Patrick Vieira became the third Gunner to be inducted into the Premiere League Hall of Fame this week.
With it being the international break, it’s a perfect time to reflect on the Crystal Palace manager’s contribution towards English Football.
For those old enough, this article will fill you with nostalgia. For younger Gooners who claim Partey is better than our former skipper, let me educate you ……..
While not official, Arsene Wenger will claim that the midfielder was his first signing as Arsenal boss.
Showing loyalty to his contract in Japan, Mr Wenger would arrive in North London not immediately after being announced as our new coach.
He was still able to advise David Dein to spend 3.5 million on a 20-year-old most in the UK had never heard of.
It was the first example of Mr Wenger using his knowledge of the European market to find gems and often make a profit for his employers.
The two had known each other since the player was a teenager at Cannes.
It what became crucial in making him the captain he would become, Vieira walked into a dressing room that included Adams, Keown, Dixon, Bould, Seaman, Parlour, Winterburn, etc.
These were leaders who on and off the pitch would educate new faces on the ethos of the club, the value of the badge, the honour of the red and white shirt.
It was quickly evident that not just was this new purchase technically very good, he could fight back if needed and wouldn’t be intimidated.
Eventually a French Connection would be formed at Highbury, as Petit, Henry, Pires, Wiltord and others also moved to the Capital of England.
I’m not just writing this because I’m a gooner, but rarely will you find a group of players not from England, with zero reason to, but who become so embodied in everything their club stands for.
That again is in thanks to the dressing room Vieira walked into, a culture he was trusted to promote to others when he wore the armband.
Vieira played against Spurs and Man United like he was an academy graduate, like he had a lifelong connection to the club.
Go back and watch the Arsenal v Man United clashes from the late 90s, early 2000.
Vieira and Keane joke about it now but that rivalry was real.
Both clubs thought they were the best and saw each other as a threat.
It was a bond Vieira couldn’t walk away from.
It became a yearly saga that Vieira wanted a summer move, sometimes based on feeling refs were targeting him, other times questioning the club’s ambitions.
Every time though at the 11th hour, a U turn would be performed with the player committing his future to the Arsenal.
The irony being is that the one transfer window there weren’t constant rumours, was the one where Arsenal accepted a Juventus bid of 13.5 million.
It was perhaps the club’s last chance to make any money on a asset now 29.
Of course we now know this was Arsenal being forced to break up the Invincibles early to raise funds to pay off stadium debt.
The emergence of a young Fabregas was the first indicator in what the business model now was.
Injuries in Italy proved that perhaps we sold him before his powers waned, but for years Gooners would complain we never replaced Vieira.
Some still might say that.
Yet in reality how could you replace Vieira?
He’s one of a kind, hence why he’s being recognised with this honour.
His long legs glided from box to box, he could dribble, tackle, battle.
Fittingly his last kick in a red and white shirt won us the FA Cup, and personally meant he got the last laugh over Mr Keane.
He won three titles, leading us to the Invincibles.
His partnership with Petit led them all the way to the World Cup.
There has been talk that at times the now 45-year-old felt not respected by his ex-employers.
Arsenal failed to look after him post retirement meaning he became part of Man City’s family, taking charge of their academy and then their American franchise.
When shortlisting for Mr Wenger and then Unai Emery’s replacement, it’s said Vieira felt not valued.
He knows though he’s valued by the majority of Gooners.
I remember viewing the fixture at the Emirates with Palace as an audition to replace Arteta.
It’s noticeable how quickly Viiera has taught a new squad a fresh identity.
It could yet end with more silverware.
The Eagles are two games away from the FA Cup, a trophy their gaffer lifted 4 times.
Not that he needs to do anything to justify his place in the Prem Hall of Fame .
On behalf of everyone at Just Arsenal, well done Patrick Vieira.
CALLING ALL ARSENAL FANS! Anyone who would like to contribute an Article or Video opinion piece on JustArsenal, please contact us through this link…