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By ESPN Staff

Gunners are missing me, admits Vieira

Former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira has insisted that the Gunners are struggling to cope without him.

Arsene Wenger has said selling Vieira was 'not a big mistake', even though Gilberto recently admitted the psychological effect which losing his former midfield team-mate had on the squad.

Indeed, without Vieira, Arsenal have already fallen out of title contention, lagging 25 points behind leaders Chelsea ahead of tonight's clash against Manchester United.

Vieira, who is now at Juventus, declared: 'I don't want to appear presumptuous but I really do think that my absence has been felt [at Arsenal].

'They have certainly suffered psychologically since I left. Maybe it's because they haven't fully understood the reasons why I left or maybe they are only just beginning to understand.'

Vieira's former Arsenal team-mate Emmanuel Petit, who formed a formidable partnership with his countryman early in Wenger's reign, agreed with his old friend's assessment.

'They miss the aura of him. He is a protector for the other guys in the team,' Petit told Sky Sports 1.

'I think they are missing this, it is a big part. You always miss players (like that) when they leave.

'You cannot count how much they miss this personality in the team.'

Vieira left Highbury last summer for £13.7million as the club agreed to cash in on him at the age of 29, rather than fighting to keep him as they had done in previous seasons with Real Madrid.

The France international told the London Evening Standard: 'I left London because there was nothing else left to stimulate me. I am 29 and still at the top of my career. I have reached my peak physically and tactically.

'I wanted to play the best years of my career for a side that would help develop my ambitions and Juventus have allowed me this. My first few months here have been very, very good.

'It's even better than I expected. I like the life I'm living and I like the city I have chosen to live in, and the people.'

Vieira also scotched weekend reports that he may be considering a move back to Arsenal.

'I know what I want from myself and I know what way I want my life to take. I have signed a long contract with Juventus because these are the most decisive years of my career and they may well be the last team that I play for,' he said.

As for United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, who he had called a 'coward' and a 'cheat' in his autobiography, he concluded: 'What I wrote was true.

'I had to sort it out with him. We are adults but when we see each other, we don't speak.'