Arsenal FC have been blessed with some of the finest players British football has ever seen. The history of the club is as rich and varied as any, and for a club who have not been demoted from the top flight in over 90 years, they have a long history of success.
From Herbert Chapman and his revolutionary W-M formation, led by maestros Cliff Bastin and Alex James, and boasting David Jack, and Eddie Hapgood, to the 1953 team of Joe Mercer, the Compton brothers and Jimmy Logie.
Then there are the double winners of 1971, Mclintock, George, Radford, Graham and Armstrong, followed by the days of manager George Graham, Tony Adams, Alan Smith, Paul Merson, David Rocastle and Steve Bould.
Finally, on to Wenger, perhaps the finest period in the club's history, consistent success mixed with players of wonderful entertainment value and ability.
Players such as Dennis Bergkamp, Marc Overmars, Emmanuel Petit, Patrick Vieira, Sol Campbell, Ashley Cole, Thierry Henry and lately Cesc Fabregas, Robin Van Persie and Gael Clichy will go down as some of the finest in the club's history.
Here we take a look at some of the legends of the club as we build a composite all-time eleven of Arsenal FC.
Not the most successful Arsenal goalkeeper, or perhaps the most popular, but Jennings deserves to be remembered as the best.
In the pantheon of great British goalkeepers, Jennings can probably sit at the top table and deservedly so. Athletic, with huge "panhandle" hands, he was capable of the utterly brilliant.
Despite being written off by Tottenham at the age of 32, and sold for a mere £40,000 to Arsenal, he went onto play over 300 games for Arsenal and featured at the 1986 World Cup for his country at the age of 40.
Tottenham manager Keith Burkinshaw later admitted selling Jennings was the biggest mistake he ever made, further cementing his place as one of the Arsenal greats.
If Steve Bruce is considered to be the finest defender never to play for England, then Dixon has to be one of the finest not to play regularly.
Quality, longevity, and perhaps one of the finest practitioners of the subtle arts of being a full back, Dixon was a bridge between the old Arsenal of George Graham and the new era Arsene Wenger ushered in.
And all the while he was a consistent, dependable pro, and a key member of that famous “back four”. Dixon was not afraid to get forward and attack himself, and before the arrival of Ian Wright was a prolific first choice penalty kicker.
One of the most successful Arsenal players of all-time, Dixon will also go down in history as one of the club's best.
In truth, if you are to have one full-back from that wonderfully effective “back four” it seems unduly cruel to leave out the other.
Winterburn was very much the ying to Dixon's yang, but they complimented each other superbly. Winterburn was perhaps the better defender, while Dixon was more adept at getting forward; Dixon more proficient technically, while Winterburn was perhaps more brutally effective.
Winterburn was himself, unlucky not to feature more for England, though he did have the considerable Stuart Pearce constantly barring his path. For Arsenal there were few better.
A legend in a team full of them, Frank McLintock's place in Arsenal history was assured in that glorious year of 1971.
As a captain of the side, he led the team to double triumph, both with assured leadership and doughty defensive work.
For a converted central midfielder, he had grown impeccably into the role after years of hard work, and was widely recognized as one of the finest center halfs in Britain-at a time when there were plenty to choose from.
McLintock will be remembered, for his leadership, never say die attitude, and his bloody mindedness, as one of the best Arsenal have ever had.
As so often he was throughout his Arsenal and England career, Tony Adams would be the first man on this team-sheet, and captain too. To sum Adams up is to look beyond his qualities as a footballer and examine the very soul of the man.
He had his problems, well documented as they are, yet for all his indiscretions, the fact is this man came back from what could have destroyed many players and became one of the greatest defenders ever for either club or country.
Watching him on the field was to watch a real leader of men, he was huge both in build and stature, capable of dominating opponents and leading his team.
He was for years the figurehead of Arsenal through the Graham era, where his defensive ability came to the fore in a pragmatic team. Yet with the arrival of Arsene Wenger, a long underrated footballing ability was nurtured and encouraged.
The defining image of the '97—'98 double winning campaign will forever be the sight of Adams galloping to hammer home the final goal to seal the title. It was a moment for Arsenal fans, both young and old, to remember for the rest of their lives.
Cliff Bastin's goal-scoring record stood for over half a century, but he meant more to Arsenal than as simply a scorer.
He played on the left-wing, and was the main beneficiary of the playmaking elan of Alex James, boasting a wonderful awareness and coolness under pressure which turned him into a goal-scorer supreme.
Tom Whittaker, Arsenal's assistant manager at the time once said of him: “Coupled with his sincerity and loyalty to his bosses, he had a trait few of us are blessed with—that is, he had an ice-cold temperament.”
His annus mirabilis came in the 1932-33 season, where he scored 33 goals, a league record for a winger.
But he remained a key component of the team's success throughout the Chapman and Allison years, and despite surviving to play post—World War II he was forced to retire after 16 years, 396 games and 179 goals for the club.
Admittedly, Pires should be featured on the left wing, for it was there where he did all his damage and it was there where he, working in harmony with Ashley Cole, Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp, he helped turn right back into a place where defenders feared to tread.
His statistics are remarkable and earn him a place on any Arsenal team.
84 goals in 284 appearances for the club as a winger, yet this only tells half the story.
His goals were often sumptuous finishes, his bursts into the box were intelligently timed and often deadly.
He was an outstandingly cerebral artisan in a team packed full of them, but he was a true great for Arsenal, and a key component of their success under Arsene Wenger.
n his prime, Vieira was the ultimate combination of football ability and physical prowess.
Tall, strong and immensely powerful, he could seemingly stride through any tackle, any challenge. Yet, he was a fantastic player, a dominant tackler, a fine passer and was capable of timing his runs to perfection.
