Arsenal FC: The 10 Most Popular Players in Club History
Every once in a while, a player comes along who really captivates and enraptures you like no other. A true hero idolized during their entire playing career and for years afterward. These are the footballers who give us a genuine love for the game.
And at a club like Arsenal, with so much history and tradition, there have been quite a few of these heroes who have come through the doors of Highbury and the Emirates (but mostly Highbury), and many at the same time.
These are the legends, the cult heroes, the players with the biggest and most unforgettable personalities.
Whether they are remembered for a career of excellence and loyalty or just that fleeting moment of sheer brilliance on the grandest stage, they are forever etched in the minds of the Gooners who had the good fortune to witness their exploits.
Here is a list of 5 of those iconic men. I could have provided more, in truth, but time was unfortunately a prohibitive factor. If you have any suggestions, feedback or stories, I'd love to see them in the comments.
Clive Mason/Getty Images
Arsenal's greatest goalkeeper in their history was a unique man and one of the greatest goalkeeping talents of his era.
With a ponytail and later a gut, Seaman reached the peak of his career during a 13-year stretch at Arsenal that saw him win three league championships and four FA Cups from 1990 to 2003.
He established a reputation for being a penalty-saving specialist, and he had a penchant for pulling off incredible saves, even as his mobility decreased later in his career.
Seaman was the rock behind the fabled back four of Dixon, Adams, Keown and Winterburn, and when opponents somehow managed to breach that back four, they were almost sure to be stopped by the incredible Seaman.
Arsenal have never quite replaced their ponytailed shot-stopper, although there is hope that Wojciech Szczesny can assume the mantle vacated by Seaman.
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Culminating in the lifting of the 2005 FA Cup trophy, Vieira, a French maestro and born leader, played a major role in lifting Arsenal to new heights under Arsene Wenger.
Indeed, Wenger so admired the lanky Vieira that he made it a condition of his arrival that his compatriot be bought from A.C. Milan. One of Wenger's best, if not his very best values in the transfer market, Vieira was to become the leader and linchpin of the midfield for years.
It was Vieira's signature combination of size, strength, tenacity and technique that made him so great and endeared him so much to supporters.
His pugnacious attitude in battling Roy Keane on and off the pitch certainly helped, too, and created one of the best rivalries in world football in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
"Don't worry, it's only Ray Parlour." Those were the words of one of the most infamous calls in recent memory.
Tim Lovejoy uttered these very words just before Parlour launched a 30-yard screamer that put Arsenal ahead in the 2002 FA Cup Final, which would turn out to be the last hurrah for many Arsenal greats.
But it was a 12-year career filled with 339 league appearances that has made him a club legend, and his incredible stamina and devotion to the cause gave him consistent places in the Arsenal team despite the fact that he was not the most naturally talented player on the pitch.
That memorable goal against Chelsea nine years ago merely served as the exclamation point towards the end of the career of a fan-favorite.
A true character if there ever was one, Ljungberg, his many hair styles, and Calvin Klein advertisements brought that lighthearted excitement to Arsenal like few other players could.
The obscure signing first made a name for himself when replacing an injured Robert Pires, and he quickly showed his quality with a series of sublime finishes and extremely clever play.
It was Ljungberg who sealed Arsenal's aforementioned 2002 FA Cup Final with one of his signature goals, and after the game, he made Gooners love him even more when he was asked how the victory felt by a Sky Sports reporter. His reply? "It's f****n excellent."
Indeed it was.
Michael Steele/Getty Images
One of the greatest man-markers of his generation, Keown blended a superb knowledge of the game with brute force and strength to become a fantastic all-around defender.
Together, he and Tony Adams formed the meanest central defensive pairing of their time, and they were instrumental in Arsenal's success during the period in which they played.
As with so many players on this list, Keown will be forever remembered and revered for his heart and the manner in which he played the game.
Luckily for Arsenal fans, they were treated to watching Keown man the back line over 300 times.
Ah, Cesc Fabregas. Even if you're still bitter about the prolonged transfer saga to Barcelona, you have to admit that he was one of the best talents to ever grace Highbury or the Emirates.
Unfortunately, Arsenal supporters were not treated to what would have been a truly spectacular career of greatness from the incredibly talented young Spaniard. But what we did see was spectacular.
There were spectacular goals, like his stunner against Spurs, and sublime passes, the likes of which had never been seen at Arsenal before. Such was the kid's talent that Arsene Wenger sold Vieira, his captain and leader, to build his new team around this amazing youth.
His Arsenal career may have been tragically cut short, but the quality he brought to the team and the sheer joy he brought to the fans makes him a club legend.
Getty Images/Getty Images
Such was the nature of Liam Brady's incredible talent and the degree to which he was beloved among Arsenal fans of the 1970s that his transfer to Juventus brought about almost universal depression.
Those who saw him play have sworn there was magic in his left foot. He could place a pinpoint cross anywhere he wanted to, and could stroke a pass or shot like no other in his era.
Another story of what could have been had he stayed at Arsenal for more of his career, Brady brought a generation of Irish fans to Arsenal and was the first Gunner to play truly beautiful football.
Where does one begin? 226 goals in 370 games in eight years of dedicated service to the club, collecting nearly every honor there was to win.
Time after time, Henry used his blistering pace and superb skill to slice open defences by himself and coolly slot home the finish. Henry was the one-man counterattack, and he could do even more incredible things when set up by his teammates.
When on form, there was simply no stopping the Frenchman, who was Arsenal's greatest player in their illustrious history. You don't hold the all-time scoring record at a club like Arsenal and surpass one of the greatest scorers in English history—Ian Wright—without an immense amount of skill and durability.
The extremely warm reception he received when returning to the Emirates Stadium during the Emirates Cup despite having been gone for four years just goes to show the level of appreciation that Arsenal fans have for the talents of such an incredible player.
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Arsenal's non-flying Dutchman stunned with his amazing technical skill and finishing ability, scoring some of the greatest goals ever while acting as the perfect second striker and No. 10.
Arriving under the short-lived management of Bruce Rioch, Bergkamp spent eleven stunning years at Arsenal before finally retiring in 2006.
His relationship with Thierry Henry was almost telepathic, and their understanding allowed each to score the goals that would lead Arsenal to so much success during the first half of Arsene Wenger's reign at Arsenal.
An extremely classy individual as well, it is clear why Arsenal have wanted him to join in some coaching capacity. If nothing else, getting to see their old hero again would be a treat. Maybe he could even have some fun lobbing Wojciech Szczesny on the training ground.
Ben Radford/Getty Images
Who could Arsenal fans love more than Mr. Arsenal himself, Tony Adams?
In over 500 appearances spread over an astounding 19 years as a one-club man, Adams cemented himself as one of the greatest leaders the game has ever seen, and he is the only player in English football history ever to captain his team to a title in three decades.
Adams was not a technically gifted player at all but would give anything his body would let him to support the cause, and he would grab his men by the neck in order to convey a message. His position was so unique that the likes of Keown could only compete for a place beside him, not for his actual position.
Arsenal could no doubt benefit greatly from having a tenacious leader like Adams in the team today solidifying the back line and keeping opponents at a healthy level of fear.
Adams was not merely a legend, though—he personified the club itself.