Celebrating Nwankwo Kanu and Other Iconic Arsenal Hat-Tricks

James McNicholasFeatured ColumnistAugust 1, 2017

Nwankwo Kanu completes his stunning hat-trick against Chelsea.
Nwankwo Kanu completes his stunning hat-trick against Chelsea.Graham Chadwick/Getty Images

On October 23, 1999, Nwankwo Kanu etched his name into Arsenal history. With the Gunners trailing 2-0 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, his extraordinary hat-trick managed to single-handedly turn the game around.

It's most memorable for his outrageous final goal, in which he took the ball around goalkeeper Ed de Goey on the byline before sending a shot arcing improbably into the far top corner.

Kanu's hat-trick has since become the stuff of legend among Gunners fans—but which are the most memorable trebles in modern Arsenal history?

Bleacher Report countdowns the most iconic hat-tricks of the past two decades.

                    

7. Robin van Persie vs. Chelsea, October 29, 2011

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29:  Robin van Persie of Arsenal scores during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on October 29, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Ian Walton/Getty Images

Robin van Persie may not be too popular among the Arsenal fans these days, but back in 2011 they sang his name with gusto after his hat-trick helped the Gunners to another big away win at Chelsea.

Arsenal ultimately won the game 5-3, with Van Persie's deadly finishing arguably the biggest difference between the sides. It was a particularly astonishing result given that it came just weeks after the Gunners' 8-2 humbling at Old Trafford. 

Van Persie's first goal couldn't have been simpler—when Gervinho was played through on goal, the Ivorian squared for his fellow forward to tap in. His second is still recalled fondly by Arsenal fans, as John Terry slipped at the crucial moment, allowing the Dutchman to race through on goal and round Petr Cech.

Van Persie put the icing on the cake with seconds to go, breaking free on the left-hand side before sending a stunning shot inside Cech's near post.

           

6. Thierry Henry vs. AS Roma, November 27, 2002

ROME, ITALY:  Jubilation of Arsenal forward French Thierry Henry  after he scored during the 2nd round Champions League, Group B, match AS Roma - Arsenal, 27 November 2002, at the Rome's Olympic Stadium. AFP PHOTO GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read G
GABRIEL BOUYS/Getty Images

Back in 2002, Arsenal generally struggled to convert their dominance of the English game into convincing European performances. However, on this occasion against AS Roma, Thierry Henry produced a masterclass to net a superb Champions League hat-trick.

It began with a classic Henry goal. Receiving the ball from Gilberto Silva in his favoured inside-left channel, he opened his body up before sending a beautiful shot curling beyond the goalkeeper and into the far corner.

The next goal was all about reaction times and snapshot finishing—when his attempted header rebounded off the defender, Henry was quickest to the ricochet and powered a left-footed effort past the goalkeeper before he had time to move.

Henry saved the best until last, bending a brilliant free-kick into the top corner to secure the matchball.

              

5. Andrey Arshavin vs. Liverpool, April 21, 2009

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 13:  Andrey Arshavin of Arsenal  celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on December 13, 2009 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Andrey Arshavin is the only man on this list to go one better than a hat-trick. The Russian scored every single one of Arsenal's goals in this enthralling 4-4 draw.

Arshavin started by tucking home a Cesc Fabregas cross before striking twice in the space of three second-half minutes. First, he lashed in a swerving drive from the edge of the box before capitalising on defensive hesitation to volley past the helpless Pepe Reina.

The fourth goal took the breath away. With title-chasing Liverpool desperate to find a winner, Theo Walcott broke away and squared to Arshavin. Showing surprising speed and stamina, the Russian steadied himself before launching a left-footed rocket beyond Reina.

A late Liverpool equaliser took some of the shine off Arshavin's remarkable achievement, but this remained his finest performance in an Arsenal shirt.

