Arsenal fans were treated to their first sight of Fabio Vieira in competitive action as he was handed a start for the U21 side for the clash with Swansea City at Meadow Park.
Vieira joined the club earlier in the summer, but missed pre-season through a foot injury despite being part of the group that travelled to the USA for the Florida Cup. The Portuguese starlet featured alongside Emile Smith Rowe and Cedric Soares as all three stepped up their recovery from respective issues, and the Gunners faithful were handed their first look at his talents.
Taken off at the interval, there was plenty to like about the performance, despite the midfielder clearly being far from fully fit. 101 picked out 3 things from his first minutes in an Arsenal shirt.
Of course, this comes with a massive caveat, with the tie being a level below senior football of any level and Vieira still not match fit.
1. A change in Arsenal’s transfer plans?
For much of the last month, focus has been around Arsenal’s ‘mystery winger’ option, with the Gunners failing in a move for Raphinha considered an indication that they were 100% set on adding to their right-hand side between now and deadline day.
However, could the answer be Fabio Vieira? The Portuguese signing began the game on the right side of the 3 behind the striker, the position that Bukayo Saka occupies for the senior side.
When signed, Vieira was assumed to be a rotational option in central midfield, chiefly on the right side to provide competition for Martin Odegaard. However, it was Emile Smith-Rowe that occupied this spot, not Vieira.
Early days of course, and there could be more explanations (such as having fellow Portuguese-speaking defender Cedric directly behind him) but could this perhaps hint at a change in transfer policy for the Gunners?
2. A heavily left-footed player
Despite being deployed on the right, it was apparent that Vieira strongly favoured his left foot. He often looked to cut back inside when receiving the ball, linking up well with Smith-Rowe in that regard, but when offered a good shooting opportunity on his right foot, he opted to cut back onto his left foot and seek a pass.
It marks a stark contrast with Arsenal’s other young signing this summer in Marquinhos, who prefers to run at defences, and hints that perhaps Vieira’s long-term future could lie more centrally even if he begins in the wide berths.
But, for Arsenal fans that have seen Vieira draw comparisons with Bernardo Silva and may have assumed that this applied to his two-footedness too, those claims appeared wide of the mark based on his opening 45 minutes.
3. Arsenal fans need to temper expectations this season
Vieira has had glowing reviews from plenty in Portugal since his move to Arsenal, with expert after expert claiming that the Gunners have a gem on their hands. That may well be true, but it looks as though the midfielder will have to bulk up somewhat before he is ready to excel in the Premier League.
It is something that Vieira himself admitted in a recent interview, telling the Athletic that “The Premier League is more intense, more physical. I’m not a physical player, so I have to work hard and build my physique.” At half-fitness, and in the rigours of an U21 game in which physicality can stand out than in the top flight, Vieira looked a little lightweight.