Congratulations to Patrick Vieira on being inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame!
Our former captain follows Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp in being honoured for his incredible performances in the top flight.
Vieira was Arsene Wenger's first signing for the club, moving to north London months before his compatriot officially took charge - and making an immediate impact.
The France international would go on to win three Premier League titles during 10 seasons with us, helping us to top spot in 1997/98 in just his second season in N5.
Vieira was named Premier League Player of the Season in 2000/01 and won the title a second time the following year. After becoming our captain, he led the Invincibles team to the title in an unparalleled season, not losing a single match in 2003/04.
Across his Arsenal career, Vieira made 406 appearances in all competitions and helped to redefine the holding midfielder position.
Vieira said: “Being inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame is a fantastic achievement. When I received the news, I thought about being a young boy playing in Senegal, or in a suburb of Paris. To be there with the best players in the Premier League, the best league in the world, is bigger than what I was ever thinking about. To have my name around those players makes me proud and makes me realise how good I was.
“It’s not bad company to join. I was lucky to play at the same time as some of them, of course including Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp. So to share the stage with them makes me realise I had a really good career.
“What really makes me happy and proud is when your name is mentioned by new, up-and-coming holding midfielders as an example of how they would like to play.”
Arsene Wenger said: “You could see that he had such an impact in the Premier League because for years everybody wanted to find the new Patrick Vieira – and nobody ever found the new Patrick Vieira because he's a unique talent.
“Overall, I didn't see any weakness in Patrick’s game. He was good on the ball; he could run forward; he could make good passes; he made good decisions; and he was absolutely tremendous in the challenge.
“As a manager you can help people who want to be big stars, but it has to come from their desire, from their mental strength, from their motivation. With Patrick, sometimes you had to push him but you didn't need to fight for him and I would say 99 per cent of the credit goes to him.”
Ian Wright added: “I hadn’t seen anyone before play like Patrick with both physicality and technical ability at that stature and size – and I haven't seen too many people afterwards. So he's a hybrid. There's no one else like him – no one. You won't be able to speak about midfielders in the Premier League without mentioning Patrick Vieira's name.
“I remember when we played a game against Wimbledon and even Vinnie Jones was saying, ‘Who is this guy?’ I also remember one of the goals Patrick set me up for, he ran about 50 yards with the ball."
Another former team-mate, Martin Keown, said: “Patrick was the size of a central defender playing in midfield. But he had he had the touch of a centre-forward. He had everything in his game – a cocktail that I don't think I'd really seen before.
“He came off the bench in his first game against Sheffield Wednesday and his first pass, he sprayed it 30 yards out to the left wing. There was this sort of applause from the fans at Highbury. I can still remember it happening and thinking, ‘wow, this this looks a bit special.’
“From then on, he was an absolute giant of Arsenal football club and the Premier League. He was tough and he was such a powerful force. He had a desire to win. You had to give him the ball, if you didn't give it to him he went berserk. I'm talking every situation. He wanted to receive it and he was really the catalyst for our success.”
A shortlist of 25 additional nominees - including Tony Adams, Sol Campbell, Ashley Cole, Robin van Persie and Ian Wright - eligible to join the Premier League Hall of Fame in 2022 will be announced later on Wednesday, March 23 at 4pm, with fans invited to help select six further inductees.
Voting will take place at www.premierleague.com/halloffame and on the official Premier League app until 9pm (UK time) on Sunday, April 3. The eight inductees will be formally honoured at a Premier League Hall of Fame event later next month.
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