2000-2009: A Decade of History Making for Arsenal FC
The old saying goes, "Time flies when you are having fun," and how the last decade has flown in North London.
The so called "noughties" has seen Arsenal transformed from a big-time player in England to one of Europe's biggest clubs.
This last decade has witnessed Arsenal win two Premier Leagues and three FA Cups.
Names that roll off the tongue like Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Marc Overmars, and Tony Adams graced the hallowed turf of Highbury before the new generation of Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, and Gael Clichy took up the mantel in the Emirates.
All the while the club stayed under the watchful eye of its longest serving manager Arsene Wenger.
Here we take a look at some of the biggest events at Arsenal during the last decade.
Although Wenger arrived in 1996, it was really the last decade that saw the rise of Arsenal's free-flowing, one touch, fast based style labeled "Wengerball."
As the old guard of Tony Adams, Martin Keown and Ray Parlour either retired or moved on, they were replaced by more technical players who professed beauty over brutality.
In came defenders like Kolo Toure, Ashley Cole and Lauren who were as adapt as attacking as they were defending.
They were joined by the speed of Marc Overmars, the wizardry of Robert Pires and guile of Thierry Henry.
A noted feature of "Wengerball" was how quick Arsenal could turn defence into attack without the need of route one football.
A common hobby for match commentators was to time how quick it took Arsenal to go from one end of the pitch to the other and score.
"Wengerball" was born and not only did it bring glory but also a batch of admirers as the "boring, boring Arsenal" tag began to disappear.
The Rise of Thierry Henry
Arsene Wenger has brought some great players to North London. They not only thrill the Arsenal faithful but football goers en-masse.
Emmanuel Petit, Marc Overmars, Patrick Vieira, Nicolas Anelka, Robin van Persie, Fredrik Ljungberg, Andrey Arshavin and Cesc Fabregas among others; however, one player stands head and shoulders above the rest—Thierry Henry.
Recently voted as Arsenal's best player of the last decade by fans, Henry arrived at Arsenal in 1999.
If one man epitomised Wengerball it was the No. 14.
Henry had speed, strength, and superb ability.
He was Arsenal's most potent threat, their captain, free-kick taker and penalty specialist.
In just 380 games for the club, Henry scored an astonishing 226 goals.
In 2003-2004, Henry scored 39 times as Arsenal went through an entire league campaign undefeated.
Many teams coveted Henry, and Barcelona finally got their man in 2007; however, there is little doubt that Arsenal got the best years of his career.
Wenger versus Ferguson
The Premier League was formed in its current guise in 1992 and since then has been dominated by one man and one team—Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United.
Many teams tried and failed down through the years to better Ferguson but couldn't. Only Blackburn in 1994/1995 put a dent in the Manchester march.
That was until 1997/1998 when Arsene Wenger lead Arsenal to the title in his first full season in charge.
Since then the Scot and Frenchman have been at loggerheads, a dual that dominated the first-half of the last decade.
There has been the clashes on the sideline, Vieira versus Keane and Pizzagate.
Wenger's finest moment over Ferguson came in 2001/2002 when a Sylvain Wiltord goal secured victory for Arsenal over United and thus the Premier League trophy.
Arsenal had won the league at Old Trafford.
The last few seasons has seen a cooling down of the tantrums with both men having a new found respect for each other. Many argue it is because Arsenal's challenge has weakened.
However, fans from both teams and in general would surely love to see one final race for the finish between two of the greatest coaches in world football.
"It's not impossible. I know it will be difficult for us to go through the season unbeaten. But if we keep the right attitude it's possible we can do it."
Wenger said it and the masses laughed.
Fast forward a few months and the laughs turned to admiration as Arsenal went through a full league campaign without losing a game and in total pick up points in 49 successive matches.
Played 49, Won 36, Drawn 13, Lost None between May '03 and October '04.
To put the icing on the cake, the League was won at White Hart Lane, home of bitter rivals Spurs.
Goodbye to Highbury
May 7, 2006 and Arsenal said goodbye with tears and laughter to Highbury.
Ninety-three years of ups and downs, of battles lost and won were embedded on the pitch.
Stories were told of those who played there in times past.
Of Bob Wilson towering in goal, Tony Adams wearing the captain's armband with pride, Liam Brady's left foot and Charlie George's celebrations.
Now it was time for a new chapter to be written in Arsenal history and for that a move was needed to a bigger, newer stadium.
On the final day, Arsenal once again got one over rivals Spurs as they snatched fourth place and a Champions League spot from their lasagna eating neighbors.
It was goodbye to the Clock End and North Bank Highbury.
Apartments stand there now but the marble halls remain. Highbury will always be home to The Arsenal.
Hello the Emirates
July 22, 2006 saw the opening of the next chapter in Arsenal's long history as The Emirates Stadium played host to its first game—Dennis Bergkamp's testimonial.
The purpose of the move was to generate more income for the club in terms of match day revenue. This has mainly been achieved through luxurious executive boxes and club level seating.
The architecture of ground is astonishing and one that any club would be proud of.
However, for some it is still not Highbury with many longing to go home.
Selling the ground's name to a company was also not well received although understood and all too often you will hear the ground referred to as "Ashburton Grove" or simple "The Grove."
Champions League Disappointment
One of the most heart-breaking moments for Arsenal in the last decade was the defeat to Barcelona in the 2006 Champions League decider.
Jens Lehmann became the first goalkeeper to be sent off in a final as Arsenal went on to lose 2-1.
Robert Pires made way for Manuel Almunia in what would be his last game for the Gunners. It was a sad end for a great servant.
Since then Arsenal have reached the quarter-finals where they were defeated by Liverpool and last year's semifinal where they were easily beaten by Manchester United.
2009/2010 holds hope for the Gunners with the talent of Cesc Fabregas, Thomas Vermaelen, William Gallas, Bacary Sagna and Andrey Arshavin pushing for Arsenal glory.
Wenger's defeat in the 2006 final gave him the unenviable distinction of being the only manager to reach three European finals and lose them all.
The New Generation
With the end of Highbury came the break-up of the "invincibles."
With finances tight due to the debt of the new ground, Wenger set about building a team based on youth and budget buys.
Players have often come in as a bargain and left for a great profit.
Emmanuel Adebayor arrived for £7million and was sold for £25million.
However, this money is not reinvested directly back into the squad in all occasions with Wenger preferring to promote from within.
Arsenal's current hopes rest on Cesc Fabregas, Andrey Arshavin, Robin van Persie, William Gallas, Thomas Vermaelen, Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri while the hope for the future is that Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere, Alex Song and Aaron Ramsey will continue their development.
The Battle for Ownership
Although largely owned by descendants of Gooners who have been involved with the club for decades, the noughties saw the boardroom engulfed by petty squabbles and change.
Long time servant and Wenger's right hand man David Dein left the club in 2007 over arguments over what direction the club should take.
He wanted Stan Kroenke onboard as a backer.
The rest didn't.
Dein promptly sold his shares to Alisher Usmanov's Red and White Holdings.
Kroenke is now the club's leading shareholder with Usmanov second.
2010 may well see one of the men as sole owner of North London's finest.
So What About the Next Decade?
Arsenal are a club on the cusp of great things; however, a wrong move and it all falls apart.
One envisions that Arsene Wenger will remain manager for the next few seasons although the onus is on him to win trophies.
Fans must hope that Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie stay true to their word of delivering silverware.
It is also imperative that the last five years of development are not a mistake and the young guns of Wilshere, Gibbs, Emmanuel-Thomas and Lansbury make their mark in an Arsenal shirt.
The time of transition must end. Its time to start filling the trophy room down at the grove.