It’s the 21st of May 2005, Arsenal have managed to hang on and have taken a ruthless Manchester United side all the way to penalties. Chelsea have stamped their newly found dominance on the Premier League under Jose Mourinho so for both teams this shootout is as big as it gets.
The deciding penalty and up steps the languid figure of legendary midfielder Patrick Vieira with the weight of North London on his shoulders. He slots home the spot kick and hands Arsenal football club their 10th FA Cup trophy, lifting it as their beloved captain. So came an end to a fantastic Arsenal career. Vieira departed London for Turin in a big money move to Juventus that summer and Arsenal are yet to lift another trophy since.
It was a fitting end to a glorious journey for the Senegalese born, French international. Wenger’s first signing at the club; he was bought for just £3.5million following a difficult spell at European Giants AC Milan and given the number 4 shirt as David Dein told him; “You’re going to be an automatic choice at Arsenal.”
His physical prowess helped him settle in England but Vieira was by no means all about his strength. There was a certain finesse to his style, a quality and technique to his passing which, when added to his strength, deceptive speed and tenacity in the challenge made him a formidable force in the centre of the park for Arsenal.
Building great partnerships with Emmanuel Petit and later Gilberto Silva, Vieira shone for the gunners and was soon considered one Europe’s elite central midfielders. He won the league and cup double in his first season in England alongside Petit, then did the same in 2001/2002 and also captained the Invincible’s during the 2003/2004 season, this time alongside Gilberto in the middle of the park.
Throughout this period he also won numerous honours with France and was part of the squad that won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.
Disciplinary problems and personal feuds with players did at times threaten to taint Vieira’s career. His passion for the game could boil over and has led to him being sent off 12 times in his career, including 9 times for the Gunners. His well documented feud with Roy Keane also led to a scuffle in the tunnel during half time when United played Arsenal and numerous confrontations during games.
However, this still cannot take away from how much of a wonderful talent Patrick Vieira was. Very successful spells at Juventus and Inter Milan, in which he won 5 Serie A titles and a much deserved Champions League winners medal, succeeded his 9 years in North London and a late swansong at Manchester City followed but even then it was obvious he had given his best years of service to Arsenal. It was also these years which led to him being voted into the Premier League Team of the Decade in the Premier League 10 season awards.
Over the 9 years Patrick Vieira ran Arsenal’s midfield, they won three Premier League trophies, four FA Cups and the community shield on four occasions. Since his last hurrah of an FA Cup winning penalty 6 years ago they have won nothing and that in itself tells the story.
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