You may have noticed that it is now twenty years since Arsène Wenger took the hot seat at Arsenal.
Here, at DCHQ, we thought it was time to have a look at his top five captures since his arrival in north London.
My favourite player of the Arsène Wenger era was also the first to arrive, alongside Remi Garde. And he actually arrived before Monsieur Wenger.
Patrick Vieira: 1996-2005
Lest there be any doubt over exactly who signed Patrick Vieira, the then 19-year-old Vieira let the cat out of the bag on signing for the Gunners, “I am delighted to be joining Arsenal at the same time as Mr Wenger becomes their coach,” he said. “Being able to speak French to him will make life a lot easier for me.”
Such was Vieira’s impact, nobody who saw his debut has ever forgotten it.
Coming on as a first half substitute for Ray Parlour with Arsenal 1-0 down at home to Sheffield Wednesday, the leggy teenager transformed his team. By the end of the match, Ian Wright had himself a hat-trick and Arsenal ran out 4-1 winners. If the natives were dubious about the incoming manager, than Patrick’s performance was a convincing argument things might be about to get better.
Amusingly, The Times of the day described Vieira as a “thinking man’s Carlton Palmer.”
I think it’s safe to say “le grande saucisse,” as his teammates would soon dub him, was a stage or two beyond that.
In eight full seasons with Patrick installed as Arsène’s midfield general, Arsenal never once finished a Premier League season below second place. And of course, there was the pair of doubles, the Invincible season in which Vieira scored the goal guaranteeing immortality and three FA Cups; Vieira missed the 2003 final due to injury and, had he been fit for that season’s run in, I think we’d have been talking a hat-trick of Premier League titles.
I know that there are those amongst you for whom the annual flirtations with Real Madrid left sour taste. I would only say that Vieira did the majority of his talking on the pitch and, boy, how he talked!
A tough guy, for sure, but also one with tremendous skill, an eye for goal and just someone who, for me summed up the “refuse to lose” mentality that brought about that 2003/04 season.
When I think of Patrick, the one game that always springs to mind is a 2003 FA Cup match at Chelsea. We won 3-1 despite being down to ten men and for me, that was all about Vieira’s warrior like qualities. Qualities that he had to show in the biannual dust ups with Manchester United’s Roy Keane!
A true measure of Vieira’s quality can be seen in the fact that we’ve never come close to winning the title since he left north London.
He left for Juventus at the age of 29 and anyone who saw him would be proud to tell their grandkids that they once saw him play for the Arsenal.
That’s my five, feel free to hit me up on Twitter and tell me if you agree.