Arsenal is one of the most successful clubs in the history of English football. Founded in 1886, Arsenal has celebrated its 125th anniversary this year (2011). Over the years, many great players played and brought success for the club including all the major titles of English football. Making a ‘top ten list’ for Arsenal players of all time is not an easy task, given the club has many legends in its history. The list given below is totally based on my personal choices and I hope you will enjoy it. You can, however, share your opinions in the comment section.
An exceptional goal scorer, Thierry Henry is arguably the best Arsenal player of all time. Since his £11 million move from Juventus in 1999, he was the top scorer of Arsenal for almost every season during his Arsenal career which saw him breaking almost all the scoring records for the club including Arsenal’s all time leading scorer with 226 goals in all competitions. The Frenchman’s eight-year Arsenal stint is decorated with two Premier League and three FA Cup titles. He also led the club to the final of UEFA Champions League in 2005-06, though Arsenal lost the match to Barcelona.
Henry was known for his speed, calmness, shrewdness, shooting accuracy and ability to score on one-on-one situations. Moreover, his experience of playing as a winger at Monaco and Juventus brought diversity in his game and helped him make a lot of assists. During his time at Arsenal, he finished four seasons as Premier League top scorer and two seasons as European top scorer, including the ‘invincible season’ of 2003-04. Henry was also nominated for FIFA World Player of the Year award twice while playing for Arsenal.
A one-club man, Tony Adams is undoubtedly one of the best players and arguably the best defenders in the history Arsenal. The former England international’s club career, spanning 22 years, started and ended at Arsenal where he played under two great managers; first under George Graham and then Wenger. He along with fellow central defender Steve Bould made Arsenal defense rock solid and laid the foundation of many success stories.
A great captain, Adams led Arsenal for 14 years. Interestingly, all the titles he won with Arsenal including four league titles, three FA Cup, two League Cup, a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and three Charity Shield titles came under his captainship. He was included in the PFA Team of the Year on three occasions and made it to the Premier League team of the decade (1992-93 – 2001-02). On 10 December 2011, Tony Adam’s statue was unveiled alongside the statues of Thierry Henry and Herbert Chapman at the Emirates Stadium, as the club celebrated its 125th anniversary.
Known for his exceptional tactical skill and defense defying passes, rather than scoring rate, Bergkamp had never fallen into the category of a traditional striker or forward. Rather, his role was to fill in the ‘hole’ or was that of a traditional inside forward’s at Arsenal. Still, he had immense contribution to Arsenal’s successes during his 11-year stint at the club. The Dutchman’s supporting role for the out-an-out strikers like Ian Wright and Thierry Henry made him the brightest modern proponent of hole or second striker’s position.
Bergkamp won three Premier League, four FA Cup and three Community Shield titles with Arsenal and scored 120 goals in 423 matches in all competitions. His assists, however, were no less significant than his goals as far as impact on team’s success is concerned. On two occasions, he was one of the three nominees for FIFA World Player of the Year award.
Ian Wright is one of the best goalscorers ever played for Arsenal. He started scoring immediately after joining Arsenal from Crystal Palace for the then club record £2.5 million in September 1991. He bagged a hat-trick in his league debut against Southampton and eventually won the Premier League golden boot with 29 goals that season.
By the time Wright left Arsenal in 1998, he became the leading scorer for the club with 185 goals in 288 appearances in all competition, surpassing Cliff Bastin’s long-standing record of 178 goals. Currently, he is the second highest scorer for Arsenal, just behind Henry. The former England international won a Premier League, two FA Cup, a League Cup and a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup titles during his seven-year stay at the North London club.
Vieira is one of the most versatile players ever played for Arsenal. The Frenchman was one of the early signings of Wenger and later on was proved to be one of the best signings of the French manager. During his nine years at the club, Vieira was part of one of the most successful periods in the history of Arsenal during which he won three Premier League titles including the unbeaten ‘invincible season’, four FA Cup and four Community Shield titles.
A well-built defensive midfielder, Patrick Vieira was an imposing figure in the Arsenal midfield during his time at the club. He was well-known for ball distribution, retaining and holding possession, and tactical skills. He made it to the overall team of the decade for the Premier League 10 Seasons Awards (1992-93 – 2001-02) and was included in the PFA Team of the Year for six successive seasons.
