Recently a www.arsenal.com poll asked their readers to vote for the creation of the Gunners’ Greatest 50 Players List, and as fan voted lists go, it was pretty fair. But, of course, I couldn’t help but disagree.
How could any fan not?
So here are my top five Gunners and why agree or disagree with their rank on the official Arsenal list.
1. Tony Adams (3rd on the Arsenal list)
He is the god of Arsenal. The all-father of our pantheon.
Tony Adams, known to the Gunner faithful as 'Mr. Arsenal' spent “fourteen years as captain, [with] 669 appearances and 10 major trophies, including League titles in three different decades.” For Gunners in their thirties, Adams is Arsenal.
He is the face I think of when I think of Arsenal. I think of him before Wenger, before Henry, and before anyone who’s playing for the Gunners today.
Some would say he doesn't deserve top spot because of his personal life, but I think his humanity and failures, like his imprisonment and alcoholism, make him even more important as an Arsenal captain and hero.
Tony Adams never gave up. He overcame. And he bridged the gap from “boring, boring Arsenal” to Wenger’s beautiful game. He may not be Arsenal’s best player, but when everything about him is put together and considered he is the greatest. Absolutely.
2. Ian Wright (4th on the Arsenal list)
Any list like this is bound to prefer goal scorers over everyone else, and while that is something of a shame, it is also understandable. Goals are fun to watch. Goals win games. And no man scored more game winners for Arsenal than Ian Wright.
Sure, Theirry Henry scored more goals, and much more beautiful goals, but Ian Wright scored an incredible number of goals during the George Graham years when “One-nil to the Arsenal” was coined.
One hundred and eighty five goals for Arsenal is incredible at any time, but it is even more impressive at a time when Wright didn't receive the service that was possible in the Wenger years. Wright is, quite simply, Arsenal’s most impressive goal scorer.
3. Thierry Henry (1st on the Arsenal list)
Two hundred and twenty six Arsenal goals.
Henry didn’t just beat Ian Wright’s goal scoring record, he smashed it, and maybe that is what earned him a place above Ian Wright on the list.
It is an achievement that earns him an undeniable place in the pantheon of Arsenal greats, but looking at the goal scoring record, and the goal scoring record alone, ignores some important factors that should influence his final ranking.
First, Henry scored his goals while being fed chances by the “Invincibles” and their close relatives; it had to have been a lot easier than scoring from the half chances that were Wright’s bread and butter.
Second, there was Henry's unsuccessful stint as Arsenal captain, and that can’t be swept aside. It was his greatest challenge, but I feel he needed to pass if he was to truly deserve a higher place in the pantheon.
I'm not saying he isn't great. He is. And third place is a healthy position. I just don't think he can be considered the greatest.
4. Liam Brady (8th on the Arsenal list)
Quite simply, Liam Brady was the best midfielder Arsenal ever had. He made Arsenal punch above their weight at a time when Arsenal had no business playing as well as they did.
He made goals, he scored goals, he bossed the midfield and we loved him. I’d take Brady over Vieira, Fabregas, or anyone else you can name. If only he was playing today...
5. Cliff Bastin (18th on the Arsenal list)
If Ian Wright and Theirry Henry are in the top five based on their goal scoring record, then Cliff Bastin has to join them.
The man played outside left and scored 178 goals in 395 games in a career cut short by the war. It took nearly sixty years for his record to fall at the feet of Wrighty, and if that isn’t worth a place in the top five I don’t know what is.
Let’s not sweep him to 18th place simply because none of us saw him play. He is Arsenal’s history, and he deserves to be ahead of the vast number of Gunners on our all-time list.