Muamba: Can he really be the new Vieira?
|Fabrice Muamba: At 17, he has bags of potential to become a feature in Arsenal's midfield |
By Paul Chronnell
THERE are certainly a few similarities between Fabrice Muamba and former Gunners skipper Patrick Vieira.
Both were born in Africa before settling in western Europe, both are tall, physical players and both play in central midfield.
But there the similarities end. Vieira won three Premiership titles and four FA Cups with Arsenal, playing almost 400 games for the club he captained for four seasons.
Muamba on the other hand has started just two games for the Gunners, the second of which came in last week's 3-0 Carling Cup win over Reading when the 17-year-old gave another accomplished display.
He laughs when the comparison to Vieira is made - even though he is so young it is clearly not the first time he has heard it.
"I always say to people that Patrick is my idol, I tried to base my game on his game," Muamba told the Gazette.
"I don't try to be like him as I want to be myself and play my game.
"But if I can bring some of his style to my game then I know I can improve it."
Certainly Vieira would have approved of Muamba's efforts against Reading when, despite playing against players years older than him, the teenager acquitted himself superbly and was in control by the end.
"These games just give you the opportunity to show people what you are capable of doing and what you can do in the future," added Mumaba, who was clearly thrilled at being given the chance to play at Highbury.
"It was just a dream come true for me to play at Highbury in front of all the fans, it was just unbelievable," he admitted.
"I felt more relaxed the more the game went on and the crowd help you to do that.
"It was great to play at Highbury, especially as it is the last year we will be at this ground, I was hoping to get the chance and to get it was just amazing," added the player who had more than a few friendly faces in the capacity crowd last Tuesday.
"I had more tickets than anybody else in the team," he smiled. "I had my mum and dad here and all my friends, everybody was here so it was fantastic for me."
Also in the crowd was Muamba's former PE teacher from Kelmscott School in Walthamstow, where the player honed his football skills after arriving in London from war-torn Congo as a shy 12-year-old.
The civil war which split the country in two saw thousands of families like the Muambas seek asylum overseas. For him to be pulling on an Arsenal shirt less than six years later is a truly remarkable conclusion to a long and painstaking journey.
"I have been at Arsenal for four years and they have been unbelievable for me," he admitted.
"Steve Bould has been great and all the coaches here have been so helpful.
"They helped me when I was a schoolboy and now I am a scholar and working towards my professional contract."
That is the next target for Muamba, who will find out in the next six months if he has done enough to be rewarded with a pro contract at Highbury. On last Tuesday's evidence, he'll be called in for talks sooner rather than later.
On the more immediate horizon though is the Carling Cup quarter-final clash at Doncaster on December 19.
"We won't change our game - the boss just tells us to go out there and enjoy it and feel free to play our natural game, and that's what we'll do again" he adds.
Comparisons with Vieira are perhaps unfair for a 17-year-old trainee, but Wenger likes what he sees and he is not a bad judge of young players. Only time will tell.