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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
When Kenny Dalglish ruled the roost at Anfield, Liverpool were the dominant force in English football. He maintained their superiority during his tenure with a very simple transfer philosophy, and it's something that Manchester City would do well to emulate. 'Always be sure to sign better players than the ones you already have.' Is the 33 year old Patrick Vieira better than Stephen Ireland? Nope. Is he better than Gareth Barry? Nope. Is he better than Nigel de Jong? Doubtful. So why on earth has Garry Cook just signed him?

Vieira was one of Arsene Wenger's greatest ever Arsenal signings. Plucked from the obscurity of AC Milan's reserve side, he was custom-built for English football. Big and strong, he could lope through the midfield unopposed, a powerful box-to-box midfielder of the highest quality. With him in the side, Arsenal were the complete package, a perfect blend of physical strength and delicate artistry. Without him, they floundered as lesser teams sought to intimidate them. But even Wenger took a pass on Vieira this summer, preferring to stick with Alex Song even though the Cameroonian midfielder was going to miss January at the African Nations. Wenger has his faults, but it would take a brave man to question his eye for a footballer. He concluded that Vieira, while still a competent professional, was not the kind of player who could offer much to a top four team. Manchester City seem to think differently.

It's strange because Vieira's last season in English football seemed to indicate the expiration of his powers. Back in 2005, the Frenchman looked sluggish and unable to dictate terms in the centre of the pitch in his usual fashion. His pace had gone, and so too perhaps had his hunger. The Premier League is, of course, as unforgiving an environment as you can find in world football, with a premium on speed and strength. It was no surprise to see him leave to the slower, more tactical climes of Serie A, but we certainly didn't expect to see him return four years later. If anything, the Premier League is even faster now.

Vieira is unlikely to become a liability, he is far too good a footballer for that but without that surging pace and unquenchable desire he's not exactly going to galvanise City into action. It's just another player and just another big wage. Worse still, his presence will make it even more difficult for the excellent Michael Johnson to break back into the first team. Does Roberto Mancini know about Johnson? Has he been at the club long enough to evaluate his squad? You can't help thinking that Cook has pushed this signing through in the knowledge that, if nothing else, it will shift a few t-shirts. I hope for his sake that he's arranged a good mark up, especially given City's recent apocalyptic financial results.

Does anyone really believe that Vieira is the missing link to the top four? Can anyone see him ripping through midfields like the Vieira of old? I'm not buying it and neither should City fans. Cook should have waited and spent the money on someone who can lift the club to the next level.