Picking a Best Arsenal XI for Every Decade Since the 1960s

James McNicholasFeatured ColumnistDecember 5, 2013

Picking a Best Arsenal XI for Every Decade Since the 1960s

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    Arsenal have been blessed with some magnificent players over the last 50 years.

    Every era has had its stars. There have been top scorers, title-winners and even "Invincibles." There have also been those whose achievements in an Arsenal shirt have since been forgotten, but whose heroics still merit commemoration.

    With that in mind, we've put together an XI comprising of Arsenal's best players in each full decade of The Gunners' modern history, from the 1960s right up until the first 10 years of this new millennium.

    Enjoy this trawl through the club's proud history and be sure to let us know your own XIs in the comments section below.

Arsenal's Best XI of the 1960s

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    Arsenal's best XI of the 1960s

    The 1960s were quite a difficult period for Arsenal fans. Under Billy Wright, the club endured mid-table finishes and early cup exits. Only as the decade came to a close did Arsenal finally win a trophy, beating Anderlecht in a two-legged Fairs Cup Final. It was the Gunners' first trophy win since 1953.

    Despite Arsenal's struggles throughout the decade there were still some tremendous players representing the club, as the XI above shows.

    Goalkeeper Bob Wilson became a legendary figure at the club, remaining with Arsenal beyond his playing days to coach the likes of John Lukic and David Seaman to success.

    Frank McLintock was a noble Arsenal captain and superb centre-half. His partnership with Peter Simpson helped stabilise Arsenal in the latter part of the decade.

    Peter Storey was a combative right-back who later converted to central midfield, while Sammy Nelson made over 300 appearances for the club at left-back across two decades.

    The midfield is brimming with talent. Scottish international George Graham would be the heartbeat of this fantasy XI, with box-to-box midfielder Jon Sammels certain to be an excellent partner. In reality, Graham's progression edged Sammels out of the Arsenal first team, but they'd make for an ideal pairing.

    George Armstrong was a gifted winger who could dazzle on either flank. On the left-wing, we have Charlie George. George was only a teenager during the 1960s but still made an impact at Arsenal. He played a crucial role in the successful Fairs Cup campaign. George was happiest as a forward or attacking midfielder, but a player with his gifts could certainly get by on the wing.

    Up front, the prolific John Radford is partnered by the less renowned Joe Baker: Baker was signed from Torino and scored exactly 100 goals in 156 Gunners games.

Arsenal's Best XI of the 1970s

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    Arsenal's best XI of the 1970s

    Arsenal's 1970s XI is packed full of Gunners legends.

    Between the sticks, Pat Jennings was a phenomenal goalkeeper. 119 international caps tell you everything you need to know about his quality and reliability.

    At full-back, Sammy Nelson retains his place from the 1960s side. On the opposing flank, there's Pat Rice: a nigh-mythological figure at Arsenal.

    At centre-half, David O'Leary succeeds Frank McLintock in the heart of the defence. Alongside him is Wilie Young: the tough-tackling Scot who started alongside O'Leary in the 1979 FA Cup Final win over Manchester United.

    In midfield, the 1970s XI can call upon World Cup-winner Alan Ball. Ball's best position was central midfield but he was equally comfortable on the right-hand side.

    Peter Storey, who appeared in the 1960s team at right-back, had by this time become one of the best central midfielders in the land. He's named alongside the consistent Brian Talbot.

    Liam Brady, one of the greatest players in Arsenal's history, is asked to play as a playmaker from the left-hand side. With his wand of a left foot, that should be no problem.

    Up front, the bullish partnership of Malcolm Macdonald and Frank Stapleton are reunited. This would be a most formidable XI.

Arsenal's Best XI of the 1980s

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    Arsenal's best XI of the 1980s

    This Arsenal XI of the 1980s has a surprisingly modern look about it: indeed, one member of the team played on until 2002.

    The goalkeeper is John Lukic. Younger fans will remember Lukic from his second spell with the club as a veteran reserve, but in the 1980s he was an outstanding goalkeeper in his own right.

    David O'Leary is retained at centre-back alongside a youthful Tony Adams. Before the decade was out Adams had become Arsenal's youngest ever captain.

    The full-backs in this team are particularly strong. Until the emergence of Ashley Cole, Kenny Samson was widely regarded as Arsenal and England's finest ever full-back. On the opposite side, Viv Anderson was a prototype of the modern attacking full-back, as famous for grabbing crucial goals as crunching tackles.

    In midfield, Michael Thomas earns inclusion almost entirely due to that iconic moment at Anfield in 1989. He's partnered by Paul Merson, who was usually deployed as a striker in this decade but had the awareness to play in a deeper role. On the flanks are the visionary Graham Rix and the beloved David Rocastle.

    Up front this XI is able to combine the flair of Charlie Nicholas with the work-rate and aerial ability of Alan Smith.

Arsenal's Best XI of the 1990s

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    Arsenal's best XI of the 1990s

    The 1990s was a successful period for Arsenal. In the early part of the decade there were the multiple cup triumphs of George Graham. By the time the 90s were out Arsene Wenger had arrived, and with him came a Premier League and FA Cup double.

    The back five picks itself. This unit dominated throughout the decade and beyond. David Seaman rivalled Peter Schmeichel as the best goalkeeper in the country, while the organisation of Nigel Winterburn, Tony Adams, Steve Bould and Lee Dixon was legendary.

    Ray Parlour warrants inclusion as he was the man who bridged two generations, excelling under both Graham and Wenger.

    The central midfield pairing of Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Vieira was the cornerstone of Arsenal's double success of 1997/98, whilst the pace and class of Marc Overmars added incisive attacking to their powerful midfield play.

    Up front, Arsenal are able to call upon Dennis Bergkamp. The Dutchman's arrival in 1995 transformed the identity of the club from "boring boring Arsenal" to something closer to total football. Alongside Bergkamp is the effervescent Ian Wright: the second greatest goalscorer in Arsenal history.

    This Arsenal XI of the 1990s actually played together several times during the latter part of the decade. They were every bit as good as you would imagine.

Arsenal's Best XI of the 2000s

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    Arsenal's best XI of the 2000s

    This XI is so crammed with ability that I've been forced to fashion an unconventional formation to house all the players.

    Jens Lehmann will always be remembered as the goalkeeper who went through a Premier League season unbeaten. Ahead of him, Ashley Cole and Sol Campbell were regular starters in The Invincibles' defence and protected Lehmann superbly. Martin Keown just edges out Kolo Toure: even though Keown was a veteran during this decade his man-marking skills remained second-to-none.

    Bacary Sagna arrived in 2004 and has since forged a reputation as one of the most reliable right-backs in European football. Had he arrived a year earlier he would probably have forced Lauren out of the Invincibles team.

    It's in midfield where things get really tricky.

    Patrick Vieira is a certainty. In this decade he inherited the captain's armband from Tony Adams and cemented his status as a club legend. He'll be asked to do the majority of the defensive work alone, as he'll be flanked by a pair of joyously gifted playmakers: Robert Pires and Cesc Fabregas.

    Ahead of that midfield is the outrageously talented attacking trio of Dennis Bergkamp, Robin van Persie and Thierry Henry.

    The midfield might be exposed but I'm not sure any defence could live with that forward line.

     

    Which of these XIs do you think is the strongest? Who will be in the XI for this current decade? Let us know your thoughts below.