Fabio Vieira gunning to prove Arsenal worth in Europa League start after injury delays dampen hype

·3-min read
Fabio Vieira gunning to prove Arsenal worth in Europa League start after injury delays dampen hype

From the first moment he watched Fabio Vieira in action, Mikel Arteta was convinced the Portuguese was a player who could take Arsenal to the next level.

Arsenal scoured the market for a versatile attacking midfielder over the summer and, after spotting Vieira, the club agreed a £34million deal to sign him from Porto.

A foot injury has delayed his start, with the 22-year-old coming off the bench against Manchester United last Sunday to finally make his debut.

But now, here in Zurich, as Arsenal kick off their Europa League campaign tonight, Vieira is ready to make his first start for the Gunners and show why Arteta is so excited about his potential.

“We were looking for players that could play in three positions in the frontline and in the attacking midfielder positions,” said Arteta. “We were looking in the market with very specific qualities, and when I saw him I really liked what I saw.

“Straightaway I was so convinced that he was a player who was going to help us go to the next level and that he had the right personality and character to play for our club.

Fabio Vieira is set to make his first Arsenal start against FC Zurich in the Europa League (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Fabio Vieira is set to make his first Arsenal start against FC Zurich in the Europa League (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

“It’s been a shame because we detected an injury when we were doing the medical and he had no pre-season and everything has been delayed. But, hopefully, you’re going to see a lot more of him in the next few weeks, and I’m sure that you’re going to enjoy.”

Vieira’s versatility makes it difficult to predict where he will play tonight. He is usually positioned wide right or as a No10, but he has the ability to operate deeper in the No8 role in which Granit Xhaka has been thriving this season.

The suspicion is that Vieira will be blooded into the team playing out on the right, where Arteta asked the Under-21 team to play him on his road to recovery. Playing out wide will give Vieira more space and also slowly introduce him to the increased physicality of the English game, which would feel even greater in central midfield.

Starting him on the right would allow Arteta to rest Bukayo Saka in the Europa League, with the England youngster having played more Premier League minutes than any other player at the club since the start of the 2019-20 season.

The one benefit of Vieira’s delayed introduction is that it has eased the pressure on him. Usually, players signed for £34m would be subject to early-season hype and scrutiny, but he has been allowed to fly under the radar.

That should end this evening, though, with Arteta ready to start him here. Arteta is expected to name a strong side, partly because Cedric, Emile Smith Rowe, Mohamed Elneny, Reiss Nelson and Thomas Partey are all out injured.

The one benefit of Vieira’s delayed introduction is that it has eased the pressure on him

Arsenal, however, have also not won a European competition since 1994, and that is also behind Arteta’s hunger to go strong.

“That’s a long time and I would like to be the first one to break that negative record,” said Arteta. “You have to start somewhere — and that’s tonight. We need to start well and earn the right to win the match.”

There is also the added benefit of Europa League group winners receiving a bye past the last-32 and going straight to the last-16. In a packed season, two fewer games next year when the campaign returns after the World Cup could be most beneficial.