Is Patrick Vieira having a time in Nice?
'Those who do, can't teach' is a saying to suggest great players usually become bad managers. Apparently, as on-pitch craft is perfected, the ability to communicate understanding often gets worse. Good examples are Diego Maradona, Paul Gascoigne and Alan Shearer. Not everyone would describe Gary Neville as a great player, but his name can be thrown in as well.
There are of course exceptions. Zinedine Zidane, a midfielder widely regarded as an all-time great, made history in the dugout by winning three consecutive Champions Leagues. Others, including Carlo Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola, boast enviable CVs as both players and coaches.
Standing at 6'4'', the former France international was both physically dominant and technically gifted. He displayed equal competence in defense and attack. The Senegal-born midfielder was by far Arsene Wenger's best bargain, having snapped him up from AC Milan for a mere £3.5 million. After making just two appearances in a Rossoneri shirt during 1995/96, Vieira went on to represent Arsenal 279 times. His nine-year association with the Gunners produced nine trophies, including captaining the famous 'invincibles' in 2003/04.
Spells at Juventus and Inter Milan accumulated four Serie A titles. Vieira then brought the curtain down on playing career after an FA Cup triumph at Manchester City. On retirement, he began working with the Citizens' development squad. His free-flowing, attacking, press-based system impressed the Abu Dhabi City Football Group. The Frenchman soon earned his first managerial job, at New York City FC. After three years in the United States, he embarked on Europe, taking over Ligue 1 side OGC Nice.
Vieira's first pre-season at Nice did not go to plan. Star players Mario Balotelli and Alassane Plea went on strike, failing to show up for preparation. The pair had either scored or assisted 69 times in Ligue 1 during the previous two seasons. To add further insult, Jean Michael Seri left the Allianz Riviera to join Fulham.
Plea eventually moved to Borussia Monchengladbach. His departure, along with Seri's, meant Nice's midfield quality had reduced significantly. There was a bit of luck, though. Balotelli stayed. This caused surprise as not only had Vieira publicly stated it was highly unlikely the striker would remain, the feisty Italian reportedly completed a medical at Marseille.
New signings Myziane Maolida, Danilo and Christophe Harelle, who joined from Lyon, Braga and Troyes respectively, have proven valuable additions to Nice. Vieira's fingerprints are becoming visible. Les Aiglons are employing his ultra-attacking take-no-prisoners style. They have averaged 56% possession, 85% pass accuracy and 15 shots per game so far this campaign.
Vieira definitely lacks top quality, but he has been impressive, switching between his beloved 4-3-3 and 3-5-2 formation depending on the opposition. After two wins and losses, plus a draw, Nice are in 11th place, a point off sixth. One of their victims was Lyon, a Champions League side.
Both Les Aiglons' victories arrived in the last two matches, indicating the pieces are starting to fall into place. This has been accomplished despite Balotelli featuring just once. However, Vieira's men must improve output. The recent 2-1 win over Stade Rennais was the only time they have managed more than one goal.
It is perhaps too early to evaluate Vieira's managerial ability. The signs are promising. With interest ever-increasing in managers who demand an attractive brand, the 42-year-old is already fully respected. It won't be long before the big clubs come calling.