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Last Updated: Friday, 6 August, 2004, 08:22 GMT 09:22 UK
Arsenal's mini Vieira?
By Tim Vickery

Javier Mascherano would not be an exact replacement, but if it is true that Arsenal have placed a 7.5m bid with River Plate, it is clearly linked to the possible loss of the Frenchman.

Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano in action

For every one of Vieira's giant loping strides Mascherano would need three, and there is little chance of him making the same kind of surging runs into the opposing penalty area.

Even so, Mascherano is a young player with a great deal to offer - as Argentina are well aware.

After showing promise at under-17 and under-20 level, he was given his senior international debut last year - before he played a first team game with River Plate.

Now, after recently turning 20, he has eight caps, and was one of his country's best players in last month's Copa America.

After just a year in the River Plate team he would be a great loss to Argentine football
Mascherano plays in a position of great importance to Argentine football.

He is a number five - in England it is usually the shirt worn by the stopper centre-back, but in Argentina it belongs to the holding midfielder.

Their number five is a remnant of the old 2-3-5 days when the centre-half was the king of the midfield.

Nowadays he sits in front of the centre-backs, from where he carries out a dual role; break up the opposition's attacks, and set his team's moves in motion.

The balance of Mascherano's game is defensive - more so than, say, Fernando Redondo, who was another exponent of the position.

Mascherano is a tight marker and a fierce tackler.

However, he also has considerable constructive ability.

There is nothing flashy about him, but he is a swift and crisp passer of the ball, well schooled in the art of dictating the rhythm of the game.

He can choose the moment for a quick early pass, or a slower build-up with a sideways ball.

After just a year in the River Plate team he would be a great loss to Argentine football.

But the country has become used to seeing its stars pack their bags as soon as they make the breakthrough.

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