Tomorrow, as you all undoubtedly know, is Arsene Wenger’s 1000th game in charge of first team matters at Arsenal. Today, bloggers, podcasters and journalists are sure to bombard you with glowing tributes and recollections of Arsenal’s glory days under the reign of the mercurial Frenchman.
I was going to join in and wax lyrical, but, in all honesty, I find some of it a touch maudlin. Don’t get me wrong; I’m far from one of those characters you meet that are anti-Arsene in every way imaginable, I’m just not really the sycophantic, droolingly effusive type. Well… I can be, but I’m really pressed for time today and I need to get to the oint. Forgive me.
Doubtless to say, there will be many of these today, but here is my favourite XI of players Arsene has brought to Arsenal – Dennis Bergkamp is not listed because it wasn’t Arsene who signed him, even if Dennis was an integral part of the initial success of his time here. Same applies to Adams, Keown, Dixon, Winterburn and Seaman, all of whom would be included was this an XI of the greatest players during Arsene’s time at Arsenal. Ashley Cole isn’t included because… well… f*ck him.
I was having a little trouble fitting a few players in, so I cheated and went with a 3-5-2 – it wasn’t an easy choice to make leaving out Laurent Koscielny. Here’s the reasons for my selection:
- Jens Lehmann – Arsene hasn’t really excelled in the recruitment of goalkeepers, but ‘Mad’ Jens is his finest in that department and one of my personal favourites because he was utterly bonkers.
- Bacary Sagna – Loyal and versatile, arguably the finest right full-back in the Premiership when on top form.
- Sol Campbell – Whilst at Spurs, we’d all begrudgingly admit he was a defender of the highest quality. Then we got him on a free. He left Spurs to win titles and he did. With Arsenal. Glorious.
- Per Mertesacker – The inspirational, passionate figure of leadership we’ve craved at the Club since Vieira departed, and a truly top-class reader of the game. Reminds me in so many ways of Tony Adams.
- Gilberto Silva – My favourite Arsenal player of recent memory. For all the flash and verve of the Invincibles, Gilberto remains as important a part of that success as anyone. Quiet and unfussy, but so brilliantly effective at what he did. Arteta and Flamini combined and then some.
- Cesc Fabregas – It hurt like hell when he buggered off to Barcelona, and had this list been a little closer to that time, his antics in doing so might have seem him omitted. However, that’s all in the past and you’d have to be pretty cold-hearted to not appreciate all the wonderful moments he gave us in an Arsenal shirt.
- Patrick Vieira – I still consider Patrick the best all-round midfielder I’ve ever seen play. He had everything; strength, technical ability, stamina and desire. On his day, even the likes of Gerrard and Keane couldn’t live with him.
- Freddie Ljungberg – plucked from relative obscurity from Halmstads BK, Freddie was an absolute steal at a mere £3m. He may have lacked a little on the technical side, but he made up for that with a exceptional brain and ability to time runs to perfection. Always popped up with a goal when it was needed.
- Robert Pires – An absolute dreamboat of a man, and the player the word ‘swashbuckling’ was invented to describe. He had a tough first season in the Premiership, but after that, he was so good even his own team-mates were happy to bow in appreciation.
- Nwankwo Kanu – The scorer of goals that would make you exclaim, “how the bloody hell did he do that?!” That hat-trick and goal at Chelsea, for example. Languid and awkward, but with the skill to bamboozle and make defenders look entirely foolish
- Thierry Henry – What more is there to say about Thierry? The best striker I have ever seen in all my years watching football. I have never heard a football fan, even Spurs’, deny that he was anything other than truly outstanding.
That’s my list and reasons, folks. The comments below are ready and waiting to hear a few of yours. Do you have a particular favourite from Arsene’s time at Arsenal that I haven’t mentioned? Let me know what you think.
Tomorrow I’ll be back to preview the 1000th game of the Wenger era at Chelsea. Until then, and as always; thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards.