Arsenal has produced some of the finest midfielders since the inception of the Premier League. Although, George Graham’s Arsenal, before the Wenger era, had depended on their solid backlines and defensive capabilities to grind out victories, the modern Arsenal teams under Arsene Wenger played much more attacking football with quick transitions from defence to attack. Very soon, the North London outfit had the “Boring, boring Arsenal” tag removed and was a much more exciting side to watch under Arsene Wenger and the midfield was the key.
1. Patrick Vieira
It all began with the industrious partnership between Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva. Every Premier League fan should know who Patrick Vieira is. Every Arsenal fan should surely know who Patrick Vieira is. “Paddy” was an important figure in the 4-4-2 that Wenger deployed between 1996 and 2005. He was always the first name on the teamsheet. Not just because of his sheer ability on the ball, which he had in abundance or his size and presence in the middle of the park but, specially because of the fighter and leader he was! Defeat and Vieira never met eye-to-eye. He gave his all week in week out, as though it was his only option. As if, he’d cease to exist otherwise. He didn’t know how else to play. The opposition always hated him, because he was always in their faces or was nibbling away at them slowly, until they lost it. He was the kind of man, who could simply look at you, and you’d feel chills down your spine, all the way to your core. Hence, the Arsenal faithful loved him. They worshipped him. There is only one Patrick Vieira, they said.
He was also ‘surprisingly’ a goal scorer, as many pundits would put it. It wasn’t all that surprising, to be honest. He had a knack of scoring some important goals. It was all about his runs and the sheer brilliance of, especially Bergkamp’s nimble toes to find the most inch perfect passes. Vieira used to say that whenever Bergkamp had the ball, he always made runs from deep into midfield and into the attacking third. They had developed an understanding through hours and hours on the training pitches. In simple words, breaking play in midfield and then darting forward for a counter, this was Arsenal in a nutshell; and Vieira was the centerpiece of it all. Ever since he retired, there has been an outcry for another Patrick Vieira. Every time, a tall, dark and bulky midfielder came along, Vieira’s memories would jog in people’s minds. Abou Diaby, Paul Pogba, Yaya Toure have all come close to emulating Patrick Vieira. Arsenal has been trying for 10 years now to replace the talismanic midfielder. But it’s never been truer that, “There is only one Patrick Vieira”.