Help, I’m turning into Patrick Vieira

Is Abou Diaby really that similar to his fellow French international?

Monday morning started much like any other. I’d been interviewed for this week’s Arsenal programme trying to wind up Sir Alex Ferguson with mind games. I was meant to be copying Jose Mourinho in 2004. But it seems my aim backfired, spectacularly.

The four comments shouted from car windows and posted on Twitter all said the same thing – I’d been transformed into none other than Patrick Vieira. “All you need is to get rid of that ridiculous facial hair”, said Cesc Fabregas, with no hint of irony. “What’s happened to you: the bald head, the long legs, the disappointing goalscoring record?” shouted Pat Rice from the dugout. “Great Shatner’s Ghost!” Lassana Diarra wrote on my Facebook wall.

Wow indeed, if I have morphed into Vieira then at least I’m not the new Remi Garde. Patrick is a great athlete and Arsenal fans love him. At least he’s not a laughing stock like Jermaine Pennant, or ginger like Ray Parlour.

He is not too horsey like Martin Keown, nor is he impossibly, off-puttingly Dutch. He is hard-working, I can sniff his bald-headed ambition.

I hadn’t realised it before, but we are shockingly alike in our approach to football. We both want nice things. We want to escape our ordinary past (his, growing up in Senegal. Mine, having everyone on Soccer Saturday call me Abu Dhabi). So yes, I might have Patrick’s baldness and hatred for Manchester United, but do we really look alike? Have I unwittingly copied his style of being lanky and black and playing for Arsenal?

I had thought I was much more attack-minded than Patrick Vieira. I play my best football in the final third, and haven’t made a clean, sliding tackle in my own area since 2008. I have repeatedly criticised him for not scoring enough goals. He is resolutely world-class, whereas I occupy the murky waters of reserve team games alongside Lukas Fabianski and Sebastien Squillaci.

But his ubiquity, the way that any black player of a similar build is called ‘The New Vieira’, means people like me and Steven Nzonzi are compared to him without even realising it. But there is a dangerous side to the fact that we want to play like Patrick Vieira. Being in the public eye means the need to commit stupid, mistimed fouls. He’s better than I am, and knows how to tackle, but why is his enviable aggression so worrying?

I’d never been sent off in my career before seeing him, but impressionable young men like me, those not protected by referees or footballing ability, say ‘I want to look like that’ and feel the need to go straight through Gretar Steinsson with their studs up.

The problem is that Patrick’s ability is so effortless that Arsene Wenger thinks it’s attainable. If even an intelligent French international like me can be seduced, what hope is there for Paul Pogba? Yes, copy Patrick’s athleticism and leadership, but please leave the mindless aggression and unrealistic targets to me. I still have an awful lot to learn.


Bobby vs the Bookies

In his first guest post for Pele Confidential, Bobby Hare makes his predictions for a selection of the weekend’s Premier League games.

West Bromwich Albion/Birmingham City Premiership 18.09.10 Photo: Tim Parker Fotosports International Peter Odemwingie celebrates WBA 2nd goal Photo via Newscom

Payday’s a couple of weeks away, I’m precariously close to the wrong end of my overdraft and Christmas presents for the family aren’t going to buy themselves.

Nonetheless, there’s a cracking weekend of Premier League football to come so it’s time to get down the bookies (or onto their websites). Feast your eyes on my tips and you’ll be quids in. Hopefully.

Aston Villa vs West Bromwich Albion

As soon as Martin O’Neill decided to leave Villa in the lurch just five days before the start of the new season, it was always likely that they were going to have a season of transition.

Whilst a lowly position of 16th looks precarious, any judgement of Gerard Houllier’s team needs to be placed into context.

The tightness of the Premier League means that whilst the pessimist will point out that Villa are only two points from the relegation zone, a (wo)man of a cheerier disposition will retort that they are a mere three points from mid-table security.

Albion have enjoyed a great return to the top league, with Roberto Di Matteo promoting a style of ‘carpet football’ that regularly delights the neutral observer.

In Chris Brunt, Somen Tchoyi and Peter Odemwingie, the Baggies have an attacking triumvirate that are capable of hitting the net and the general (understated) quality of their squad means that they’ll be more than comfortable this season.

That said, their away form is rather hit-and-miss at the moment (only one win in the past five), while Villa have only been beaten once at home in eight outings.

With Ashley Young back in the side, Villa will add some much needed attacking impetus to a line-up that looked severely deficient at the sharp end against Liverpool on Monday.

Emile Heskey is also likely to start, although I am still undecided as to whether this will be to Villa’s detriment or not.

Considering Villa’s poor form, 11/10 for them to win is a little skinny for my liking, but given both sides’ propensity to ship goals, betting on over three goals at 2/1 is money in the bank.

Everton vs Wigan Athletic

Casting a quick glance over the fixture list tells me that there aren’t many bankers in the Premier League over the coming days, but Everton’s weekend assignment against Wigan is probably as
straightforward a task as any side will have.

David Moyes’ boys have struggled thus far, but it should come as no surprise whatsoever. There are seemingly three certainties in life: taxes, death and Everton having half a season of hibernation before they start bothering.

It’s a mystery as to why the Toffees seem to begin each season in such lacklustre fashion, but if they could replicate their frequent post-Christmas surges in the first half of each campaign, they’d be bona fide Champions League contenders.

Despite indifferent form, they’ll be buoyed by their recent (fully deserved) point at Stamford Bridge and this is probably the point they will start to kick on.

Perhaps not coincidentally, their squad is beginning to assume a more familiar complexion, with a number of injured absentees slowly returning to the fray.

