In times like these it’s easy to get caught up in the furore surrounding players leaving and players joining The Arsenal. Cesc is going, Nasri too. Cesc is staying, as is Nasri. The former is suffering at Arsenal, the latter wants more money and trophies elsewhere. The reality is that we don’t really know the full truth behind either situation. I have some concrete facts I can share with you though. 1 World Cup, 1 European Championship, 3 League titles, 4 Serie A titles, 4 FA Cups, the captain of the greatest ever Premier League team. 279 appearances, 49 goals (and that’s just in the league with us). These are just a few of the many feats achieved by one of Arsenal FC’s greatest ever footballers, Patrick Vieira.
PV4 announced his retirement from professional football yesterday. He has played for many a reputable team. AC Milan and Inter, Juventus, Manchester City and the best ever France national team. Undoubtedly though, he will be remembered for his time as an Arsenal player.
That goal to seal the league title at WHL, his partnership with Emmanuel Petit in arguably the best central midfield pairing the league has ever seen, scorer of many classic Arsenal goals (against Liverpool at Anfield, against Leicester to clinch the ‘invincible’ record, the one that looped over Schmeichel) and, quite fittingly, the penalty in Cardiff, his last ever kick of a ball for Arsenal, winning us the FA Cup against Manchester United.
He wasn’t a clean player, the one stat I don’t have for you is how many yellow and red cards he picked up along the way. It is the soft side of this current generation of Arsenal players that has let us down over the years. It is no coincidence that with his eye-catching disciplinary record came the most successful period in the recent history of the club. We all loved his clashes with Keane, his tough tackling, and his giving 110% every time he pulled on the red and white jersey. He was the backbone of our side. We have tried to replace him ever since he left, unsuccessfully. That is because there is only one Patrick Vieira. Only one man who can, at his height, play with such grace and elegance as well as grit and determination.
I will never forget the joy I used to get, that rush of adrenaline, every time PV4 powered through the midfield up the pitch for us, starting a move that would typically end up with a goal several passes later. I felt the same thrill when those long lanky legs would wrap around the Gerrards and Lampards of the league to make an impossible tackle, saving us from a highly threatening situation, and showing those players that while they were good, he was better.
His was the autobiography I was most eager to read over any other Arsenal player. I will never forget his description of the day David Dein told him he was being sold to Juventus. How he broke down crying because he was leaving the club of his dreams. I have never seen him adored by another set of fans in the same way, nor see him adore a club he played for in the same way.
I will always remember the empty feeling I felt when he was sold to Juventus. I have never felt the same feeling of loss with another player, not even Thierry Henry who is my favourite. Patrick Vieira is one of the greatest Arsenal players of all time and one of the greatest ever to play in this country. A true legend and Arsenal hero has hung up his boots.
So while we all wonder/worry/stress about who will be in the Arsenal squad on September 1st, how we will fare next season and so on, I wanted to take this opportunity to remember and pay tribute to the career of Patrick Vieira. His style was breathtaking, he bleeds red and white to this day regardless of who he currently works for. He comes from Senegal, He plays for Arsenal.
Thank you Paddy.
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