Patrick Vieira: A living legend
On the 23rd day of June, 1976, a legend in the making was born in Dakar, Senegal. 35 years on, he can look back at his career and give himself a good pat on his back because he has played in the best teams in the World and has won many trophies.
Patrick Vieira has enjoyed a career path that many footballers would envy. Having made his debut for France on the 26th of February, 1997 against the Netherlands, Vieira made 107 appearances for Les Bleus and scored 6 goals for the nation. He was part of the French Under-21 team that won the bronze medal in the European Under-21 Championships in 1996. Two years later, France hosted football’s biggest event and Vieira was part of the team that made history with a 3-0 final win against Brazil. Vieira and France went from strength to strength as David Trezeguet’s extra time winner was enough to hand them the European Championships in 2000.
France represented Europe in the Confederations Cup a year later and won the tournament. Vieira was also a part of the French squad that made it to the 2006 World Cup final only to lose to Italy thanks to David Trezeguet’s miss and Fabio Grosso’s final spot kick. Vieira didn’t make Raymond Domenech’s 2010 World Cup squad so he waved his goodbyes to international football on the 7th of July shortly after France’s disappointing and disgraceful campaign in South Africa. Sources claim that Vieira retired from France because he didn’t want to play under former teammate Laurent Blanc.
Vieira’s 13 years of service for France didn’t go unnoticed as he was honoured with the French Footballer of the Year in 2001. He was also inducted to the Team of the Tournament in the European Championships in 2000 and the World Cup in 2006.
Vieira started his club football in 1989 at FC Drouais but he didn’t get any appearance for the club. He then moved to Tours FC in 1991 but he wasn’t good enough to make their first team squad as well but he got his big break in 1993 when he joined AS Cannes where he made a total of 46 appearances in 3 years before moving to AC Milan. Vieira endured one disappointing campaign at the San Siro before he was snapped by Arsene Wenger for £3.5m.
Vieira graced Highbury for 9 magical years that saw him amass 279 league appearances and 28 goals for Arsenal Football Club. In his time under Wenger, Vieira lifted the Community Shield four times (1998, 1999, 2002 and 2004), the FA Cup four times (1998, 2002, 2003 and 2005) and the Premier League three times (1998, 2002 and 2004).
Vieira also won accolades for his contribution to Arsenal Football Club which includes a place on the PFA Team of the Year in six occasions and a place in the Premier League’s Team of the Decade. In 2001, he was honoured with a place in UEFA’s Team of the Year. He was also voted as Arsenal’s 5th best player of all time by the fans.
The Champions League was the only trophy that eluded Vieira in Arsenal so he joined Juventus for £17.5m in 2005 but he featured for only one season because of the match fixing scandal that dented the image of Italian football on the World stage. Inter paid Juventus half of what they paid for him at Arsenal the next season so Vieira served the Italian giants for three years making 79 appearances and scoring 7 goals in 3 years. He won the Italian Super Cup twice in 2006 and 2008 and he was also a part of the Inter side that the Scudetto for three years in a row between 2007 and 2009.
He joined Manchester City in the winter transfer window for free and extended his contract with the club for 12 extra months. In his one and half year stint with the recent FA Cup winners, he played 15 league games and scored 2 goals. Manchester City failed to renew his contract so Vieira is available as a free agent. The media has linked the defensive midfielder with a move back to Arsenal because there’s no adequate depth in the holding role section of the team.
As a player, Vieira has many good technical attributes which include a good first touch, a wonderful heading ability, a good passing range and he’s also an excellent tackler of the ball. Vieira is also an aggressive character and his anticipation skills are second to none. He’s also a very composed player and his decision making is top-notch. Vieira also knows how to position himself well and he’s a force to be reckoned with in the air.
Should Arsenal decide to sign Vieira on a free transfer, these are the certain positives he can add to the squad:
At the age of 35, Vieira has seen it all in World football so his experience will be very vital to the squad because the younger lads in the squad buckled under pressure last season so a calm head like Vieira will steady the ship in the midfield.
Vieira is regarded as a fiery character that can give his all to the team so his performances and influence on the pitch will rub off on his teammates to strive to play better when the chips are down. There were countless games the Gunners failed to step up when the World was against them. Such games either ended in disappointing draws or crushing defeats.
A player like Vieira can be brought into the pitch to calm things down when Arsenal wants to preserve a win or he can also be brought on to see out the rest of the game. At his age he won’t expect to play week in week out of start every game but Arsenal is a club whose players suffer mysterious long term injuries and the holding midfield position is a part of the squad that has suffered damaging blows. Last season, Diaby spent a massive chunk of time out injured; so massive that 22 Arsenal players in the 25-man squad had more minutes than him. Song also had a period when he was injured and his absence was deeply felt by the squad. Denilson is a player that plays as if he’s not on the pitch because his performances are always lethargic.
Signing a player like Vieira will also have its negatives such as:
At the age of 35, Vieira will not be an ideal signing for a club like Arsenal. Arsene Wenger is accustomed for his usage of young players so signing a player like Vieira might not go down with some sections of the fans.
Vieira is an aging footballer so he certainly lacks the pace to keep up with the fast and grueling Premier League. This is a trait that will be exploited by faster teams.
Vieira was earning big bucks in his Manchester City days so it might be difficult for Arsenal to offer him ‘six digits’ because not many players in the club earn up to that range. Nasri had a good half season and has demanded to jump into the six-digit mark so paying a player like Vieira six digits is very likely to cause disruptions amongst some of the players because they may feel that he doesn’t deserve it.
Finally, the Premier League has set a rule for each team playing in the league to provide a list of just 25 players at the start of every season so adding a 35-year old to that list will not be in the club’s best interests.
Arsene Wenger re-signed Sol Campbell and Mad Jens Lehmann.
Who knows if Patrick Vieira could be third time lucky?
There’s one thing we the gooners know,
Patrick Vieira’s last kick as an Arsenal player won the club its last trophy.
The FA Cup final that took place in the Millennium Stadium on the 21st of May, 2005 under the officiating of Rob Styles.
The sentence of the day goes to Monsieur Patrick Vieira.
“When they are in trouble, they always concede a goal, a big team when it’s under pressure, it pulls together, it makes the trouble go away. Sometimes you know you have difficult periods, even the best teams. You accept the opponent is stronger, you defend, you stay strong, more compact. You accept you have to suffer. We did it in the  FA Cup final against Manchester United. I’ve no idea how we won – United were all over us for 90 minutes. We knew the only way to win was penalties. Some days are like this. It’s not your day. Accept it and find a different way to win. Fight for each other. It’s not the way you want, but what’s important is to win.”
Food for thought, Arsene Wenger.