With 13 top-flight titles, 13 FA Cups and two League Cups to their name, Arsenal are one of the most historic clubs in England. Here is a list of 10 of their greatest players of all time.
10. Charlie George
Born in Islington and an Arsenal supporter from a young age, George went on to star for the club he loved. After making the breakthrough in 1968, the forward appeared in 179 games in all competitions during his seven years at Highbury, a spell which brought a First Division title and FA Cup in the 1970/71 campaign.
George found the net 49 times in total, but he had a penchant for controversy as well as goalscoring: he was once punished for headbutting Kevin Keegan and swearing at Derby County fans in the same season. If anything, though, such episodes simply added to his image.
9. Robert Pires
Pires wasn’t universally popular with English fans when he first crossed the Channel in the year 2000. Criticised for alleged simulation and his opinion that Premier League football was excessively physical, the winger took a while to settle into his new environment.
Yet once he’d found his feet, there was no stopping the Frenchman. In 2001/02, his second season at the club, the former Marseille man lit up the division with his creativity, as 15 assists (not to mention nine goals) helped Arsenal to the title and Pires to the FWA Footballer of the Year award. He won another championship two years later as an integral part of Arsene Wenger’s historic Invincibles side.
8. Liam Brady
Born in Ireland, Brady nonetheless began his career at Arsenal in 1973 having joined the north London outfit at the age of 15. He became a regular in the first team three years later and was frequently a rare bright spot as Arsenal struggled in the First Division.
The club’s fortunes improved towards the end of the decade, with Terry Neill’s men reaching three consecutive FA Cup finals in 1978, 1979 and 1980. Only the middle of those three brought silverware – Brady played a key role in the build-up to Alan Sunderland’s memorable winner, which contributed to him winning the PFA Player of the Year prize – but the attacking midfielder was influential throughout the run.
7. David Seaman
Ranked sixth on the Gunners’ all-time appearance list, Seaman was a stalwart for the club throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. The goalkeeper immediately took the No.1 jersey after joining from Queens Park Rangers in a move which, at £1.3m, made him the most expensive British glovesman in history.
Seaman’s debut campaign was one of his best, as Arsenal conceded just 18 goals on the way to the league title. The FA Cup and League Cup followed in 1993 and the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1994, but the England custodian’s most successful years came under Arsene Wenger; with Seaman a safe pair of hands between the sticks, the Gunners won the Premier League in 1998 and 2002.
6. Cliff Bastin
The majority of living Arsenal fans won’t have seen Bastin play, but he nonetheless deserves his place in the top 10. After a single season with local side Exeter City, the outside left moved to Highbury in 1929 and made his final appearance for the club 18 years later (although his career was interrupted by the Second World War).
Bastin won five league titles and two FA Cups as Arsenal established themselves as the dominant force in English football in the 1930s. The 21-time England international’s record of 178 goals in Arsenal colours puts him in third place in the club’s all-time scorers list.
5. Ian Wright
Wright is one of the two men to have scored more goals for Arsenal than Cliff Bastin. Snapped up from Crystal Palace – who’d plucked the striker from non-league Greenwich Borough – in 1991, Wright hit the ground running with a hat-trick on his league debut against Southampton. Twenty-nine goals that year saw him win the Golden Boot, but Wright had to wait until 1993 for his first trophies at Highbury – an FA Cup and League Cup double.
The centre-forward finished as Arsenal’s top scorer for six successive seasons; although he was beaten to that particular gong by Dennis Bergkamp in his final campaign in 1997/98, Wright at least managed to collect his first ever Premier League winner’s medal before joining West Ham United.
4. Patrick Vieira
At a miserly fee of £3.5m, Vieira must go down as one of the biggest bargains in Premier League history. Arriving in 1996, not long before Arsene Wenger’s installation as manager, the Frenchman would go on to win three league titles and three FA Cups in his nine years at Highbury.
Vieira was the driving force behind each of those triumphs; the team’s undisputed leader, he was capable of winning any midfield battle through brains, brawn or brilliant ability. Fittingly, his last touch of the ball as an Arsenal player was the winning penalty in the 2005 FA Cup final shoot-out.
3. Dennis Bergkamp
Few players have helped change the image of an entire club to the extent that Bergkamp did at Arsenal. It wasn’t quite a single-handed endeavour, of course, but the Dutchman’s arrival in 1995 signalled the start of a new era for a team who’d previously been labelled “boring, boring Arsenal”.
Nicknamed “The Iceman” for his cool persona, composure on the ball and stunning technique, Bergkamp made Gunners fans’ jaws drop on a regular basis. There were more tangible examples of his talent, too, namely 120 goals and six major trophies.
2. Tony Adams
A one-club man, Adams first joined Arsenal as a 13-year-old in 1980 and ended up spending over two decades on the books. He made his senior bow in the 1983/84 campaign and gradually became a more prominent member of the side in subsequent seasons; by 1986/87, the central defender was firmly established as part of the first XI.
Adams’ maiden trophy arrived in the form of the League Cup that season, with the England international going on to win four top-tier titles, three FA Cups and the Cup Winners’ Cup as captain of the club. A battle with alcoholism threatened to derail his career, but Adams ultimately won the fight and continues to do excellent work to help other sportspeople struggling with addiction.
1. Thierry Henry
To many, Henry is the greatest foreign player to have ever plied his trade in England. The Frenchman’s Arsenal career actually got off to a mixed start in 1999/00, but there was no stopping him once he’d settled in.
Even citing his incredible return of 226 goals in 369 games – enough to propel him to the top of the Gunners’ all-time chart – doesn’t do justice to the impact Henry had on the Premier League. A truly world-class footballer, the future Barcelona star inspired Arsenal to two championships and three FA Cups during his time at the club.
By Greg Lea
Greg Lea is a freelance football writer for FourFourTwo, The Blizzard and various others. Follow his Twitter account @GregLeaFootball for anything and everything related to soccer and more.