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The Gunners have met the Belgium midfielder's release clause and the club's former midfielder is hopeful he will add the steel so sorely lacking since the Frenchman's departure

EXCLUSIVE
By Tom Marshall-Bailey

Former Arsenal midfielder Ray Parlour believes Marouane Fellaini could prove to be the club's belated replacement for Patrick Vieira if the Gunners are able to seal the Everton star's signature.

Goal
exclusively revealed earlier this month that the Gunners had activated the release clause in the Belgian's contract and are now awaiting permission to approach the 25-year-old as they look to flex their financial muscle this summer.

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And Parlour believes Fellaini is the kind of player his former club have been missing ever since Vieira's departure in 2005 - the year Arsenal last won silverware by beating Manchester United on penalties in the FA Cup final.

When asked whether Fellaini could prove the closest thing the club have had to their former captain, Parlour - who was speaking at the launch of the 2013-2014 Barclays Premier League fixtures - told Goal: "I would hope so, with the physical power he has got, and his performances at Everton have been fantastic.

"It's not just his threat from set plays either, we all know about Arsenal sometimes conceding easy goals from corners but it's one of those situations where you need people to defend those, he would be an addition to that and he can also score goals.

"But Vieira was a very good leader for the club after Tony Adams, that was always going to be the big question, who could lead the club forward? Patrick certainly did a good job as skipper.

"So maybe that is an area that they will strengthen. We tried [Abou] Diaby but he got injured on regular occasions and [Alex] Song was there for a while but he has moved on.

"That is the position they need to have a look at. [Mikel] Arteta did a great job last year but he's getting that little bit older so I'm sure Wenger will be targeting players in that area."

While Arsenal are blessed with a plethora of attacking options in midfield, they have often been accused of having a soft centre, and while Parlour accepts the Gunners must discover the right mix of players, he also sympathises with Arsene Wenger.

"The problem is finding that sort of player," he added. "Who is available? A lot of players are tied down to big contracts now and you can't get those sort of players, they're very hard to find.

"Vieiras for £3.5m, they don't come around very often these days so the hardest thing is getting the right personnel in.

"They've got great players there in the likes of [Jack] Wilshere and [Santi] Cazorla but it's getting the right blend as a team, the real question is can you get a few people working hard in midfield for Cazorla to show his talents going forward.

"I was probably one of those sort of players for Arsenal, I worked hard, won the ball back and gave it to the likes of [Dennis] Bergkamp and [Robert] Pires who could really hurt the back four.

"It's about that blend; you can't have all attacking players and you can't have all defensive players so that's what Arsene Wenger has got to work out."

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Ray Parlour was speaking at the launch of the 2013-14 Barclays Premier League fixtures. To hear Phil Neville, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Ray Parlour and John Hartson preview the new fixtures, download the exclusive podcast by clicking here.

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