This weekend is (as you probably know) Arsène Wenger’s 20th anniversary at Arsenal, so we’re continuing to reminisce about his two decades as Gunners boss. This time we decided to talk about the players; namely, which ones were the best? A few of us took a stab at crafting our best XI of Arsenal players since 1996, and as you might imagine, there was a little bit of overlap. Let’s get to it!
Aidan Gibson: Seaman, Sagna, Campbell, Koscielny, Cole; Cesc, Vieira; van Persie, Bergkamp, Pires; Henry
David Seaman is the most consistently good Arsenal keeper during Wenger's reign, and was part of two double winning teams, to go with an FA Cup. While he only won one trophy, Bacary Sagna was excellent for over 5 years as Arsenal's right back. The same can be said for Laurent Koscielny. Sol Campbell? He left Spurs, won the double and was invincible. Ashley Cole is better than any other Arsenal left back ever, don't @ me. Robin van Persie plays on the right because he can theoretically play there, and he's the second most in goals scored during Weng's reign after Henry. I love Mesut Ozil, but Dennis Bergkamp gets the nod because of longevity and silverware won.
FBJ0: Lehmann; Sagna, Kolo, Koscielny, Monreal; Gilberto Silva; van Persie, Cesc, Ozil, Alexis; Henry
I started following Arsenal in 2006 so I'm disqualifying every player I didn't watch live. I'm going with a 4-1-4-1 to fit all the attacking players I want in the XI. If Garth Crooks can do it, so can I.
Thomas Wachtel: Seaman; Sagna, Campbell, Koscielny, Cole; Vieira, Ramsey; Özil, Bergkamp, Henry, Pires
I have no idea really what formation this would be – some kind of 4-4-2, I think – but if I’m a defender, I certainly wouldn’t want to face them. I feel like it appropriately approximates the Arsène Wenger philosophy, where practically any player on the pitch can ruin the opposition starting from almost any location. The front four (five, really) can play almost interchangeably, and any of them can pop up out of nowhere. Aaron Ramsey might be a slight reach, but honestly I think his highs earn him a spot here (not to mention the fact he has more to go). He and Patrick Vieira can lend enough help to that back line to make sure they don’t have to show off too much, but I’m not too worried about them being able to handle what’s thrown their way. I mulled Cesc Fabregas over Mesut Özil, but then I remembered that this is for fun, and I like Mesut while Cesc is a bastard, so there we are. Imagine Mesut with those forwards to pass to, and just try to keep your pants on.
AlsoNamedPhil: Seaman; Bellerin, Campbell, Koscielny, Cole; Gilberto, Vieira; Bergkamp, Ozil, Pires; Henry
David Seaman would make this team for his facial hair/pony tail combo alone. He was also very, very good at his job. Hector Bellerin might be premature but, for me, he's already set to be one of Arsenal's best ever. Sol Campbell was a rock; Laurent Koscielny is a hard place - if the Invincibles had Kos, they'd have won even more games. Ashley Cole is an awful human but a brilliant left back. That he was so good is why his departure hurt. We've argued forever about the central midfield because Gilberto Silva - Patrick Vieira spoiled us rotten. My one weakness is naming Dennis Bergkamp and Mesut Ozil to trip over each others' bootlaces in attack...if having two excellent players on the pitch is a fault. Robert Pires was the perfect winger; I miss him. And if you leave the King off the pitch, you must have an axe to grind. There have been a lot of great strikers for Arsenal - none reach Thierry Henry's level for this club. (Near misses: Sagna, Parlour, Fabregas, Overmars, Anelka, van Persie.)
Travis King: Bergovic, Williams, Fellaini, Michu
bozz: Seaman; Sagna, Campbell, Adams, Cole; Vieira, Ramsey; Özil, Bergkamp, Henry, Pires
Yes, this is a weird XI with no ideal formation and yes, I left Cesc off because he's 100 percent dead to me even though he did more for this club than Ramsey. It's my XI, deal with it.
Paul DeBruler: Lukic, Adams, Parlour, Overmars, Ljungberg, Petit, Wright
Since Aidan pretty much named who I was going to name, I'm going to take a different tack and, since nobody's done this, name a subs bench.
Overmars and Ljungberg may not top anyone's "Arsenal Best Ever XI" lists, but without them Arsene Wenger wouldn't succeed. Same with Emmanuel Petit, who is the type of player I love - hard edged, but still insanely talented, and capable of doing insane amounts of work. Ian Wright is still, to this day, the funnest player I've ever watched (yes, funnest).
3k: Seaman, Dixon, Campbell, Adams, (this space intentionally left blank due to Ashley Cole being fully deserving of my scorn for eternity), Vieira, Özil, Pires, Fabregas, Bergkamp, Henry
David Seaman taught me about haberdashery before I knew enough to know enough. Dixon, Campbell and Tony A were automatic. Almost wanted to just leave three at the back and stack up midfield with a Ljungberg or Petit, but dedicating a spot to my unrelenting disgust for all things Ca$hley seemed only fair. Honestly, a statue of my hatred for Ashley Cole is probably worth considering at the Emirates. A statue of pure hate. Yes, please.
Vieira, easy. Mesut, easy. The rest of the midfield was tough, but Pires was so fun to watch. Even when he was just walking. If we were making Arsenal Player Walking Power Rankings (and TBH, we really should), Pires would be my #1. Cesc beat out the other options only because quite clearly he embodied "started from the bottom now we here."
Bergkamp and Henry were difficult to type in succession. So much power. So much finesse. So much Bergkamp and Henry.