The best goalkeeper ever played for Arsenal, David Seaman is also one of the most decorated players in the history of the club in terms of winning titles. During his 13-year stint at the North London side, Seaman won three Premier League, four FA Cup, a League Cup, a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, and three Community Shield titles.
Since joining Arsenal for £1.3 million (the then British record for a goalkeeper) in 1990, he almost always remained the number one choice in his role for his managers including George Graham and Arsene Wenger, winning titles under both of them. Seaman was chosen for the PFA Team of the Year award in 1997 and was included in the domestic team of the decade for the Premier League 10 Seasons awards (1992-2002) where he was also recognized as the goalkeeper with most clean sheets with 130 clean sheets.
Cliff Bastin is perhaps the only star player who enjoyed and immensely contributed to all the early successes of Arsenal under the legendary manager Herbert Chapman. He played a significant role in Arsenal’s five League titles and two FA Cup titles in 30’s. With his versatility, he formed a lethal partnership with another great Ted Drake in attack and helped Arsenal dominate the English football for the entire decade preceding the World War II.
A remarkable scorer, Bastin joined Arsenal from Exeter City in 1929 at the age of 17, and by the time he turned 19, he became the youngest ever player to have won a league title, a FA Cup title and appeared for England national team. Known for his extraordinary calmness and shooting accuracy, Bastin retired as Arsenal’s leading scorer with 178 goals in 396 matches, a record eclipsed so far only by Wright and Henry.
Ted Drake was perhaps the first super star of Arsenal. He alongside Cliff Bastin essayed the early glory years of the club under the iconic manager Chapman. Signed from Southampton in 1934 for £6,500, the center forward started to score from his league debut against Wolves, and by the time he announced his retirement as an Arsenal player, Drake was just second to Bastin in terms of scoring with 139 goals in 184 appearances in all competitions. Today, he is Arsenal’s fifth highest scorer of all time.
In his second season at Arsenal (1934-35), Drake scored club-record 42 goals in 41 league games, clinching 3 hat-tricks and 4 four-goal hauls, and thus, winning the first of his two league titles with Arsenal. His 7 goals in a league match against Aston Villa in 1935-36 is still a record in English football. Well known for his speed and shooting capabilities, Drake was the top scorer for five consecutive seasons for Arsenal before the outbreak of World War II.
The former Ireland international is one of the best left-footed players, if not the best, in the history of Arsenal football club. His Arsenal career may not be decorated with many titles as he won just one FA Cup title (in 1979) with the North London side, but his immense skill, excellent passing, and close controlling of the ball made him a fan favorite.
Coming through the youth ranks, Brady’s creativity in the midfield helped Arsenal reach the FA Cup finals in three years in a row (in 1978, 1979 and 1980). In 1979, the year Arsenal won the FA Cup, he was awarded the PFA Player of the Year award for his outstanding display, and thus, becoming the first ever player outside Britain to receive this award. Brady also became Arsenal’s player of the year on three occasions, before making a £500,000 move to Juventus in 1980.
Like Brady, Charlie George also came through Arsenal’s youth ranks and eventually made it big at the top flight football. He also did not win a lot of titles, but his contribution to the club’s success during his seven-year stint with Arsenal’s senior side is the reason he earned a place in this list.
The London-born striker’s best performance came in 1970-71 season when his spectacular performance guided Arsenal to their first ever domestic double. George scored a superb winner from 20 yeards in the 1971 FA Cup final against Liverpool, having also scored in the 4th, 5th and 6th rounds of the tournament. Despite being injured for five months, he played an important role in Arsenal’s league success, scoring 5 goals in 17 league matches.
Overall, Charlie George scored 49 goals in 179 appearances in all competitions. He was also part of Arsenal’s Inter-Cities Fairs Cup winning team of 1970.
Some notable omissions: David O'Leary, Robert Pires, Marc Overmars, Freddie Ljungberg, Steve Bould, Pat Rice, Alex James, Bob Wilson, Pat Jennings, Jimmy Brian, David Jack, George Armstrong, David Rocastle, George Graham, Jimmy Logie, Ray Parlour, Douglas Lishman, Kenny Sansom, Sammy Nelson, Jack Kelsey.