"Vieira, woa-oh-oh-oh, he comes from Sene-gal, he plays for Arse-nal"
It has now been four long years since this chant was last heard emanating from Arsenal supporters, and four long years they have been for Arsenal indeed.
With his last kick for the club, legendary Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira secured Arsenal's last piece of silverware to date, with a penalty in the 2005 FA cup final. And from that point on, both Vieira's and Arsenal's fortunes have contrasted, dramatically.
In every season since Vieira's departure in 2005, Arsenal's former captain has won a Serie A medal, which on a personal level for him, probably vanquished the embarrassing memories he had of his earlier stint in Serie A at AC Milan.
On the other hand, however, his former mentor Arsene Wenger has nothing to show for the rigorous training pitch exercises, clever transfer work, and the prudent financial planning he has come to be famous for over the years; something is missing.
By all accounts, almost all journalists, pundits and fans seem to agree Arsenal need two things to push on for the title: A proper defensive midfielder and experience/leadership in the dressing room.
Who ticks both these boxes in abundance? Patrick. Vieira.
This may come as a shock to many not least because many consider Vieira's story with Arsenal finished. It's fair to say any move would probably divide fans; if I remember right, when Juventus came to Highbury in the '05-'06 edition of the CL, the reception for Vieira was certainly less than flattering, with some even outright booing him.
Nonetheless any move for Vieira would make a lot of sense considering the clubs current financial state and with Vieira Arsenal would acquire a player who knows the club inside out, someone who has worked with Wenger before and most importantly, in my opinion, real leadership on and off the pitch...something that Henry, Gallas and now Fabregas have failed to provide for Arsenal's talented youngsters.
- Vieira was voted fifth greatest Arsenal player of all time on the official Arsenal website last year. In many ways he is quite simply Mr. Arsenal. Vieira would not come back to 'his' Arsenal just for one final paycheck.
- He would be cheap. Vieira is no longer wanted by Inter who are looking to cut down the size of their enormous squad so a transfer fee would only be symbolic (if any at all). I'm sure Vieira and his agent are also aware of Arsenal's wage structure, especially for older members of the squad.
- He would immediately provide leadership and experience. Not just any old experience, but a direct presence and a voice from the days of the Invincibles.
- He is still one of the world's premier DMs and currently plays there for the French national team, helping them to a WC final in 2006.
- He would add a physical presence and sorely needed aggressive streak to the team that Arsenal have lacked since the days of Campbell, Keown, Lauren etc. Previously daunting trips away to Stoke, Hull, Bolton, Blackburn, Sunderland won't necessarily mean dropped points anymore.
- Vieira is clearly past his prime and at the age of 33, probably won't be able to play the 50+ games a season required by a top four first team captain.
- Would Wenger be willing to make a break from his youth orientated transfer policy?
Of course this all open's a genie's bottle. Why not bring back Campbell, Henry, or even Pires? They all seem to be playing well since leaving Arsenal too, right?
But at the moment what Arsenal need most is a) a proven DM and b) And a proven leader. None of the above fulfill these key criteria.
Besides Arsenal have done this before. Aging greats who were also past their prime, like Dennis Bergkamp, David Seaman and Martin Keown, once brought nuanced heads to the Arsenal dressing room; today they lack proven winners.
And one thing Vieira always has been over the past decade is a winner.
To see a clip featuring Vieira singing his own chant click here!