Wigan, meanwhile, are a poor side. They’re frightfully inept in front of goal (only 13 goals in 16 games) and astonishingly accommodative to opposition attackers (28 conceded).

Perhaps more concerning is that Roberto Martinez can’t seem to compute the fact that they’re in dire straits.

Wigan will probably be relegated this season. There won’t be much of a fight. It won’t be very exciting. And once they’re gone, no one will really care.

Tim Cahill is Everton’s top scorer this season with an impressive haul of eight league goals. I’m tempted by him to score first at 9/2 (whilst the more conservative punter might be attracted by Cahill anytime at 6/5). Such will be the Merseysiders’ superiority in this one, I’ll be getting on Everton to win both halves at 2/1.

West Ham United vs Manchester City

If we discount West Ham’s demolition of Man Utd in the Carling Cup (and I really would urge everyone to forget that particular result) then it’s fair to posit that the Hammers are a struggling outfit.

They’ve collected only four points from their last five games and are arguably a long-term Scott Parker injury away from going down, unless some of the supporting cast can come to the fore.

Victor Obinna has played a more influential role in recent weeks, whilst Avram Grant will be hoping he can coax more of the sort of performance that Carlton Cole produced when he terrorised Jonny Evans in the aforementioned cup win.

With Rob Green enjoying a quietly effective season following his tortuous summer with England and Matt Upson slowly edging back to his best form, there is hope for the East Londoners.

Meanwhile Man City are besieged by infighting as Roberto Mancini (the third Roberto mentioned in this column!) apparently struggles to juggle the assortment of egos in the Eastlands dressing room.

If press rumours are to be believed (in this column, for the sake of a more interesting discourse, they will be) Carlos Tevez can’t stand his manager. But far from throwing a strop, the indefatigable Argentinean has channelled his frustrations postively – finding the net 10 times already.

And therein lies City’s problem. Tevez accounts for nearly half of all his side’s goals and he’s suspended on Saturday.

Shorn of their talisman and attacking inspiration, City could struggle to break their opponents down, while West Ham don’t exactly boast a galaxy of attacking riches either.

Something tells me that neither team will have enough firepower to win this one and I’ll be piling on the draw at a shade over twos.

Tottenham Hotspur vs Chelsea

Gareth Bale Tottenham Hotspur 2010/11 Rafael Da Silva Manchester United Manchester United V Tottenham Hotspur (2-0) 30/10/10 The Premier League Photo: Robin Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

Perhaps it’s the fact that he’s not speaking his native language, meaning he can’t suitably paint a picture of how he truly feels, but Carlo Ancelotti is magnificently understated every time he tells
us: “it’s not a good moment.”

It’d be far more apt to say: “it’s an absolute fucking crisis to be honest.” But Carlo is a nice man, with a superb eyebrow, so I’m prepared to let it slide.

Sometimes teams suffer a loss of form and it’s difficult to pinpoint quite what’s gone wrong. This is not one of those situations.

Roman Abramovich has been a bit of a silly bugger by interfering with a side that started the season as though they were intent on smashing the 100-goal barrier for a second consecutive year.

Meanwhile, Tottenham are chugging along beautifully as the neutrals’ second team, playing a brand of football that relies on a swashbuckling ‘you score three, we’ll score four’ approach.

They also consigned a particularly troubling ghost to its grave when they completed an unlikely comeback over Arsenal at the Emirates last month: They finally beat one of the big boys away from home.

Whilst it can be argued that this was only one isolated victory, it’s still likely that Spurs have smashed a key mental barrier and they’ll feel as though they are now fully paid up members of the league’s ‘Big Four.’

Chelsea are a big-game team, and there is a school of thought that consecutive fixtures against Spurs (away), Man Utd (home) and Arsenal (away) is just what they need to overcome their malaise.

But I play truant from that particular school. Whilst it’s arguable that 8/5 for ‘Chewsea’ is an inviting price, I tend to think it’s a bit skimpy considering they’ve mustered a paltry three goals in their last six league games and collected just five points.

Instead, I’ll be looking at the in-form Gareth Bale (who has goals
against Arsenal, Chelsea and Internazionale against his name this calendar year), playing against one of Chelsea’s rickety right backs, to score anytime at 11/4.

Manchester United vs Arsenal

Arsenal and United are positioned one and two going into this weekend. The former are genuine title contenders once more and for the first time in a while between these two clubs, there appears to be an undercurrent of animosity and needling.

United’s Patrice Evra, the loon of a left back, has fanned the flames by stating that Arsenal are a club in “crisis” having not troubled the trophy engravers for five years, whilst Arsene Wenger’s retort is that his fellow countryman has been disrespectful.

However, shorn of combustible characters like Patrick Vieira, Roy Keane, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Martin Keown, the game itself is likely to go relatively incident free.

On the pitch, United-Arsenal games at Old Trafford have tended to be tight affairs of late. United have won two of the past three games 2-1, with the odd game being drawn 0-0.

Interestingly, in the two United wins, it was Arsenal who took the lead before being pegged back and eventually defeated. And that is pretty much an encapsulation of the current Arsenal crop: they beguile us at the beginning, teasing and tantalising us into thinking they can challenge, before they’re bought crashing down to the
ground by a grittier and more determined outfit.

Irrespective of the fact that both sides have conceded goals with alarming regularity, this game probably won’t be a goalfest. The stakes are far too high for an open exhibition of attacking football to
be displayed.

Given Arsenal’s penchant for a collapse, I’m tempted to have a flutter on Arsenal half-time, Man Utd full-time at a meaty 22-1.

Finally, if you like your doubles, why not get on Man Utd and Tottenham at over 4s?

Good luck and Merry Crimbo!

(All odds are from