It’s a shame to admit that Arsenal have become a bit of a Premier League joke.
Sign big players in the summer, their fans hype that they’ll win the league, start off well, wheels fall off in January, finish fifth. And repeat.
Think back just a few years and Arsenal qualifying for the Champions League was almost as assured as next year being ‘Liverpool’s year’. Think back even further and Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal were one of the greatest sides to have graced the Premier League.
So it’s no surprise that the Gunners can boast some of the best players to have played in England’s top tier. We’ve compiled a 25-man squad of Arsenal’s greatest Premier League stars – all you Francis Jeffers fanatics can stop reading now, I’m afraid.
David Seaman – Undoubtedly Arsenal’s best Premier League servant between the sticks, racking up 564 appearances for the Gunners between 1990 and 2003. The England number one won two Premier League titles and four FA Cups in his time at Highbury.
Jens Lehmann – Signed from Borussia Dortmund in 2003 as Seaman’s successor, the German did the departing Englishman a good service as his replacement. Unfortunately, the stopper will forever be remembered by Gunners fans for his foul in the 18th minute of the 2006 Champions League final.
Petr Čech – A close call between the former Chelsea man and current Arsenal number one Bernd Leno, but the Czech gets the nod. Long past his best when he arrived at the Emirates, he nevertheless produced some stunning performances to ensure the Gunners finished second in his first season at the club – their best finish for 11 years.
Sol Campbell – His move may have been dubious, but his performances certainly weren’t. One of England’s greatest ever centre backs, the self-acclaimed rock of Arsenal’s defence was a major factor in their unbeaten season of 2003/04.
Tony Adams – Mr. Arsenal. Not many players feature for just one club throughout their entire career, but that’s what this man did. Arsenal captain at the tender age of 21, Adams would represent the club from 1980 to 2002, retiring with four top tier titles, three FA Cups and two League Cups. A statue outside the Emirates is a constant reminder of the service he provided to the Gunners.
Kolo Toure – Akin to Arsenal, this man has become something of a Premier League joke in recent years – thanks to that chant and him looking like he was waiting for a bus during City’s 2012 Premier League winning celebrations – but few remember the colossus of a player he once was. A monster of a centre back.
Martin Keown – Arguably best remembered by some for smacking Ruud van Nistelrooy over the head, Keown was a fantastic centre half. Formed a formidable partnership with Tony Adams and helped the team to double glory in 1997/98 and the unbeaten season of 2003/04.
Lauren – Often overlooked when lauding the Invincibles, the former Cameroon international was brought to the club by Wenger to replace the ageing Lee Dixon, and what a sterling job he did. The right back would go on to make 242 appearances over a six-year spell in north London.
Lee Dixon – The right side of the imperious defence inherited by Wenger. Long before free-flowing football arrived in north London, Arsenal were renowned for grinding out 1-0 wins, and this man was no small part of that team. A threat in the opposition half and solid defensively, only Gary Neville’s emergence stopped him racking up more than the 22 England caps he won.
Ashley Cole – Some players aren’t truly appreciated until they retire, and that could be said of this man. Often his off-field dramas and tumultuous transfer sagas preceded him, but his class on the field was undeniable. The best left back in the world for quite some time.
Nigel Winterburn – The left back position has been a constant pain for Arsenal since the departure of Cole, but prior to him the Gunners were blessed with a full back just as reliable. Winterburn racked up an impressive 440 league appearances for the club over 13 years, a spell which saw him earn three top tier titles, a League Cup and two FA Cups.
Patrick Vieira – What the Gunners faithful wouldn’t do for a player of his ilk in their current side. Undoubtedly one of the greatest central midfielders to grace the Premier League, Vieira was much more than a midfield hard man. Grace, elegance and an engine to rival most, coupled with his willingness to put his foot in, the Frenchman was the complete midfielder.
Cesc Fàbregas – Much like Campbell and Cole before him (there’s a bit of a theme developing here), Fàbregas’ relationship with the Arsenal fans soured after his departure, but his contribution should not be overlooked. He carried an average Arsenal team for many years and was ultimately too good for them.
Santi Cazorla – One of the most underrated players in Premier League history. Cazorla’s ability with the ball at his feet often saw him look head and shoulders above anyone else on the pitch. Injury severely hampered his time at the club but he is fondly remembered.
Gilberto Silva – While the country was busy swooning over Chelsea’s lynchpin Claude Makélélé, this man wasn’t doing a bad job across London. Much more than a ball-winning midfielder, Gilberto was the platform for Arsenal’s flying forwards and the foundation of one of the greatest teams in Premier League history.
Freddie Ljungberg – A relatively unknown quantity when he signed from Swedish side Halmstad in 1998, but what a gem of a find he turned out to be. Injuries proved to be his undoing as he left for West Ham in 2007, but a record of 72 goals in 325 games proved how pivotal he was to the Gunners in his nine-year spell at the club.
Alexis Sánchez – Forget the shadow of a player he is today, his spell at the Emirates was incredible. Almost a goal every other game saw him notch 80 in 166 games. Sure, he played the majority of his games on the left, but he’s more than versatile enough to operate effectively from the right.
Robert Pires – After taking a while to adapt to the English game, Pires became one of the best players the Premier League has seen. His partnership with compatriot Thierry Henry terrified defences for years. Two FA Cups and two Premier League titles don’t tell the full story of how brilliant this man was.
Marc Overmars – The man who Pires replaced. The Dutchman was instrumental in Arsenal’s double-winning campaign of 1997/98, grabbing 12 league goals in his first season in England. Overmars would ultimately spend just three years in London as Barcelona came calling to the sum of £25m, but he is fondly remembered by the Gunners faithful.
Thierry Henry – Obviously. Undoubtedly Arsenal’s greatest Premier League player. The club’s all-time top goalscorer, Henry would be named in the PFA Team of the Year an incredible six consecutive years, as well as winning the PFA Players’ Player of the Year gong among a whole host of other accolades. His 30 goals in 37 games played a massive part in the Invincibles campaign of 2003/04.
Ian Wright – Before the Gunners scoured the market for some of the best foreign strikers around, a certain Englishman ruled the roost. Wright came to professional football late, but he certainly made up for lost time, scoring 185 goals in Arsenal colours before leaving for West Ham in 1998.
Robin van Persie – Originally looking like a scorer of very good goals, Van Persie flourished into a very good goalscorer. He captained the side in his final year at the club before leaving for Manchester United. Despite earning the ‘villain’ tag following his move, he would leave behind strike partners Marouane Chamakh and Park Chu-Young and go on to win the league, so you can’t really blame him.
Dennis Bergkamp – Van Persie was terrific, but this man is undoubtably the greatest Dutchman to have donned a Gunners shirt. His £7.5m move from Inter in 1995 was a marquee signing and he proved to be more than value for money. Bergkamp would retire at the club having won three Premier League titles and four FA Cups.