He was in many ways the quintessential Arsene Wenger player: a bargain at four million pounds, capable of beautiful football and great success.
When Tony Adams retired, Vieira was the natural successor, having been heavily influenced by the defender's leadership, and he carried on where Adams left off—winning the league and clinching the FA Cup, fittingly with his final kick at the club.
Few Arsenal players have been so utterly awe—inspiring as Liam Brady, few remain as popular now as they ever were as a player, and few were so utterly brilliant.
I could define him, but instead I will leave it to Nick Hornby, Arsenal fan and writer par excellence, who in his brilliant book Fever Pitch wrote of Brady: “I worshipped him because he was great, and I worshipped him because, in the parlance, if you cut him he would bleed Arsenal.”
Brady truly was a great, in the short-time he was with Arsenal, he inspired a generation of Arsenal fans. In an era where Arsenal were unfashionable Brady made them fashionable.
His poise, touch, and technique would be at home in any era, he was that good—little wonder he was one of the few players from these Isles to succeed abroad.
Now a coach at the club, working wonders to develop the next group of stars, Brady deserves every compliment that comes his way, he is a true Arsenal legend.
It's deeply ironic given what has already occurred this week to mention Thierry Henry for the great things he did at Arsenal, but then remembering the good things is as true in sport as it is in life, and we should always remember Henry for what he did for Arsenal.
When he arrived he had plenty to prove, much to learn, and was charged with replacing Nicolas Anelka-a prolific young striker himself.
He left Arsenal, a legend.
The club's record all-time goal scorer, with 226 goals, his back catalogue of goals scored from every conceivable angle, every conceivable manner, nothing seemed beyond him. Greatness seemingly came week after week.
The pace was frightening, the power even more frightening, English football had never seen anything like him before, and it probably never will again.
Has a more outrageously talented player ever played in the Premier League? Or, perhaps even more blasphemously, has a more talented individual ever emerged from Holland?
You get some measure of the type of company Dennis Bergkamp deserves to be mentioned with. Arsene Wenger once said of him: “A great player is one who makes his team win. Anything else is just talk.” Bergkamp did that, and then some.
He was not just great himself, he made his teammates great: the first touch, the 360 degree vision, the perceptiveness of his mind and his ability to deliver the perfect pass, weighted to perfection, were as much a part of his craft as his own ability to score.
And yes, he could score. With chips, flicks, power, precision, Bergkamp's back catalogue contains them all.
His time at Arsenal was arguably the greatest, most successful period in the club's history, and his role in that success should never be forgotten.
After years of diligent service, and years of brilliant service, for a time Seaman was one of the world's great goalkeepers. He is rightly remembered as one of the greatest ever to play for both England and Arsenal.
Capable of taking your breath away with his shot stopping, and remarkably consistent, he was a wonderful servant for Arsenal.
In truth I agonized over this choice most.
Arsenal has had some great center halfs down the years and while Steve Bould, David O'Leary and Sol Campbell pushed him close, Keown, as he did throughout his career, beat them to it.
One of the finest man markers in the world, a true competitor, and a man whose histrionics hid a deeply perceptive football mind. Keown outlasted his colleagues in the famous "back five" to play a part in the famous Invincibles team of '03—'04.
Five hundred games for the club, a double winner, and a constant, never-say-die competitor, George Armstrong is quite rightly remembered as one of the greatest midfielders to ever play for the club.
Unlucky not to feature for England, inhibited by Alf Ramsey's policy of not playing wingers, his later years were spent coaching Arsenal youth teams, and he is still sorely missed years after his death.
A new generation of Arsenal fans may only know Pat Rice as the bawling presence sat next to the cool, calm persona of Arsene Wenger, yet this ignores his qualities as a player.
A Northern Irish international fullback, who came over to the side as a youngster, and went on to spend the next decade as part of the furniture, he was, and still is, a vital component to Arsenal Football Club.
This wouldn't be an all—time Arsenal team without Alex James. It would be practically heretical to not include him.
James was the brains behind the great team Herbert Chapman built, his motto was “let the ball do the work” and it was with the ball that his genius lay.
Bernard Joy, a former Arsenal player turned journalist called him: 'the most intelligent player I played with.....On the field he had the knack of thinking two or three moves ahead. He turned many a game by shrewd positioning near his own penalty area and the sudden use of a telling pass into the opponents penalty area.”
Had this piece been written ten years ago, Wright would be a sure thing in the starting line up.
Arsenal has scarcely had a striker so prolific, so capable in front of goal.
When he broke Bastin's goal-scoring record, it appeared set to stand the test of time, before a certain Frenchman came into town.
Some may argue that his all—round game diminished his effectiveness at the highest level, but his goalscoring prowess meant that for a time he was Arsenal's greatest hope, and one of their finest players ever.
This is as much a sentimental pick as any of these, but it is rich sentiment indeed.
For ability, he had it in spades—the ability to beat his man with ease, a rocket of a shot, and a streak which ran a fine line between genius and madness which made him thrillingly entertaining.
Brian Glanville, the doyen of football writers once wrote of him: “His height, his powerful physique, the delicacy of touch so astonishing in one so large. To see him receive a ball amidst a ruck of defenders and escape them with the skill of a Houdini is delightful.”
This was a man who revolutionized English football much like his one true competitor as Arsenal's finest manager, Herbert Chapman did before him.
Wenger ushered in an era where the football at Arsenal became entertaining after years of “boring, boring Arsenal”.
But that tells only half the story.
What the Premier League is now is due to the changes Wenger wrought: in attitude, in preparation, in play.
He will be remembered as English football's first great foreign manager, but more than that he will be remembered as one of the greats, and Arsenal's greatest.