Saturday, August 13, 2022

Arsenal’s new signing Fabio Vieira is ready to leave his mark in the Premier League following ‘big change’

BALTIMORE — After missing out on Champions League qualification last season, Arsenal technical director Edu Gaspar and manager Mikel Arteta have been hard at work to reinforce the squad ahead of the upcoming Premier League season. The new additions to the club bring a new vision as it seeks a return to prominence, and more importantly, Champions League access a year from now. 

Gabriel Jesus will lead the line and USMNT goalkeeper Matt Turner will add depth as a backup striving for regular minutes, but Fabio Vieira might be the most interesting additions of them all — and not just because he shares the same surname as another Arsenal legend. 

Hailing from Porto where he’s been with the club’s youth setup since 2008, the 22-year-old attacking midfielder is making his first big move to Premier League football in a $38 million switch to the Emirates in which he describes “happened quickly and smoothly.”

Vieira powered Porto to a league title with seven goals and 16 assists in 39 appearances across all competitions and is expected to offer another option to Martin Odegaard under Arteta’s setup. But based on his versatility, the two could easily coexist, which would give the Gunners a more flexible formation. The Portuguese youngster spoke to CBS Sports about his new home, his expectations and transitioning to one of the top leagues in the world during Arsenal’s preseason stop in Baltimore.

“It’s my big change, it’s my first big change,” Vieira said when asked about the challenges of his move to London. “I’ve always played in Porto and now it’s another club, another country, another culture. Everything is different, but I’m looking forward to it and I’m very confident to start playing and this season I look forward to good things.”

It’s never easy for a young player to move to a new club, let alone leave the place he calls home, but this transitions should be eased given how stable of a summer this is for Arsenal compared to years past. They’re back to a normal preseason where the players get to spend time together to get to know each other while traveling to different countries. It’s a big part of the transition for new players that can be forgotten, but Arsenal’s 10-day United States tour that takes them through Baltimore and Orlando will go a long way into preparing them for the daily grind of the season.

Not only will Vieira be put through his paces with two-a-day sessions and friendlies, he’ll also get to see two Premier League teams in the preseason with fixtures set up against Everton and Chelsea. He’ll need to get used to the physicality of England and he’ll get a taste of it in the early stages of his stint as an Arsenal player before the season opener against Crystal Palace on Aug. 5.

“The new signings have great quality, they are adding quality to the squad,” Vieira’s new teammate and Portuguese compatriot Cedric Soares said about the acclimation process. “It’s very normal to happen in football, a few players they go and a few players they come, but what’s important is that the group keeps growing in quality as well. 

“And I think the group is great. They are feeling great with us as well. It’s a fantastic group, from the first day they arrived, they felt at home so I think they will be great here.” 

Seeing the team interact, you can tell that they are happy to be exploring a new city together after their time off during the summer. And they’ll need the entire squad to get through a grueling early-season stretch, which includes games in the Premier League, Europa League — where you can watch on Paramount+ –, and the EFL and FA Cups. Squad depth is at its upmost importance, which gives Vieira a chance to impress Arteta early on.

“I’m an attacking player. I like to score goals. I like to assist my colleagues, so I’m here to do my best for this club … and I can’t wait to get a head start,” Vieira said when describing his playing style. As a versatile midfielder, once he finds his feet, he could easily be a big boost to Arsenal and join Luis Diaz, Bruno Fernandes and Raul Jimenez as recent success stories in the Premier League by way of Portugal’s Primeira Liga. 

Thoughtful with his movements, Vieira can deputize almost anywhere in the midfield as long as he’s flanked by a proper defensive partner. He can unlock options for Arsenal in games when teams sit deeper as long as he adjusts to the physical nature of the Premier League. Depth is so important to competing during a long grueling season and both Vieira and Emile Smith Rowe are not guaranteed starting spots, which could potentially give Arteta a game-changer off the bench as the Premier League moves to normalize five substitutes in a match. 

How to watch Arsenal’s U.S. preseason opener

Club friendly matchup: Arsenal vs. Everton 

Saturday, July 16 | Time: 7 p.m. ET 

Location: M&T Bank Stadium — Baltimore, Maryland

TV: None | Live stream: Arsenal app

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