Today’s Premier League hero is one of Arsenal’s most revered midfielders Patrick Vieira.
Patrick Vieira was an influential Premier League midfielder that was at the heart of Arsene Wenger’s greatest Arsenal side. Vieira redefined what it meant to be a modern midfielder and was the engine of Arsenal’s invincibles as he managed to fit in from day one and right up until his departure.
The consistent French midfielder was instrumental in Arsene Wenger’s success at Arsenal and still to this day Wenger has never managed to replace the outstanding midfielder. It can be said that a Vieira-like midfielder is exactly what the current Arsenal side is missing and is what could bring success back to the Gunners.
Vieira enjoyed plenty of success during his time in English football as he picked up three Premier League titles (97/98, 01/02, 03/04) and four FA Cups (97/98, 01/02, 02/03, 04/05) for Arsenal while he also won an FA Cup during his short spell at Manchester City .
On a personal level, Vieira managed to make 307 Premier League appearances and scored 31 Premier League goals while he won Premier League Player of the Year in 2001 and was named in the PFA Team of the Season an impressive six times.
Patrick Vieira was born in Senegal on the 23rd of June 1976 but moved to Dreux in France when he was only eight-years-old. As a youngster, Vieira followed his dreams of becoming a professional footballer and made his professional debut for AS Cannes at the tender age of 17 and was named their captain when he was only 19.
Vieira made 49 appearances and scored twice for his first club before he was snapped up by Italian giants Milan in 1995 but he only managed to make two appearances for Milan’s first team when he was offered a chance of first team football by Arsenal.
Patrick Vieira signed for Arsenal in a £3.5 million move during a time of transition at Arsenal and he was delighted to sign for Arsenal at the same time as his fellow countryman Arsene Wenger became the new Arsenal boss, as he said,
“I am delighted to be signing for Arsenal at the same time as Mr Wenger becomes their new coach. Being able to speak French to him will make life a lot easier”.
Vieira made his full debut for Arsenal on the 19th of September 1996 but he had to wait until December 8th for his first goal, which was a late equaliser against Derby County in a game which ended 2-2.
Vieira managed to feature in every league game for Arsenal in his first season but Arsenal finished 3rd as they missed out on a Champions League spot due to goal difference.
Despite this disappointment, Vieira was still applauded for is debut season as fellow Arsenal player Ian Wright said,
“It’s been a while since we’ve had a midfield player who looks at the front man’s run first and then looks at other options. He makes dream passes forward and he’s already put me in several times”.
Vieira’s partnership with Emmanuel Petit in the 97/98 season was instrumental in Arsenal’s league and FA Cup double as the two seemed to dominate in midfield in every game that they played alongside each other. Vieira’s first goal of the campaign came in a 3-2 victory over Manchester United on the 9th of November 1997 but he later twisted his knee in the same game, which left him out injured for a month.
When he returned, it was highlighted that Vieira had a disciplinary problem as he received two red cards in a month but the problem was addressed and he only received one yellow card in the latter stages of the season as Arsenal enjoyed a league and cup triumph. Vieira returned to Arsenal after his country’s triumph at the 1998 World Cup and continued his consistency that he showed at the end of the previous season.
Arsenal failed to retain the league title but Vieira was named in the team of the season. Vieira’s disciplinary problems arose again in the 99/00 season as he was sent off in a game against West Ham for a harsh tackle on Paolo Di Canio but he then spat at Neil Ruddock, which resulted in a 6 game ban.
Vieira ended the season on a low as the team finished 18 points behind league winners United and then lost on penalties in the UEFA Cup final, which saw Vieira smash his penalty off the post. Discipline issues continued into the 00/01 season as he was sent off against Sunderland and Liverpool early on in the season.
Vieira returned in style by scoring twice in a game against Charlton Athletic but it didn’t last long as he was handed a five match ban for his bad discipline in the league. Wenger claimed that Vieira was being targeted by officials and rumours began to spread that Vieira would consider leaving English football but he put those rumours to bed by stating,
“I really enjoy English football and the life in England. I am happy here.”
Vieira finished the league campaign with 32 appearances and 5 goals but was left frustrated by another trophy-less season. The 01/02 season began with plenty of confusion and controversy as Vieira was left frustrated that team-mates Overmars and Petit had been sold in the previous year and he believed they were never properly replaced by the transfer committee.
Manchester United were sniffing around the midfielder as he looked ready to leave Highbury but he decided to stay on after being named Arsenal’s new vice-captain. Vieira made the right decision in the end as he enjoyed a wonderful season with Arsenal as they regained the Premier League trophy and beat rivals Chelsea in the FA Cup final.
Tony Adams retired after the 01/02 season and this resulted in Vieira becoming the new Arsenal captain, which was a big task for the midfielder to take on but he said,
“Taking the responsibility on my shoulders is something I relish. It will make me a better, more mature footballer and a more mature person as well.”
The French midfielder didn’t start his captaincy on the right foot as he was sent off for a tackle on Gianfranco Zola in a game against Chelsea in September and then began to complain that he needed to rest as he felt burnt out.
Wenger dismissed that Vieira was tired and instead pushed his captain to step up to the plate which he did as he was applauded for outstanding performances against Charlton and Newcastle. The rest of the season wasn’t enjoyable for Vieira as he picked up injuries and ended up missing the FA Cup final which Arsenal won again.
Before the 03/04 season kicked off Vieira was linked with moves to Real Madrid, Manchester United and Chelsea but he committed his future to Arsenal by signing a new deal which ran until 2007. The 03/04 season didn’t start off great for Vieira as he was sent off against United and then fined £20,000 for not leaving the pitch when he was instructed to do so.
This was followed by injury against Newcastle which kept him out for two months but Vieira returned with a point to prove. Vieira turned his season around and it was the greatest season for Vieira in an Arsenal shirt as he was the heart and soul of the invincible side that went the whole 03/04 Premier League season unbeaten, which hadn’t been done in English football in over a century.
Real Madrid made an £18 million bid for Vieira in the summer of 2004 but Vieira refused the transfer and instead stated,
“I’m staying at the club. I’m proud to be captain of the club and I’m looking forward to achieving my ambitions.”
Vieira scored his first goal of the 04/05 season in an impressive win over Tottenham Hotspur and scored again against Liverpool but a late Neil Mellor goal led to an Arsenal loss in that game.
Vieira showed his feisty side again as he was involved in a tunnel bust up with Roy Keane after a 4-2 loss to United but it didn’t effect Arsenal’s form as a 12 game unbeaten run brought them up to second where they finished the season. Arsenal finished the season with an FA Cup final win over Manchester United and Vieira netted the deciding spot kick in the shoot-out that gave Arsenal the FA Cup trophy.
This also turned out to be the last time Vieira played for Arsenal as Juventus signed the midfielder for £13.75 million in the summer of 2005.
Vieira had spells at Juventus and Inter Milan before returning to English football by agreeing to join Manchester City on loan. Roberto Mancini described Vieira as an excellent midfielder with a winner’s mentality and that he would fit right into Manchester City’s squad.
Vieira made 18 appearances and scored once in his loan spell, which was enough to make the deal permanent in July 2010 as he spent one last season at City and made 26 appearances and scored twice. Vieira made a late appearance in the FA Cup final in 2011 which Manchester City won 1-0 against Stoke and Vieira finished his last English football experience by lifting another FA Cup trophy.
Sarah Fitzpatrick, Pundit Arena