Arsenal after Patrick Vieira: a revealing anaylsis
Welcome to CoA, Eboue Eboue. All yours. Leave the keys under the mat when you’re done please.
The year was 2002. I was a young and naive Arsenal fan who could never understand all the praise going Patrick Vieira’s way. It never occurred to me why he was named the new permanent Arsenal captain after Adams’s farewell. Surely it ought to have gone to Bergkamp, Dutch master, Arsenal legend and of course senior to Vieira? Or Wenger could have given it to Thierry Henry, then the most exciting player in the world even if FIFA chose to regularly disagree. Surely all Vieira did was to run around, make a few fouls and get red cards at crucial times after winding up/getting wound up by someone.
A year later my opinion had changed completely. I was a year older and therefore wiser, but more importantly I had grown patient enough to watch every player in the game instead of just Henry and Pires. It was then that I began to appreciate what Vieira did for us. Technically he was excellent; he was an unrepentant tackler, his passing was limited but never wasteful and he did often stride forward with purpose using those long legs.
But perhaps his greatest asset was his mental toughness and the attitude of a winner. He was passionate, occasionally vocal, mostly confrontational but best of all, he knew how to win games. He knew how to see a 1-0 lead through to a 1-0 win. Most of all, he was a very ambitious captain. He wanted glory on every stage, the Champions league included and that would eventually be the reason for his departure.
When Patrick Vieira lifted the Premier League trophy aloft on 15 May 2004 as the leader of the “Invincibles”, he was 28 years old. A year later he would leave for Juventus for 14M pounds. Arsenal fans everywhere scrambled to find excuses to justify his transfer— ranging from “he was too injury prone” and “he’s past it” to “He is not a good captain”, “14M is a great transfer fee for a 29-yr old” etc. This particular article amuses me even today.
There’s not much point in debating whether Arsenal miss a person like Vieira. The only question is how much? Hard to answer exactly but I have done some stat work to show Arsenal’s performance this decade with Paddy and after Paddy.
1. Average points in the 1st 19 league games of the season
2. Average in the 2nd 19 (2nd half of the season)
3. Average points (in the last 12 game of a season) earned in the “Business end” (where we have recently done no business) or the “Squeaky Bum time” as Ol’ Whiskeynose likes to call it. In the 1st half of the season, we average almost 4 pts lesser now than when compared to with Vieira. But the story unravels as you move to the 2nd half of the season: we average a whopping 8 pts lesser now than with Vieira.
It gets more damning when you move to the 3rd part of the stat. Arsenal collected an average of 28 pts from 01-02 to 04-05 in the final 12 games of the season/final third/home straight/squeaky bum. Since Vieira’s departure, we average a meager 22. In fact, we have never even touched 28 pts in the final third of the last 6 seasons, leave alone average 28.
The league title would have been ours in 2007-08 if we had managed just 1 more point than our current average of 22. We would be champions already this season if we had managed 28 pts in the last 12 instead of the paltry 17 we are currently likely to get.
Of course, there are several other factors that have led to the dip but the absence of a proven-winner is surely not a co-incidence? I leave you to make your own conclusions from these stats. But if nothing else, atleast it gives us Gooners one more chance to appreciate and celebrate the true champion that was Patrick Vieira.
This post was written by @Eboue_Eboue – be sure to hit that follow button!