Allardyce backs Vieira to deliver

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The Independent Online

Patrick Vieira is going to be "a big player" for Manchester City, according to Sam Allardyce. The Blackburn manager, whose side visit City tonight, believes the Frenchman will add a lot to Roberto Mancini's squad.

Allardyce said: "Vieira is a big player for Manchester City to be signing. If he's going to play, I think he will add a lot to their squad." Arsenal, where Vieira played for nine years, have never been able to satisfactorily replace the midfielder, he added. "Vieira was a colossus in his time over here at Arsenal and, contrary to what they might think, they have never replaced him because of his all-round game," he said. "He could mix any type of game to be coming out the man on top. If you wanted a battle, he'd have a battle with you. If it came down to a physical test, he'd be physically better than most players.

"Then there's his size, his heading ability in both boxes was a massive contribution for Arsenal. In the early days, you'd look at the size of the Arsenal team, including Vieira, that you were lining up against and it used to scare the living daylights out of you.

"We were always capable of getting a result against Arsenal but when you saw the size of the side that used to run at Arsenal, it used to scare the life out of you. We used to call Bolton a big side but we certainly weren't a big side compared to Arsenal in those days."

Allardyce thinks Mancini has made a point of addressing his team's defensive frailties. City have won all three matches and conceded no goals since Mancini replaced Mark Hughes as manager at Eastlands last month.

The team lost only twice under Hughes this season and failed to score in just two matches, but through October and November they drew seven league fixtures in a row and defeated Sunderland 4-3 in his final game in charge.

So far, Mancini has overseen league victories against Stoke and Wolves and an FA Cup win at Middlesbrough with clean sheets kept in each, and Allardyce believes the Italian has tightened City's back-line.

"I think they are probably a little more defensive," Allardyce said. "I think he [Mancini] has had a look and thought even though they have only lost two, they have drawn so many games because they haven't managed to keep the clean sheet.

"If they had done that they would have won more games rather than drawn them, where it's the opposite for us – we've not scored enough.

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