Continuing our Summer series of articles in search of Arsenal’s greatest ever team, this week we continue our quest for the greatest midfielders to include in our team. Don’t forget to take the opportunity to choose your personal favourite midfielder by voting in the poll at the end of the week.
14. Paul Davis: 1978-1995.
Paul appeared in 447 matches over a 17 year period.
Born in Dulwich, London, Paul signed for Arsenal as an apprentice in 1977 and turned professional the following year, he made his debut in 1980 in a North London derby against Tottenham Hotspur, and within a year he was a regular in the Arsenal side, as well as a member of the England U21 team.
He was a key member of the successful Arsenal side of the late 1980s, winning the League Cup in 1987 and the First Division in 1989 and 1991. Paul will arguably be best remembered for an incident in 1988 when, during a match, he punched Southampton player Glenn Cockerill in the jaw. Cockerill’s jaw was broken and following the FA’s analysis of TV footage he was given a then unprecedented 9-match ban and £3,000 fine.
In spite of a disagreement with Manager George Graham he still appeared 447 times for Arsenal, scoring 37 goals. Paul played in both the League Cup and FA Cup finals wins in 1993 as Arsenal chalked up their Cup Double. He also featured in Arsenal’s Cup Winners’ Cup win against Parma F.C the following year.
Paul was released by Arsenal on a free transfer in the summer of 1995. After leaving Arsenal, he briefly joined Norwegian side Stabæk Fotball in 1995 and flopped. He returned to London to join Brentford signing on a free transfer in September 1995, but he retired within a year after just five appearances for the Griffin Park side. He returned to Arsenal to become a youth coach in 1996, before leaving the club in 2003.
In September 2003 he joined The Professional Footballers’ Association coaching department. On 27 October 2005, he was invited to become assistant manager of Kettering Town F.C. by new manager Paul Gascoigne, he left Kettering at the same time as Gascoigne’s departure from the club on 5 December 2005, but continues to work for the Professional Footballer’s Association coaching department. He has studied and gained the FA and Pro UEFA Coaching awards, the highest coaching award in the U.K. along with his UEFA ‘A’ Licence and the FA Diploma in Football Management from Warwick University, as well as his coach educators awards. Paul is now a senior coach/coach educator for the organisation and he is also an ambassador for the ‘Kick It Out’ and ‘Show Racism the Red Card organisations’.
15. Ray Parlour: 1988-2004.
Ray appeared in 466 matches over a 16 year period.
Born in Barking, London, Ray is most famous for his time at Arsenal, where he played for 14 years. He joined Arsenal as a trainee in 1989, and made his debut for the Gunners against Liverpool in 1992. He was only used sporadically in his initial few years, and was more noted for his disciplinary problems; however he made 12 appearances for the England U21 team during this time.
His breakthrough came in 1994–95, when he played in Arsenal’s European Cup Winners’ Cup final loss to Real Zaragoza. However, his real development, as a player, only came to fruition after the arrival of Arsène Wenger as manager in 1996; he became a regular fixture playing on the right wing or in central midfield for Arsenal. In 1997–98 Arsenal won the Double and Ray proved to be instrumental; he was man-of-the-match in the Gunners’ FA Cup Final win over Newcastle United, that season, where he set up Nicolas Anelka for Arsenal’s second goal in a 2–0 win. He continued to enjoy success with Arsenal for another four years but generally received little acclaim in the media compared with many of his more illustrious Arsenal team-mates, especially as he was almost constantly living in the shadow of Patrick Vieira.
In March 2000, he hit a hat trick in a 4–2 away win at Werder Bremen in a UEFA Cup quarter final tie. Seven months later, he followed it up with another hat trick in a 5–0 demolition of Newcastle United at Highbury. In April 2001, he struck a spectacular 30-yard winner as Arsenal beat Valencia 2–1 in the UEFA Champions’ League Quarter Final 1st leg tie at Highbury. One of the crowning moments of his career was his goal from 30 yards in the 2002 FA Cup Final against Chelsea, which Arsenal won 2-0. Another one of Ray’s finest moments in Arsenal colours came in November 2003, when as stand-in captain, he led Arsenal to a famous 5–1 win against Internazionale at San Siro. Performances like these have led many Arsenal fans to believe that he was one of the most underrated players at the club, and of his generation
In total, with Arsenal, Ray won three FA Premier League titles, four FA Cups, (which included two Doubles) one League Cup and one European Cup Winner’s Cup.
During his Arsenal career he was nicknamed “The Romford Pelé”; although the nickname was given with an ironic sense of humour, on account of his solid performance but unglamorous image.
He moved to Middlesbrough in mid-2004, (but he still has remained a fans’ favourite at Arsenal and was recently named the 19th greatest player in the club’s history), he played 60 games for Boro in two and a half years but he was released from his contract in January 2007.
For a brief period he trained with Arsenal in order to regain fitness with a view to finding a new club. On 9 February 2007, he signed for Hull City until the end of the 2006–07 season. After helping City avoid relegation, it was confirmed on 1 June that he was not offered a new contract and this meant he was released.
