July 2005. The month and year that Patrick Vieira left Arsenal to join Juventus. The deal was a reported £13.75m and left many Gunners’ fans in shock. The central lynchpin of the Invincible team had been cast aside with no replacement seemingly on the way.
For many, the Frenchman’s departure is a symbol of everything that followed for Arsenal over the next 12 years. A dominant, all-round midfielder who was a genuine leader. Gone. The Arsenal midfield hasn’t been the same since. Of course, it’s not quite that simple. To suggest Vieira was never replaced is a little misleading. In the last 12 years, Arsenal have had a selection of world-class midfielders, albeit of a different ilk from the towering Frenchman.