Ian Wright didn’t think Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira was tough enough for the Premier League

Patrick Vieira of Arsenal
Vieira went on to have an outstanding career for club and country (Picture: Getty Images)

Arsenal legend Ian Wright has revealed he thought a ‘skinny’ Patrick Vieira would get the ‘s*** kicked out of him’ when he first turned up at Highbury in 1996.

The French World Cup winner moved to north London from AC Milan at just 20 years of age, linking up with Arsene Wenger in his debut season as Gunners boss.

A midfield partnership of Vieira and international teammate Emmanuel Petit went on to push the side to the Premier League and FA Cup double the following year.

However, Arsenal hero Wright says he was not convinced about the combative Frenchman initially, telling the BBC Match of the Day: Top 10 podcast: ‘When he came we didn’t know what we were getting.

‘People always talk about the next Vieira but we haven’t seen any midfielder since who plays like Vieira.

‘When he came I thought he was a centre-half and that’s where he’d end up.
Once he started playing, technical ability, stamina, creative ability. Could he play?

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Ian Wright, Paul Merson and Patrick Vieira of Arsenal
Wright and Vieira won the double in 1997/98 (Picture: Getty Images)

‘Then you talk about leadership qualities, it was no surprise he went on to play in a World Cup-winning side.

‘When you played with him on a daily basis in training it was amazing to watch how he came from this really skinny, I was thinking they were going to kick the s*** out of him. But he was up for that as well. He was magnificent.’

Wright also included fellow Arsenal Invincibles Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp in his top 10 European imports to the Premier League.

The former England striker even claimed the silky Dutch forward was the best signing the Gunners ever made, adding: ‘All the success we had was built upon what Dennis Bergkamp brought to us as a football player.

‘Absolutely magnificent for our club. The best signing we’ve ever made in respect of the way it changed the DNA of Arsenal football club.’

Eric Cantona, Eden Hazard, N’Golo Kante, Roy Keane, Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Cristiano Ronaldo also made the cut in Wright’s top 10.

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