Ranking Arsenal's 20 Greatest Players Under Arsene Wenger
Arsene Wenger is the most successful manager in the history of Arsenal Football Club and has therefore worked with some outstanding players.
From bargain-basement overperformers to homegrown club legends, Wenger has nurtured them all and used their amazing talent to build some of the best sides English football has ever seen.
Here are 20 of the best.
It's sad that Arsene Wenger made the mistake of choosing William Gallas over the Ivorian Kolo Toure when the two got into a row when they were together at Arsenal, because Toure was really a fantastic player.
Signed for peanuts from ASEC Mimosas, Toure developed into a force to be reckoned with and was an absolute centerpiece of the "Invincibles" side that went the entire 2003-04 season unbeaten.
Arsenal have only recently gotten back the steel that Toure provided, and it is obvious how much Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker help the rest of the side by imposing their will on the opposition.
Nigel Winterburn occupied the left-back role for Arsenal for more than a decade following his £350,000 move from Wimbledon and was as complete a player as one will see at the position.
Winterburn proved to be a fantastic crosser of the ball when he bombed forward to support an Arsenal attack, and his defensive virtues were frequently extolled, as he flanked a fantastic central defensive partnership of Tony Adams and Martin Keown.
Though his playing time was relatively sparse in his later years, the fact that Winterburn was able to remain at Arsenal until the age of 37 speaks to his remarkable physical prowess and his value to the Arsenal squad.
Another player who displayed remarkable longevity for Arsenal, Lee 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, in 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 greatest man-markers of his generation, Keown blended a superb knowledge of the game with brute force and strength to become a fantastic all-around defender.
You could make the argument that Sol Campbell should get the nod here, but it is hard to deny the honor to Keown, who served Arsenal for a total of 13 years and who formed the bedrock of the legendary Arsenal defences of the 1990s.
He took a rugged, no-nonsense approach to defending that made it almost impossible to get past him and allowed him to play on until he was approaching 40.
One of the smartest decisions that Arsene Wenger made in his early days at Arsenal was to bring in Marc Overmars from Ajax, and the Dutchman certainly left his mark on the club.
Blessed with truly incredible pace and technique, it was very common in the late '90s to see Overmars blazing down the left side of the pitch and either finishing the move himself or turning around a defender to set up a goal for a teammate.
Always a man for the big occasion, Arsenal fans remember his thrilling contribution to a 1-0 victory at Old Trafford in March 1998 and the brace a couple months later that clinched the title for Arsenal in the famous victory over Everton at home.
He became the most expensive Dutch player ever when he transferred to Barcelona in 2000, but he never scaled those heights again.
When he was bought from Stoke City in 1988, Steve Bould became a member of Arsenal's famous early-1990s defence, which included such stalwarts as Tony Adams, Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn and David Seaman.
Bould was—at 6'4"—tough, rugged and uncompromising, even when age began to affect him in his later years under Arsene Wenger and he saw less starting opportunities.
His aggressive style of defending was typical of Arsenal sides of that era, and he achieved considerable success with the Gunners, winning several Premier League titles and numerous cups during his tenure as a player.
He is now Arsene Wenger's second in command and takes charge of the first-team XI when the manager is suspended.
Arsenal's greatest goalkeeper in their history was a unique man and one of the greatest 'keeping talents of his era.
With a ponytail and later a lovable gut, Seaman reached the peak of his career during a 13-year stretch at Arsenal that saw him win three league championships and four FA Cups from 1990 to 2003.
He established a reputation for being a penalty-saving specialist, and he had a penchant for pulling off incredible saves, even as his mobility decreased later in his career.
Seaman was the rock behind the fabled back four of Dixon, Adams, Keown and Winterburn, and when opponents somehow managed to breach that back four, they were almost sure to be stopped by the incredible Seaman.
Arsenal have never quite replaced their ponytailed shot-stopper, although there is hope that Wojciech Szczesny can assume the mantle vacated by Seaman.
The Frenchman has returned to his consistently excellent self this season after a significant hiccup last campaign. The defensive stability is present as ever, but Bacary Sagna has recently displayed an ability to pick a cross that has taken his game to a different level.
Few players stay as good as Sagna for as long. He has hardly had a dip in form in several years at Arsenal.
His only questionable period of form came during the season when he broke both his legs, which is forgivable. Arsene Wenger is surely begging Sagna to sign on for another couple of seasons at the Emirates.
As much as Arsenal fans love to hate him, most still grudgingly acknowledge that he was a world-class left-back when he played for the club.
Ashley Cole had (and still has, to a certain degree) a rare blend of natural attacking instinct and defending discipline. Tremendous pace allowed him to race up and down the pitch, and his skill at every facet of the game made him a weapon anywhere, any time.
It was when he linked up with Thierry Henry and Robert Pires on the left side of Arsenal's attack that the Gunners were at their most devastating, and Cole locked down the left side of several defences before he left for Chelsea under acrimonious circumstances.
Santi Cazorla combines unique ambidextrousness with Messi-esque technical skill and Fabregasian passing vision and precision to form the ideal hybrid between attacking midfielder and winger.
To sum up that syntactically complex sentence: It's a pleasure to watch the Spaniard play football.
