‘It will be emotional’: Patrick Vieira relishing return to Arsenal

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<span>Photograph: Michael Zemanek/REX/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: Michael Zemanek/REX/Shutterstock

Patrick Vieira admits he must put personal emotions to one side when Crystal Palace face his former club Arsenal on Monday.

Vieira spent nine years at Arsenal as a player, winning three Premier League titles under Arsène Wenger and captaining the Invincibles team in 2003-04. Having begun his coaching career at Manchester City, the former France midfielder is preparing to return to Arsenal for the first time since taking over at Palace in the summer.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Vieira. “I had a chance to play for this club for nine years – I arrived when I was a kid and left as a man. This is the club where I played my best football so obviously going back will be emotional. But I will put that on the side because what is important for us is to perform well and try to get the points.”

Asked whether it would be difficult to control his emotions against the club where he remains a hero among supporters, Vieira said: “I will answer that question after the game.”

Patrick Vieira celebrates scoring against Tottenham in Arsenal&#39;s 2001 FA Cup semi-final
Patrick Vieira was an integral part of an Arsenal side which won three league titles and four FA Cups.
Photograph: David Davies/PA

Arsenal’s manager, Mikel Arteta, has said he hopes the former captain will be given the reception he deserves, and Vieira compared his opposite number to Didier Deschamps, his former France teammate and now Les Bleus’ manager.

“He is somebody who understood when he was playing that going into a managerial area was something he wanted to do,” Vieira said. “I think when he was under pressure he did really well as he’s always been calm and composed.”

In April Vieira joined Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp in backing the Swedish billionaire Daniel Ek’s proposed takeover of Arsenal, later stating that it was “time for a change of ownership”.

“I was expressing myself as Patrick, ex-Arsenal football player,” he said. “That comment was based on how the direction was going and I was talking to someone who maybe had a different view and different way of taking Arsenal.

“I am in a different position to a couple of months ago so I’m not going to express myself in the same way as when I was just an ex-Arsenal player. The situation, at the time, it was clear that the Kroenke family were making the statement that the club was not for sale and then it was over.”

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