Seven days to cure a seven year itch

Last updated : 29 July 2003 By Jason Hogan
It was almost seven years ago when Arsenal broke the mould and employed their first continental manager in Arsene Wenger. I don't know about you, my fellow Gooners, but to me, it seems like yesterday.

That wasn't the only significant thing that happened at Arsenal around that time. Wenger took the unprecedented step of instructing the club to sign a young lad from AC Milan called Patrick Vieira – before he had even officially taken over the Highbury hot seat!!

I bet most Arsenal fans did not have a clue what to make of it all at the time. A new foreign coach waltzes into Highbury and instructs the club to shell out £3.5 million on a kid nobody has heard of? What was up with that?

It wasn't too long before Arsenal fans found out exactly what Wenger had bought – quality, sheer quality. Vieira made his debut against Sheffield Wednesday at the start of the 1996-1997 season – and never looked back. He was an instant hit with the fans and cult status was literally bestowed on him from day one.

Six years later, fresh from helping the Gunners on to their second Double in four years, Vieira took over from the retired Tony Adams as Arsenal captain.
It was a popular choice amongst the fans, almost a natural one really and for most of last season Vieira's football bore that theory out.

Yet, as we all know, Vieira was confined to the role of being a helpless bystander due to injury at the end of last season as a mixture of cruel luck and recklessness cost us the title. Watching on as we won the FA Cup surely must have filled him with a whole mixture of emotions.

I'm sure he was genuinely thrilled to help Dave Seaman lift that old trophy but at the same time, I'm sure that he, like most Arsenal fans, felt that winning the FA Cup was a little like losing a tenner and finding a pound.

More importantly however, in the midst of all the celebrations, Vieira knew that with a little over one year left on his contract that he was fast approaching the crossroad in his career.

Vieira would have surely known that club mate Thierry Henry had signed a new contract with the Arsenal but Vieira decided not to follow suit. Instead he elected to bide his time and as we all know he is still yet to sign new deal.
Now, I'm sure that Vieira has his reasons as to why he has not signed on though I couldn't exactly tell you what they are.

What I do know is that we have, in my view, about seven days to get him signed up.

If it's not done by then we will all have to assume that he is going one way or another.

This will mean that if Arsenal are going to get any money for him they have to put Vieira up for sale this time next week. It's almost chilling when you say it like that but there you go- this is where we are at, ladies and gentleman.

Now that would bring up another issue- who would be prepared to buy him and at what price? Well, all Arsenal fans know that the Russians in West London would be sniffing around that's for sure but you know what? Regardless of what they offered us I would honestly be AMAZED if Vieira went there because it would simply not make any sense.

Why? Well, let's look at the facts. Firstly (and rather obviously), apart form being an integral part of our team, Vieira is captain of Arsenal. Secondly, he is at a club where he has the unconditional respect of his teammates, his coach and the fans.

Thirdly, he is already playing alongside proven players that have shown not only that they can compete with the current reigning champions but in terms of winning Premiership titles, have also proved that they can BEAT them as well.

Now ask yourselves this; why would someone like Vieira give all that up, at the drop of a hat, to go and join a club that is relatively unproven in the same respect?

Why would Vieira leave Arsenal for a club that are speculating heavily only in the HOPE of accumulating the sort of success that Arsenal have already had? Does that make sense? No, I don't think so either.

Would money tempt him to move from North London to West London? I don't think so; if money was the thing that ultimately motivated Vieira then he would have left Highbury for pastures new long before the Cossack from the King's Road ever reared his ugly head.

I'm not even going to consider the thought of seeing Vieira playing in the red of that lot from Old Trafford for similar reasons. Besides, I think that Vieira has too much respect for everyone connected with Arsenal to even consider it seriously for a start.

The way I see it, ultimately, is like this – either Vieira will sign in the next seven days or he will leave on a free and move to Real Madrid next season. Taking into account what I have already said about what Vieira has with Arsenal, Real Madrid are the only other club in Europe that Vieira can move to and say that he is taking a step up from where he is right now.

The question is will the Arsenal board arrest what is fast becoming a seven-year itch in Vieira's case or whether they will allow Real Madrid to do it for them?