With tensions rising around the Emirates, we have compiled our list of Arsenal’s greatest ever line-up.
For all the doom and gloom expressed by both Arsenal fans and former players around their current form, Arsene Wenger’s side remain a team who have won the FA Cup – one of the most prestigious trophies in world football – three times in four years. They hold the current record for most wins in that competition and, as befits a team with a glorious history, they have been lifting that trophy since 1930.
Undoubtedly, they are not at their best in the present moment, and their transfer policy has attracted fair criticism from friend and foe alike. But a football team with their prestige and following can only be laid so low. So to celebrate a team in need of rejuvenation, here is a list of their all time Legends XI.
1. David Seaman – GK
The formerly mustachioed hero of Highbury was a true legend in his time at the club. Having displaced the popular John Lukic when George Graham signed him in 1990, he had to prove his worth quickly and prove it he did. Seaman conceded a paltry 18 goals in his first season with the club, developing a reputation as a supremely safe pair of hands and a penalty-saving specialist as they won the league title. He holds the club record for the most appearances by a goalkeeper (an impressive 564 in all competitions) and with four FA Cups and three division titles to his name – his place in a Legends XI is guaranteed.
2. Nigel Winterburn – LB
Winterburn covered the left-back position at the club for over a decade, and whilst some would argue that Ashley Cole was the more talented player in that position – unlike Cole his dedication cannot be questioned. He played his part in the successes of George Graham’s time in charge, as well as the early joys of Wenger’s reign. Although his playing career fell off quite sharply by the time he left for West Ham at the turn of the century, he remains a decorated player praised for his consistency.
3. David O’Leary – CB
The all-time record holder of most appearances for the club, David O’Leary would be difficult to leave out of a legend’s XI. In 19 years at his boyhood club, O’Leary played through the lean period of the ’70s and early ’80s, only to enjoy the glory of the club’s resurgence under George Graham. An assured presence at the back, he was an ever-present at the club during a difficult period and still battled on regardless.
4. Tony Adams – CB
An easy choice when looking around for Arsenal’s greatest ever defender, Adams’ rise up the ranks at his boyhood club co-incided with their transition from an under-performing team into one of England’s most fearsome. Having become club captain at the tender age of 21, he would hold onto the honour for the next 14 years, enjoying a resurgence after Wenger’s arrival that meant Adams led his team on the pitch for the most consistenly succesful period of the club’s history.
5. Lee Dixon – RB
Taking up his rightful place alongside his fellow defensive stalwarts, Dixon is almost certainly the most consistent right back the club have ever seen. Known for providing plenty going forward as well as in his defensive duties, he gave the team an extra attacking edge and like Adams he is one of the few players to have won league titles in three separate decades.
6. Robert Pires – LW
In six years at the club, Pires scored and assisted an awful lot of goals as he helped the club to two Premier League titles and three FA Cups, becoming a firm fan favourite in the process. The sight of Pires cutting in from the wing before lashing the ball into the far side of the net became the stuff of joy and jubilation for the Gunners. Linking up with fellow members of the famous ‘Invincibles’ side meant that attacking play was boosted all across their forward line, but Pires still shone in his own right.
7. Alex James – CM
One of only two players in this list from outside the glory days of Graham and Wenger, Alex James deserves his place thanks to a pivotal role played in the club’s league dominance during the early 1930s. A playmaker who helped to orchestrate their hat-trick of division titles across 1933-35 – the club scored a record 118 goals in 1932-33 with James pulling the strings from the midfield.
8. Patrick Vieira – CM
One of Arsene Wenger’s first signings at the club, Vieira arrived in 1996 and helped to signal the new French influence in North London. Known for his intelligence and fighting spirit, Vieira was a ferocious leader in the midfield over the following nine seasons (although he only became club captain after Adams’ retirement in 2002) – providing a battling spirit to a club with more than enough flair and talent to take on the rest of England. His final kick of the ball for the club came as he scored the winning penalty against Manchester United in 2005: sealing his fourth FA Cup victory for the club to go alongside his three Premier League winner’s medals.
9. Cliff Bastin – RW
Another hero of the early 1930s, Bastin was the club’s record league goalscorer for some seven decades until Thierry Henry overtook him in 2006. His pace on the wing and prowess in front of goal made him a force to be reckoned with as Arsenal dominated English football in the years leading up to World War II. When the outbreak of war meant the league was suspended in 1939, Bastin was only 27 and just reaching his peak. Had he continued to play, he may well have kept Ian Wright and Henry at bay in the Arsenal all-time goalscorer’s list.
10. Dennis Bergkamp – FW
When Dennis Bergkamp signed for Arsenal in 1995, he’d endured two awkward years at Internazionale. Things hadn’t gone well for him since leaving the Eredivisie as Dutch Footballer of the Year, and his arrival in North London (for a then club record fee) was a statement of intent for a football club keen to maintain the momentum of recent successes. Bergkamp formed part of a team that did exactly that, keeping the club either at the top of the table or in second place for the majority of Arsene Wenger’s first decade in charge.
Adored for his technical elegance and superlative dribbling ability, Bergkamp tore through defences – often creating more goals than he himself scored. As a second striker, he was a dream partner, and any other Arsenal legends would only be vying to accompany him up front.
11. Thierry Henry – FW
Its arguable that no one player sums up the glorious stretch which Arsenal enjoyed during Arsene Wenger’s first ten years at the club quite like Thierry Henry. He wasn’t a perfect fit for the tough, physical mould of strikers which the English game had held in high esteem, instead offering a more elegant and technical approach which aligned with his manager and mentor’s style of play. Henry’s skill and composure marked him out as a new type of forward player.
Top goal scorer in the Premier League for a record four seasons, as well as European Golden Boot in two of those years, his tally of 174 league goals cements his place in any Arsenal Legends team.
Without enough room for every great Arsenal player in our Legends XI, the choice is up to you who most deserves to be brought off the bench. The players to choose from are as follows:
1. Jens Lehmann (GK) – 2003-2008. 54 clean sheets in 148 appearances.
2. Ashley Cole (DF) – 1999-2006. 8 goals in 156 appearances.
3. Sol Campbell (DF) – 2001-2006. 8 goals in 135 appearances.
4. Joe Hulme (MF) – 1926-1938. 107 goals in 333 appearances.
5. Freddie Ljungberg (MF) – 1998-2007. 46 goals in 216 appearances.
6. Cesc Fabregas (MF) – 2003-2011. 35 goals in 212 appearances.
7. Ian Wright (FW) – 1991-1998. 128 goals in 221 appearances.