Patrick Vieira looks to build a 'special' legacy in New York

(CNN)Without Champions League football for the first time in 21 years, languishing in sixth in the Premier League and with star players Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil out of contract at the end of the season, a number of former Arsenal players have said it's time for Arsene Wenger to step down as the club's manager.

However, while it feels as though everyone is clamoring to stick the boot in, one of the Gunners' greatest ever players remains resolutely loyal to his former boss.
Patrick Vieira played for Arsenal between 1996-2005, winning three Premier League titles, four FA Cup trophies (though he wasn't in the squad for one of those victories) and was captain of the club's historic "Invincibles" season.
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Arsenal has not won a league title since Vieira moved on, and while he acknowledges "they're going through a really difficult period," the former midfielder continues to firmly believe in the man who brought him to North London.
    "They have, I believe, one of the best managers in Europe with a lot of experience," he tells CNN Sport's Don Riddell.
    "They have some quality players. And they just need to put all the ingredients together and try to win games and try to fight for the Premier League."
    Asked if he has thought about managing a club like Arsenal one day, Vieira's answer is as graceful as one of his trademark runs through the midfield.
    A short, sharp "no" is followed by Vieira declaring his love for New York City, before he adds a thoughtful finish. "You know the opportunity will come with how well you will be doing."
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    Attention from Europe

    Fans of New York City FC will be hoping that an opportunity doesn't come knocking for quite some time. The good news is that Vieira, for the time being, remains fully focused on the job at hand.
    With all the sound and clutter surrounding his world right now -- living in the US as the manager of NYCFC, an ambitious Major League Soccer club in its third year, in a country coming to terms with missing out on a first men's World Cup since 1986 -- Vieira is calm and considered about a range of footballing topics.
    In their sophomore season, the 41-year-old head coach has led NYCFC back to the playoffs, and is hoping they can go further than last year's conference semifinal defeat to Toronto.
    Vieira is pictured at the Diambars academy in Senegal.
    Vieira's charges are currently in second spot in the table, heading into the final weekend of the regular season, which would mean a bye week ahead of the playoff run, and that may be welcome news for veteran star striker David Villa, who has 20 league goals to his name this campaign.
    After a celebrated career for some of Europe's biggest clubs and his country of France, where he won both the World Cup and European Championships, Vieira's more than solid start as a manager has unsurprisingly attracted attention from his homeland of France.
    Ligue 1 side St Etienne is reportedly one of a number of clubs keeping tabs on Vieira's progress as a manager, but the 41-year-old isn't looking towards Europe at this point in time.
    "I'm really happy in New York," he says. "I love our project. I believe that we can build something special here in New York. That is where my focus is at the moment."

    Close to the community

    But the focus works in both directions. The city of New York is behind the continuing growth of US soccer, despite the men national team's disappointing performance in World Cup qualifying (the Frenchman has also been quick to dismiss his chances as a candidate for the vacant position).
    Recently Vieira was on hand in Harlem to inaugurate the 10 new mini-soccer pitches across the city. It's part of the New York City Soccer Initiative, a project to maintain 50 mini-soccer pitches across the five boroughs over the next five years.
    "The grand plan is just to demonstrate as a football club as a brand that we are really close to the community," Vieira explains. "We have fans who every week at home or away are coming to support our players.
    "To give their best to be close to us and I think to have those pitches around New York shows that the community is really important to us. We want to be close to our fans."
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    MLS Playoffs

    Vieira and his team will become even closer to their fans if they can win the MLS Cup this season.
    The mindset for the manager requires a subtle shift from his playing days, with teams in Europe putting themselves through a grueling nine-month season to try and win a title.
    But in America, the emphasis on the playoffs is, arguably, all that matters.
    "I think with the playoffs, you have to get there physically at your best and tactically," reflects Vieira. "If you are not performing well you will not have a second chance.
    "This is how we learned from last year because when you look at the two games we played against Toronto, we didn't perform, we didn't play at our best, and then we get punished straight away."
    Vieira is less critical of the US Men's National Team, who failed to qualify for next summer's World Cup in Russia.
    Instead of offering the same downbeat take as many of his contemporaries, he prefers to put a positive spin on events, and rather disarmingly refers to missing out on Russia as a "drama."
    "I don't think it is a step back personally," he adds. "You just have to look at all the young players who are coming through to different academies in the country. There is talent here to promote US soccer."