This new feature piece asks that age old question of which player can be compared to the legends of the game. For far too long, pundits, journalists and fans have all proclaimed a certain player as ‘the new such-and-such’. Adam Lewis takes an in depth judgement to three young players, and sees how the stand up beside the legend.
For instance, when Riquelme burst on to the scene every European journalist compared the man to someone who the European public might recognise in his upbringing, playing style and potential class.
This article will aim to compare three new-ish players on the scene of football who have been compared to a legend of football, and to determine which of them is the closest to being ‘the next X’. This will be done by comparing:
- Their potential class, i.e. the standard capable of the player once he reaches his peak and whether he can reach the heights of the legend in question.
- Their playing style, i.e. does the player in question play football in a similar position but more importantly in a similar way. If they live up to their potential, will they have similar attributes to the legend in question?
- Their personality and ties, i.e. do the players hail from the same country? Are the main clubs they represent the same? Are the players similar in their mental attributes to the game?
The first player that we’ll be trying to find out who can fill his boots is Patrick Vieira. This man was a World Cup and Euro Championship winner for France, and was ranked the fifth greatest Arsenal player of all time in a fan poll conducted on the club’s official website. Although he’s just missed out on the recent France squad for the qualifiers, he still plays for one of the greatest teams in Europe, Inter Milan.
One player who has been uttered in the same breath as this man is Abou Diaby. This boy is currently plying his trade in the centre of Arsenal’s midfield, although he’s also played out wide on the left and occasionally as a second striker. Although this view isn’t shared by a lot of the club’s fans, Diaby could potentially be cementing his place in the Arsenal centre midfield for years to come. At the age of 23 he’s not yet hit his peak, yet Abou has made over 100 appearances for Arsenal already. He’s also earned a few caps for the French national squad despite the completion from Flamini, Diarra, Toulalan and of course PV. Despite his lanky appearance, his playing style differs markedly to Vieira’s. Vieira and Petit formed a formidable partnership holding the centre midfield for Arsenal which allowed their wingers down the years to break easily from midfield without worrying too much about their defensive duties. Diaby’s playing style is more of an attacking central midfielder with the ability to drive with the ball (slightly akin to Patrick) but also to dribble remarkably well considering his height. Diaby certainly has ties to Patrick though, with the Arsenal link as well as the country they represent. However, Patrick was one of the many French players who wasn’t born in the country but represented Les Bleus whilst Diaby was born on the outskirts of Paris.
With a similar appearance, Fabrice Muamba was been hailed by some as the next PV. After starting on Arsenal’s schoolbooks, Muamba moved on loan to Birmingham before making a permanent move to Bolton where he regularly plays as the holding midfielder. Now 21, Muamba has been making strides in the Premiership regularly catching the eye as one for the English future. His playing style of breaking up play and striding forward with the ball with his 6 ft 2 appearance has brought many journalists giving him the title of the ‘English Vieira’. Whilst some would think his first name might be because of a French connection Fabrice was actually born in Zaire before moving to England seeking asylum.
The name on most Arsenal supporter’s lips to fill the big man’s sizeable boots is a youngster currently on loan at Blackpool. Jay Emmanuel-Thomas was named captain of Arsenal’s u18 team at the age of 16, and has been described as a player with intricate footwork, powerful build and boundless energy. Although youth coach and former hero Steve Bould has previously wanted Jay to play along the backline, the youngster has been insistent that he play in centre-midfield. Physically formidable despite his tender years, this youngster certainly has the potential to become the next PV.
Abou Diaby (Potential class = 9, playing style = 4, personality and ties = 9) = 22
Fabrice Muamba (PC = 8, PS = 8, PT = 4) = 20
Jay Thomas (PC = 8, PS = 9, PT = 6) = 23