His recent performances show that his form cannot dip for too long, as his sheer quality will eventually shine through and force him back to the forefront of discussion.
Cazorla is just one of those very rare players who can dramatically change a game in an instant using a variety of different methods.
Freddie Ljungberg was one of the weirdest, most unlikely and most exciting players of the Arsene Wenger era.
Plucked from tiny Halmstads BK in 1998, the Swede immediately brought his brand of athletic, flowing football to the Premier League to help Arsenal to their greatest successes in the early 2000s.
Ljungberg's best season was probably the 2002 double campaign, in which he scored 17 total goals and was so clutch during the run-in that he earned himself the Player of the Year award.
He would go on to establish himself as one of the most vital pieces of Arsenal's attack during the "Invincibles" campaign of 2003-04, rarely disappointing in his creativity of finishing.
Koscielny, who has arguably been the single most important contributor to Arsenal's stellar defensive record during the last year, has single-handedly rubbished the old canard that Arsene Wenger does not know how to buy defenders.
He endured a bit of a rocky period after moving from France in 2010, but grew into his own after a season and emerged last season as a do-it-all defensive stalwart who can neutralize strikers like Luis Suarez and Romelu Lukaku.
Koscielny has kept club captain Thomas Vermaelen out of the starting XI for almost an entire year by combining the Belgian's technical nous with defensive tenacity and outstanding positional intelligence.
He is the perfect all-around defender.
Robin van Persie
There is no denying that one of the players Arsenal fans most loathe is also one of the best to ever wear the shirt.
Robin van Persie is blessed with many of the same qualities as Dennis Bergkamp, but his placement as a central, rather than a supporting, striker has meant that he has scored a tremendous amount of goals for the Gunners.
Other than perhaps Lionel Messi, van Persie has the best left foot in all of football, and the power and precision with which he uses his most deadly weapon are truly awe-inspiring.
After overcoming his injury woes (until very recently at least), van Persie has displayed just how devastating he can be when allowed proper rest and enough time to build up fitness.
Despite a slow start to life in England, Robert Pires grew into one of Arsene Wenger's best signings and a crucial member of Arsenal's most successful teams.
He certainly had an abundance of pace, but he did not need to rely upon it, for his technique was impeccable, and he could both place a pinpoint pass and score truly amazing goals.
Without Pires, the Arsenal engine could not have run with nearly the same beauty and efficiency that it did with him. Forming the crucial link between Ashley Cole and Thierry Henry, much of the attacking beauty that characterized the last Gunners team to win anything came through Pires.
After famously leaving Tottenham for Arsenal on a free transfer (or infamously, depending on which side of North London you're from), Sol Campbell established himself as an essential part of Arsene Wenger's new defensive core during the 2000s.
An integral part of multiple Arsenal defences, Campbell saw himself play an essential role in the 2003-04 "Invincibles" campaign, and his tenacity, speed and natural leadership were huge assets to the Gunners during this time.
He was ranked 15th in Arsenal fans' list of the 50 greatest players of all time, and he's certainly deserving of such a high ranking due to his fantastic defensive prowess.
Cesc Fabregas became one of the three best midfielders ever to play for Arsenal, and he left at the age of 24. So, yeah, you could say the guy had some talent.
Unfortunately, Arsenal supporters were not treated to what would have been a truly spectacular career of greatness from the incredibly gifted, young Spaniard. But what we did see was spectacular.
There were spectacular goals, like his stunner against Spurs, and sublime passes the likes of which had never been seen at Arsenal since the days of Liam Brady. Such was the kid's talent that Arsene Wenger sold Patrick Vieira, his captain and leader, to build his new team around this amazing youth.
His Arsenal career may have been cut short by his love for his hometown club, but the quality he brought to the team and the sheer joy he brought to the fans make him a club legend.
Patrick Vieira was one of those rare players who had it all. His size and strength meant that he could put in a crunching tackle and intimidate the opposition, while his incredible technique and footballing mind allowed him to be Arsenal's chief midfield architect.
His magisterial presence in Arsene Wenger's most successful teams embodied the manager's well-rounded, swashbuckling style, and it was always Vieira who formed the linchpin of those sides.
One could argue that Arsenal have not replaced him since he left in 2005, and it is no coincidence that the Gunners have not won anything without him.
In over 500 appearances spread over an astounding 19 years as a one-club man, Adams cemented himself as one of the greatest leaders the game has ever seen, and he is the only player in English football history ever to captain his team to a title in three decades.
Adams was not a technically gifted player at all but would give anything his body would let him to support the cause, and he would grab his men by the neck in order to convey a message. His position was so unique that the likes of Keown could only compete for a place beside him, not for his actual position.
Arsenal could no doubt benefit greatly from having a tenacious leader like Adams in the team today, solidifying the back line and keeping opponents at a healthy level of fear.
How can one begin to describe the sheer brilliance of Dennis Bergkamp? When he 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, and without much running, he could use his marvelous footballing brain to pick apart defences at will.
And for a man who never scored tap-ins or easy strikes, to rack up 120 goals is an incredible feat.
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, which was much too brief for the greatest player ever to wear the cannon.