He made his England debut as a substitute in a Euro 2000 qualifier against Poland on March 27, 1999. He won ten caps for England but did not score any goals.
Ray emerged as one of the most influential players for The England Legends, a 16-man squad of former internationals who have played Italy, Germany, Scotland, Ireland and The Rest of The World.
16. Patrick Vieira: 1996-2005.
Patrick appeared in 406 matches over a 9 year period.
Born in Dakar, Senegal, his family moved to Dreux, France, when he was eight. He first played for AS Cannes, where he made his debut at the age of 17 and captained the team aged just 19.] In the summer of 1995, he was signed by the Italian team Milan, though he played mainly in the reserves and made only two first-team appearances.
In August 1996, he joined Arsenal, in a £3.5 million move, Patrick later revealed he signed for Arsenal because his compatriot Arsène Wenger was going to be the club’s next manager; Arsene was officially manager of Arsenal by the start of October. His performances for Arsenal in the subsequent months made him a fans’ favourite. He ended his first season with 38 appearances in total and Arsenal finished in third place, missing out on a spot in the UEFA Champions League via goal difference. His partnership with French international team-mate Emmanuel Petit the following season was instrumental in helping Arsenal complete a domestic league and cup double. After a successful 1998 World Cup campaign with the national team, Patrick had another productive season at Arsenal in 1998–99. Although Arsenal failed to retain the Premier League, Vieira’s endeavour was rewarded as he was named in the PFA Team of the Year.
Disciplinary problems beset Patrick during his time with Arsenal and it was feared that he was prepared to turn his back on English football as he felt victimised. Wenge, several Arsenal players and fans supported him publicly, amid speculation that Italian club Juventus were prepared to offer Vieira an escape route. However Patrick stayed and Arsenal finished second in the league for a third consecutive season and runners-up to Liverpool in 2001 FA Cup Final. He was later named the club vice-captain, to ensure he would succeed Tony Adams as captain. In the 2001–02 season; Arsenal regained the league and beat Chelsea in the 2002 FA Cup Final to complete a second double. In 2003, Patrick missed Arsenal’s title run-in, due to a knee injury, and they were overtaken by Manchester United who took first place. He was also ruled out of the 2003 FA Cup Final, which Arsenal won, but jointly lifted the trophy with captain for the day, David Seaman.
In spite of growing interest to sign Vieira, not least from Manchester United, Real Madrid and Chelsea in the summer of 2003, he agreed terms to stay at Arsenal and signed a deal which ran until 2007. The 2003–04 season was a successful one for Arsenal, as they reclaimed the league title and became the first English team in more than a century to go through the entire league season unbeaten. He endured a mixed start to the campaign, as he was sent off against Manchester United in September 2003, banned for one match and later fined £20,000. However he scored the opening goal against Tottenham Hotspur, in what ended a 2–2 draw which was enough for Arsenal to regain the title. In the 2005 FA Cup Final, he scored the winning penalty in a penalty shoot-out after a 0–0 draw with Manchester United, which proved to be his final goal for Arsenal.
In July 2005, representatives of Juventus met with Arsenal, with a view to signing Patrick, and on 15 August 2005, he signed a five-year contract, in a deal worth £13.75 million, making his debut on 28 August 2005. Despite his performances dipping as the result of a persistent groin injury he helped Juventus retain the Scudetto, however Juventus were stripped of their 2004–05 and 2005–06 titles after it was revealed they were involved in a match-fixing scandal and were relegated to Serie B and had 17 points deducted.
On 2 August 2006, he officially signed a four-year deal for Internazionale. In his first season at Inter, he added to his trophy cabinet the Italian Super Cup as well as the 2006–07, 2007–08, and 2008–09 Serie A. On 6 January 2010, José Mourinho stated that Vieira had played his last game at Inter.
On 8 January 2010, he signed a six month contract at Manchester City and, subsequently agreed to a one-year extension. He made a late substitute appearance in May 2011, as City won the FA Cup with a 1–0 win over Stoke City at Wembley Stadium.
On 14 July 2011, he announced his retirement from playing and accepted a training and youth development role at Manchester City with the title of Football Development Executive.
Vieira made his debut for France and was part of the France squad in the 1998 FIFA World Cup. He came on as a substitute in the final against Brazil, and set up Arsenal team mate Emmanuel Petit for France’s third goal in a 3–0 win. He, with the rest of the squad, was declared a Knight of the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest decoration, in 1998.
He subsequently played as a first choice midfield player in France’s successful campaign in Euro 2000, which they won, beating Italy in the final. He helped France to victory in the 2001 Confederations Cup, ending the tournament as joint top scorer with two goals, including the winner, a header, in the final against Japan. He also played in all three games in the 2002 World Cup, in which France were eliminated in the group stage, failing to score a goal. He was injured and missed France’s defeat to Greece at Euro 2004. He won a total of 107 caps for France, scoring six goals.
Written by GunnerN5 and compiled by Gooner in Exile