By Tony Attwood
If you occasionally drop into this blog you’ll know that I am writing a year by year review of Arsene Wenger. The last article dealt with the 2003 Cup Final and the start of the “49” unbeaten run.
I was just getting my notes together for the start of the rather important 2003/4 season when it struck me that in the summer of 2002 and in the summer of 2003 there had been endless speculation about a player leaving Arsenal.
What actually happened in those two summers was that the press was endlessly harping on and on about Patrick Vieira and how this summer he was going to leave Arsenal.
The saga, if you remember it, went on and on and on… only in the summer of 2003 Vieira, along with Henry, Pires and Bergkamp signed a new contract.
(Actually there is a rather amusing little twist on this because in 2009 the Sun ran an exclusive saying that Vieira was wanted by Wenger, and was coming back to Arsenal. They are never satisfied these guys).
There’s a further irony in the time and date here because the summer of 2003 was also the date when we signed Cesc Fabregas, aged 16.
This reminder that the “they are all leaving Arsenal” type of headlines go back at least nine years (I haven’t bothered to look back further) suggests that no matter what else happens they will continue to be run.
My point is that the 2003 Vieira to leave Arsenal headlines came at a time of having had a league season in which we were top of the league by five points and then slipped right away towards the end of the season. So the press, aided by their lackies in the blogsphere, ran a load of “leave the sinking ship” stories.
No many players did leave the sinking ship (Seaman went to Man City and Luzhny went to Wolverhampton) and the transfers in were modest (apart from Cesc there was Lehmann, Senderos and Clichy). But it is interesting to remember the doom and gloom that was spread around at that time, as a result of letting that five point lead slip.
Vieira was off (for the second summer running) and that would herald a complete collapse of Arsenal with Pires, Henry and the rest following him out the door.
Ah the summer of 2003.
I don’t actually know if the “Vieira is going” campaign was the first such in Arsenal’s modern history – but I would love your help in finding anything earlier. If you can remember any such campaign pre-dating the 2002/3 campaign to get Vieira to go, could you write in. I am trying to get the whole thing in perspective.
Antony Kastrinakis: defacing the Arsenal: The story of one journalist’s obsession with knocking Arsenal FC.
More Arsenal History …