By Chris Wright
By the time that the Carling Cup final kicks-off this Sunday afternoon, 5 years, 9 months, 6 days and 15 hours will have elapsed since Patrick Vieira sidled up and stroked his penalty past Roy Carroll to win the FA Cup for Arsenal.
It would prove to be Vieira’s last act as Arsenal’s standard-bearer and captain, as the Frenchman duly departed for Juventus a month later – a move which, with the application of perfect 20/20 hindsight, effectively brought down the curtain on the club’s glorious domination over domestic proceedings during the first half-decade of the 21st century.
Over three million minutes have drifted away, up and out into the cosmos since that final in Cardiff back in May of 2005.
Vieira is a spent-force conversely winding down with newly-aspirational Manchester City, Arsenal have hauled up their roots, converted the site of their old library into people storage and moved into a bigger place down the road, Arsene Wenger’s hair has passed through the ‘greys’ and is now approaching the ‘silvers’ and yet that darned FA Cup is still the most recent addition to their groaning trophy cabinet.
I’ve said it before and I’ll probably have say it again at some point in the near future: I’m no expert.
There are several hundred Arsenal-centric bloggers out there that will have picked through the reasons in greater detail than I will ever be prepared to, but it’s surely no coincidence that Wenger’s barren streak just so happens to run parallel with his self-imposed, youth-orientated squad regeneration.
The revolution obviously didn’t begin with Vieira’s departure as the sole epicentre (Wenger had assembled a decent enough undercurrent of young talent at Arsenal long before that) but the fact that the then-17-year-old Cesc Fabregas pulled on his predecessor’s shirt and smoothed over the ruction