                  

4. Thierry Henry vs. Wigan Athletic, May 7, 2006

LONDON - MAY 07:  Thierry Henry of Arsenal celebrates scoring his teams fourth goal by bowing to the North Bank fans during the Barclays Premiership match between Arsenal and Wigan Athletic at Highbury on May 7, 2006 in London, England.  The match was the
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

It was fitting that the final match at Highbury was marked by an Henry hat-trick. The man who would ultimately succeed Ian Wright as Arsenal's greatest goalscorer racked up three goals to ensure the atmosphere at the last match at the stadium was joyful rather than funereal.

It was an important hat-trick, too—Henry's goals helped Arsenal to secure fourth place and with it qualification for the Champions League. At a time when the Gunners were having to find a way to pay for a new ground, that European revenue was invaluable.

Henry's final goal was a penalty, and after scoring it, he fell to his knees and kissed the Highbury turf. It was the perfect way to say goodbye.

                    

3. Nwankwo Kanu vs. Chelsea, October 23, 1999

23 Oct 1999:  Nwankwo Kanu and Thierry Henry (#14) of Arsenal celebrate Kanu's 90th minute winner during the FA Carling Premier League match against Chelsea played at Stamford Bridge, London. The game finished in 3-2 win for Arsenal.  \ Mandatory Credit:G
Graham Chadwick/Getty Images

One goal against Chelsea can instantly make an Arsenal player a fan favourite. Kanu's hat-trick, which turned the match on its head and brought the Gunners a stunning victory, made him a legend.

Looking back on his historic hat-trick, Kanu told the Mirror:

"Whenever everybody sees me and it is something to do with Chelsea, even the fans in Nigeria, they are always trying to curse me and say, 'Why did you score that goal?’

"But then the Arsenal fans are happy. They always remind Chelsea fans ‘Can you remember what Kanu did against your team?’

"You live with that. If you ask me the greatest goal I have ever scored, that is what I would say."

For any Arsenal fans there that day, it might well be the greatest goal they ever saw in the flesh.

                      

2. Dennis Bergkamp vs. Leicester City, August 27, 1997

27 Aug 1997:  Dennis Bergkamp of Arsenal beats Kasey Keller in the Leicester City goal to score the late equaliser in the FA Carling Premiership match at Filbert Street in Leicester, England. The game ended 3-3. \ Mandatory Credit: Mark Thompson /Allsport
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

There can't have been many hat-tricks scored that were technically quite as brilliant as the one Dennis Bergkamp produced against Leicester City.

He laid down a marker by curling a beautiful shot into the far top corner. Then he raced clear of the defence to clip a second over an advancing goalkeeper.

However, it was all about his incredible third goal. Bergkamp pulled a floated ball out of the sky, turned brilliantly inside Matt Elliott and lifted his shot into the top corner.

It was one of those classic Bergkamp moments that showcased imagination, intelligence and unreal ability—and has made this hat-trick particularly iconic for Arsenal fans and disciples of the Dutchman's brilliance.

                  

1.  Thierry Henry vs. Liverpool, April 4, 2004

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM:  Arsenal's French forward Thierry Henry celebrates his first goal setting up  hat trick against Liverpool during their premier league clash at Highbury in London, 09 April 2004. Arsenal won the match 4-2.       AFP PHOTO / ODD ANDE
ODD ANDERSEN/Getty Images

Some hat-tricks are significant because of the quality of certain goals. Alternatively, some are remembered because they played a crucial role in a team's season. This extraordinary hat-trick from Henry ticked both boxes.

When Arsenal faced Liverpool in April 2004, they had just been dumped out of the FA Cup and the Champions League. The treble they dreamed of had gone—and they were in danger of letting the Premier League slip away, too.

Henry was determined to stop that happening. His piece de resistance in this hat-trick was a breathtaking slalom through the Liverpool defence that left Jamie Carragher on his backside.

Henry scored nine hat-tricks in the course of his Arsenal career. This was among the best—and certainly the most important.

                     

James McNicholas is Bleacher Report's lead Arsenal correspondent and follows the club from a London base.