The 7 Most Loyal Players in Arsenal F.C. History
Though it might be difficult to imagine nowadays, it was only recently that Arsenal had a number of extremely loyal, faithful players on their team.
Before and after Arsene Wenger began his ongoing tenure at the club, players would stay for long periods of time and pledge their allegiance to the cannon. It was not uncommon to see a player who had been with the club for several years starting on a weekly basis.
Those years seem a distant memory now, but some of the most loyal and celebrated players in Arsenal's history have retired within the last decade or so.
Let's take a look at some of those who really meant it when they kissed the crest.
Getty Images/Getty Images
There can be no greater indication of greatness and stability than holding Arsenal's all-time appearance record, and O'Leary appeared for the Gunners 722 times over the course of his career.
Over 18 years in the senior squad, spanning from 1975-93, the Irishman was an ever-present force in many Arsenal sides and eventually played the role of mentor to club legend Tony Adams, who O'Leary relinquished the captain's armband to in the 1980s.
O'Leary combined his excellent positional sense, elegant style of play and cool demeanor on the ball to become an absolute stalwart at the club for decades. There have been few better than him in the history of Arsenal Football Club.
Getty Images/Getty Images
As a right-back, Rice was an ever-present leader for the Arsenal sides of the 1970s and appeared in an Arsenal record five FA Cup finals, defeating Manchester United in the famous 1979 victory.
Tough and tenacious, Rice was handed the captain's armband toward the end of his 14-year Gunners career and had amassed almost 400 league appearances for Arsenal when he left at the age of 31.
The defender's dedication to Arsenal extends further, though, as Rice has coached at Arsenal in some capacity since his retirement in 1984 and has been serving as Arsene Wenger's trusted assistant for the Frenchman's entire 15-year reign in North London.
Gary M. Prior/Getty Images
A fixture in the Arsenal sides he played in for over a decade, Dixon flanked the other side of Arsenal's famous back line of the 1990s.
Retiring at the age of 38, Dixon was a fantastic right-back from 1988 until 2002, constantly marauding forward despite being very solid in defence—keeping with the priority of the Arsenal team of that era.
Dixon is also one of the only players in English football history to have won a League title in three different decades with the same club, accomplishing the feat during the late 80s, several times during the 90s and in 2002.
All told, the Englishman made a total of 458 league appearances for Arsenal at the time of his retirement, which is a remarkable feat in and of itself.
One of the first players to stay at Arsenal for any significant length of time, Cliff Bastin established himself as the club's best ever player for a period of decades following his retirement.
During an 18-year career that spanned from 1929 to 1947, the speedy Bastin made almost 400 league appearances for Arsenal, scoring a whopping 150 goals in the process.
With his ability to cut inside on a dime and fly past opponents, Bastin was the crown jewel in Herbert Chapman's greatest sides. Such was his talent that Chapman recruited him to be a regular member of the squad when he was only 17.
He would leave at the age of 35, having accomplished feats that would endure for generations and cement his place in Arsenal lore.
Claudio Villa/Getty Images
How can one begin to sum up the career of Arsenal's best ever player and arguably the best in the history of the Premier League?
Using a freakish combination of blistering pace, height, strength and almost unrivaled technique, Thierry Henry scored 228 goals for Arsenal in 377 appearances and was at times utterly unplayable.
When he wanted to, like all truly great athletes, he could take a game over and make himself a one-man counterattack. If a team had the misfortune of catching Henry in this mood, they knew that the match was as good as over.
Even at 34 years old and bereft of much of his legendary speed, the Frenchman added quality and class on his return to Arsenal this past January. Recently, Arsene Wenger has fanned rumors linking Henry with a third spell at the Emirates.
Phil Cole/Getty Images
When Bergkamp was signed from Inter Milan in 1995, it signaled a daring change in strategy for "boring, boring Arsenal," and the Dutchman was the catalyst for much of the Gunners' success under Arsene Wenger.
He was the archetypal No. 10, playing just behind Thierry Henry to create chances for the Frenchman and support the attack. Without Bergkamp, the awesome counterattacking style that Arsenal played a decade ago would not have flowed with the same beauty.
Even as he aged, the Dutchman was still a critical member of the squad. Without much running, he could use his marvelous footballing brain to pick apart defences at will.
No wonder some Arsenal fans revere Bergkamp as a demigod.
Ben Radford/Getty Images
It could be none other than a man immortalized in bronze to conclude this list of loyal players.
Indeed, Tony Adams was as solid as the metal that will forever bear his likeness, with supreme aerial ability, an uncanny ability to read the game, an ability to time and execute his tackles with expert technical precision and, of course, his unparalleled leadership skills.
Such was Adams' presence that he was named captain at the tender age of 21 ahead of the much more experienced David O'Leary. He served as Arsenal's unquestioned and universally admired skipper for all of the next 14 years.
Even after his alcoholism was brought to light, the great man cleaned himself up and returned to add extra years onto his career and accomplish the unbelievable feat of lifting the Premier League trophy as captain in three separate decades with the same team.
"Mr. Arsenal" was truly one of a kind and Arsenal would undoubtedly choose Adams, their best defender of all time, if they could have one old player back in their squad.