It was to stomach a draw at home against Fulham after coming back from a 1-0 deficit. It stings even more that Fulham equalised while down a man. But it’s the Premier League and anything can happen on any given match day.
Arsenal’s draw may have been the third most surprising occurrence after a ten-man Liverpool beat Newcastle and West Ham thrashed everyone’s darlings Brighton 3-1 at the Amex.
If there was some positive to take away from Saturday’s match at the Emirates, it may have been the play of Portuguese midfielder Fabio Vieira. The £34m ex-Porto star who was supposed to be a midfield string player for Arsenal is yet to showcase his very best form in north London.
Vieira came on with the Gunners down 1-0 as Mikel Arteta hooked Kai Havertz in the 56th minute. He came on with Oleksandr Zinchenko and the pace of the game for the Gunners changed.
Vieira’s work rate and eagerness to drive at defenders made him a threat every time he received possession. Viera eventually earned the penalty that Bukayo Saka converted to level the contest and assisted Eddie Nketiah’s goal that put the Gunners up. Even after Fulham equalised, Viera was inches away from putting the Gunners up in extra time, but former Arsenal keeper Bernd Leno made a good finger tape save to salvage the draw.
Is Fabio Vieira finally ready to make Arsenal’s starting XI?
On Sunday, the Gunners host bitter rivals Manchester United. After Saturday’s draw, one would have to think Arteta will make changes to a lineup that really has not looked impressive to start the season.
Will Arteta turn to the Portuguese creator in the midfield?
If it’s between Havertz and Fabio Vieira, I would lean to the side of the latter. Havertz is a step behind at the moment and Vieira’s super sub appearance against Fulham may have earned him a starting berth against United.
In his 40-plus minutes of work, Vieira was perfect in his pass completion while winning two duels and igniting the Emirates crowd in the process. Arteta himself admits that Viera’s slow progress may be his fault: “Fabio [Vieira] was involved in everything we created and I am really happy with that, to see players with the ability to make and take chances with quality, the same with Eddie [Nketiah]. It is my fault that Fabio has not played more and today he gave me reasons to play him more,” Arteta told the BBC following the draw to Fulham.
Whether the Spanish manager chooses to play him remains to be seen. Arteta opted to barely alter his side last weekend despite the unconvincing nature of Arsenal’s opening two victories and the sub-par performances of some starters.
With the boss surely returning to last season’s dynamics as United come to town, Vieira could perform Granit Xhaka’s role on the left side of Arsenal’s midfield three. It was from this position that he won the penalty on Saturday, while he drifted out to the left flank to set up Nketiah. However, his introduction into the team means there will likely only be space for one of either Declan Rice or Thomas Partey. Is that a gamble Arteta is willing to take for such a big game?
Vieira offered glimpses of his brilliance last season, but consistency has been an issue. It does take a while to acclimate to life in Europe’s toughest football division. Was Saturday’s cameo appearance another glimmer, or the start of something more substantial.