Picking an All-Time Greatest Arsenal XI
Picking a club's greatest ever XI is surely harder than picking a World Cup squad because you've got to go back in time to choose legends as well as choose from the here and now.
So, here's my greatest Arsenal XI. I've tried to call on different eras and a sentimental choice or two, and yet, we end up with a great Arsenal team which, let's be honest, few will agree with—because you've got your own choices. But here are mine, in a traditional 4-4-2 formation.
On the Bench
Apologies to (all who make my bench):
- Ian Wright
- Sol Campbell
- Cesc Fabregas
- Charlie George
- George Armstrong
- Cliff Bastin
- Bob Wilson
Goalkeeper: David Seaman
"Safe Hands" Seaman must get in goal, not least because of his FA Cup heroics as Arsenal look to win the great old trophy again.
Seaman won the FA Cup four times, said goodbye to Arsenal by leading them to the FA Cup in 2003 and pulled off one of the all-time greatest saves in the semi-final at Old Trafford, somehow keeping out Sheffield United striker Paul Peschisolido's close-range header. It was a stunning save.
But more than any of that, Seaman is an Arsenal legend, famed for the command of his penalty box, a great career and amazing saves.
Right-Back: Pat Rice
It's been said on many occasions that Arsenal legend Pat Rice is the best possible example of a professional footballer.
Though not the most naturally talented player, he worked incredibly hard and made the very best of his career. He was such a determined, feisty right-back who was fierce in the tackle.
Rice was a member of the 1970/71 Double-winning team. He captained the club and went on to serve them as a coach and youth team coach. He even stood in temporarily as manager. He recently overcame cancer, and his name is still chanted.
Left-Back: Ashley Cole
Because of his acrimonious exit to Chelsea, people will disagree with this pick. But if they're honest, they will agree that Cole is an all-time great.
He started at Arsenal as a winger, converted to a full-back and has become one of the best left-backs in the world for the better part of a decade now.
Tenacious and strong in the tackle, Cole always has been an awesome talent. He can get forward and defend brilliantly; his all-round game won him 107 caps for England. He's also a member of the Invincibles team. How can you beat that?
Central Defender: Tony Adams
Tony Adams is a brilliant leader and one of Arsenal's all-time greats. If Arsenal had a captain like him now, the team would be so much stronger for it.
He was a fierce, determined winner in many aspects. He was powerful in the air and strong in the tackle and won so much under George Graham and then, later, Arsene Wenger.
Adams won titles and cups and experienced European glory. He was an amazing player whom fans worship to this day.
Central Defender: Frank McLintock
Frank McLintock was the captain and leader of Arsenal's 1970/71 Double-winning team.
He was a wonderfully cultured centre-half who could play the ball out from defence, having also played in midfield.
But McLintock's other great asset was his leadership. He had a willingness to roll up his sleeves, win every battle—every duel—and inspire his team around him. He was a great leader and is a club legend.
Right Midfield: Robert Pires
Robert Pires is another all-time great. He could score goals and create them and was the midfield genius (albeit from the flank) for the 2002 Double winners and 2004 Invincibles.
He was a beautiful player who was also voted Football Writers Association Player of the Year in 2002. It was a mark of just how good he was in a fabulous team. Pires was and remains a charming ambassador for the club and another all-time great from a golden era.
Central Midfield: Patrick Vieira
Patrick Vieira was the passionate leader, midfield general and all-time great from the 1998 Double, 2002 Double and 2004 Invincibles teams. In 2004, they went unbeaten to win the Premier League.
Simply put, Vieira was a winner.
Vieira was powerful and strong and never shirked a tackle. When you think of midfield generals, you can't do better than the Frenchman.
Arsenal let him go too soon in 2005—and still miss him.
Central Midfield: David Rocastle
David "Rocky" Rocastle gets in because he epitomises everything you want in a player: Skillful and determined, he was a crowd favourite with a wonderful will to win.
He tragically died aged just 33, but his name is still sung to this day because the fans loved him. He was one of them.
The fans love his quote—and still use it themselves: "Remember who you are, what you are and who you represent." That was Rocky.
Left Midfield: Liam Brady
If you Google "Liam Brady," "Tottenham" and "wonder goal," then his stunning effort from 1978 at White Hart Lane in a 5-0 win will be at the top of the results.
His left foot was more of a wand. He was a terrace hero of the 1980s, Arsenal's midfield great, and when he left for Juventus, every fan was heartbroken.
It was a big call putting him in ahead of Cesc Fabregas. But the decision took in that era; Brady was a magician. He was a wonderful player and club servant.
Striker: Dennis Bergkamp
The arguments will rage as to whether Dennis Bergkamp is Arsenal's greatest player of all time. The one thing you can say, in my opinion, is that he is technically the greatest Arsenal player of all time.
His passing, vision, runs and glorious goals were world class. Arsenal signed one of the best players in the world when they bought him in 1995. He went on to dominate for another decade.
Bergkamp was a genius, and his partnership with Thierry Henry surely makes them the best pair of strikers of all time.
Striker: Thierry Henry
Then there's Thierry Henry, or "Mr. Va Va Voom," as he's referred to.
How on Earth can an all-time great such as Ian Wright not get in? Apologies, Wrighty, but it comes down to Henry and Bergkamp. Together, you had the Dutch master and the French genius who, again, will have fans and neutrals alike believing Henry is the greatest Arsenal player of all time.
He has pace, power and the ability to score the spectacular. Henry is a wonderful player—he bleeds red and white and is the club's all-time leading scorer.
"Legend" was a word invited for Henry.
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