Arsenal fans have had to wait a long time to see Fabio Vieira, the £30-million summer signing from Porto, make his first start for the club.
But their patience was rewarded on Thursday evening when he finally lined up from the start as the Gunners got their Europa League campaign underway with a 2-1 win over FC Zurich in Switzerland.
And it was an impressive first showing from Vieira, who produced an eye-catching performance during his 69 minutes on the pitch.
He wasn’t outstanding by any means, but the 22-year-old showed enough to suggest he could make a big impact at Arsenal as the season progresses.
“Hopefully you’re going to see a lot more of him in the next few weeks,” Mikel Arteta said ahead of the game. “I’m sure that you’ll enjoy it.”
The first impressions given by Vieira certainly indicate that Arteta’s prophecy will prove to be correct.
The Portuguese youngster looked exceptional on the ball at times, demonstrating the creativity and the eye for a pass that has led to so many back in his homeland tipping him as the next big thing.
His best moment undoubtedly came in the build up to Marquinhos’ first-half goal. The spin to initially get away from his man having received the ball with his back to goal was excellent and the pass to send Eddie Nketiah away down the left was perfect.
It was a wonderful piece of play and a tantalising look at what could be to come as Vieira continues to build up his fitness and adjust to his new surroundings.
“We want players that make each other better,” said Arteta, while discussing Vieira earlier in the season. “In order to do that, there has to be a chemistry between those players, an understanding of the different qualities they need in order to get what we want done.
“Fabio needs to develop that and see where he clicks and where he can make a big impact for the team.”
Vieira has felt like a forgotten man at times this season. An injury discovered during his medical in the summer robbed him of a chance to have pre-season with his new team-mates.
He did travel for the United States tour, but spent his time with the medical staff while the rest of the squad were out on the training pitches and playing matches.
It was a frustrating time for the new arrival, who was understandably determined to try and make a quick early impression at his new club.Getty Images
And with Arsenal going on to enjoy a fine pre-season and then an excellent start to the new Premier League campaign, Vieira has often been viewed as a bit of an afterthought. A £30m addition yes, but one that no-one really knew much about.
Even now there are question marks over him and exactly where he fits into this Arsenal team. Is he a winger or a central midfielder? Does Arteta view him as a back-up for Martin Odegaard, or is he the man to come in and potentially put Granit Xhaka under pressure for his spot in the side? Given his versatility, all are potential options.
Sometimes that can be a problem. Look at Ainsley Maitland-Niles for example, a player who has totally lost his way because he couldn’t find himself a settled position. But in Vieira’s case, Arteta is adamant that his versatility is nothing but positive.
“We were looking for players that could play in three positions in the front-line, and in the attacking midfielder positions,” said the Gunners boss. “And when I saw Fabio, I really liked what I saw.
“Straight away, I was convinced that he was a player who can help us go to the next level and that he had the right personality and character to play for our club.”
The big thing for Vieira now is to build on his impressive full debut against Zurich. Minutes in the Premier League will most likely prove difficult to come by initially, but with the Europa League now up and running he will have several opportunities to impress over the coming weeks, providing he can stay fit.
Vieira has all the tools to be a key figure in Arteta’s plans. The manager wants his attackers to be fluent, to be able to interchange and be comfortable operating across the forward line.
Vieira, with his ability to play with both feet, can do exactly that - which is why the Spaniard was so keen to bring him in.
There have been some doubts over his physique, but he showed against Zurich that he can protect the ball despite his slight frame and that he can absorb several hefty challenges.
It’s still early days for Vieira and he certainly has a long way to go before he convinces everyone that he was £30m well spent. But the initial signs are promising, and if Thursday night’s full debut told us anything, it was that Arsenal’s news Portuguese playmaker looks to have been worth the wait.