 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 I would say.
“So obviously 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.
“Nine years is quite a long period of time. In that period we were successful and I was really pleased to be part of a generation of players who make history for this football club.
“Going back there will be emotional, yes, but the focus and the concentration will be how can we perform well to have more chance of getting what we want.
“It’s about controlling yourself as a manager and controlling the emotion. I always try to do that and will try to do that again on Monday.”
Vieira left Arsenal in 2005 and their only trophies since have been four FA Cups and four Community Shields. Their progress in the Premier League, instead, has followed a downward trend.
The reasons for that were not something Vieira wanted to address.
He said: “That’s a question to really ask people who have been inside this football club.
“I’m just like everybody else analysing things from outside.
“I don’t want to get into details because it’s difficult to talk about when you don’t have all the information. I was outside the country and didn’t follow them as closely.”
Vieira provides Eze update
Returning his attention to his current team, the Palace manager provided an update on the availability of Eberechi Eze.
He has been out with an Achilles injury since May, but is making some progress towards a return – even if Vieira is remaining patient with the process.
The Eagles boss confirmed: “Eze’s getting better.
“He is taking some part of the collective training but we don’t want to put any kind of pressure or dates when he will be ready.
“He is doing well and we just have to see how he is feeling week after week.”
A potential return of Eze in the months ahead would be a major boost for a Palace side who have won just one of their opening seven league games.
However, they have drawn more than they have lost and are competing well.
Vieira knows it is a results business, though.
He added: “We need wins. We are really close of getting what we want, to win football matches.
“We are still making some mistakes that costs us points and it’s important for us to turn those good performances into wins.”