PETE JENSON: Arsenal may have found a new Vieira, but £35m Fabio is no Patrick and has a lot left to prove if he is to live up to his early promise
- Arsenal have signed Portuguese midfielder Fabio Vieira for £35m from Porto
- The 22-year-old has an impressive youth record but little first team experience
- He played a full 90 minutes just four times last season out of 27 appearances
- Vieira will be a potential rotation option in the three behind the striker
It is often said that Arsenal have never replaced Vieira in their midfield — well now they have.
But if Arsenal are expecting new £35million midfielder Fabio to play anything like their former midfield general Patrick, they have another thing coming.
Left-footed, slight of frame, bearded and Portuguese, the Gunners’ new man bears a far closer resemblance to Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva.
Arsenal have signed 22-year-old Portuguese midfielder Fabio Vieira for £35m from Porto
But Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta won’t have to be told how much the 22-year-old will need to progress if he is to reach the same standard.
It was in the 2018-19 UEFA Youth League that Vieira began to register on the radar of Europe’s directors of football. He scored the first goal in the final as Porto beat Chelsea 3-1, drifting into space at the back post and finishing with precision.
He made eight appearances for the Porto first team the following season, including two starts, and scored twice. The goals flowed again last campaign with six in 15 league starts as Porto won the title. But Vieira’s assist record is even more impressive.
Vieira will be a potential rotation option for Mikel Arteta in the three behind the striker
He made 14 of them in the league last season, plus two more in Europe. The clever positions he takes up and the left foot he possesses are big bonuses but the lack of 90-minute performances mean he will need time and patience under Arteta’s watchful tutorship.
Of his 27 appearances in the Primeira Liga last season, just four were for 90 minutes and it is a pattern of his young career that he has had to prosper without the physical advantages of some of his peers.
Porto had their doubts about his physical development but youth-team coach Joao Brandao insisted they persevere and his progress in the Under 19s team, which won that final over Chelsea three years ago, was the result.
Vieira only played a full 90 minutes just four times last season out of 27 appearances
He will give Arteta options in his line of three behind the striker, competing with Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard and Emile Smith Rowe. His movement means he finds space in tight games and his delivery in open play and from set-pieces is excellent. He draws fouls, too.
When he destroyed Belenenses with a hat-trick of assists in January, his marker Yaya Sithole was sent off for trying to kick Vieira out of the game.
Porto assistant Vitor Bruno said after the match: ‘Fabio finds space where there isn’t any and he provokes the sort of fouls we saw against him today.’ In last year’s Under 21 Euros he was voted player of the tournament as his side made it to the final.
He still hasn’t progressed to Portugal’s senior side but 13 goals in 21 games for the Under 21s suggests it will not be long before he steps up.