I remember when Patrick Vieira first started to get linked with a move away from Arsenal. It seemed to happen every summer and the silence from our incredible midfielder was always deafening. I prayed that Paddy would stay with us, the boy who became a man at Highbury.
So dominant was our Number Four, that the prospect of him ever leaving was unthinkable. He was everything the club in the Arsene Wenger era stood for. Dynamic, competitive, skilful, athletic and the envy of clubs all over the world.
I’ll never forget the afternoon in 2004 when I was called by a friend and asked if I’d heard the news. The Vieira transfer saga with Real Madrid was going on again and I was expecting the worst. “Vieira’s staying.” I couldn’t believe it. We were, indisputably, able to resist the overtures of the biggest clubs in the world. Or so I thought.
And yet, once Vieira left, even Thierry Henry’s departure did not break my spirit in the way I expected it might. Once a player starts to flirt with other clubs, or fail to pledge absolute and unequivocal allegiance, they should leave, as far as I’m concerned. The bond is broken.
As others have noted in the last seven days, it will be a bit awkward for Emmanuel Adebayor if he DOES stay now. Having mentioned needing to save for his retirement, helping everyone by leaving (most of all himself) and how he couldn’t possibly ignore the overtures of AC Milan or Barcelona, who now look more likely to sign him, how can he possibly remain a Gunner?
I watched last season’s 3-1 victory against T**ttenh** recently. A few things stood out. Adebayor’s workrate is there for all to see. He scored one with his head and that magical turn and volley that won the Match of the Day 'Goal of the Season' award. Yep, he missed a sitter as well when we were 1-0 down, but more than made up for it.
His link play was also impressive, his ability to hold the ball up and bring others into the game. Can we really afford to let him go at this stage of the team’s development? I’m not so sure.
Flamini too, was awesome in that game. He broke up almost every attack, niggling at the T**ttenh** midfield and forward line – and he needed to, because we hadn’t got into our stride. I’m a big fan of Abou Diaby and think he could be a new Vieira, but out wide, as was the case in that derby, he was a man lost and was taken off – but if his progress next year is as great as Flamini’s last season, we won’t go far wrong. We have to hope. Flamini is going to prove quite a loss.
I caught a glimpse of a Thierry Henry interview as well this weekend. One sentence stuck in my head:
“Whenever you leave Arsenal, you don’t really leave Arsenal.”
Adebayor may do well to think about that over the next few days. If he wants to have any hope of regaining the love of the fans who forgave his misses and adored his spirit last season, he's got some making up to do.