The 2019 Academy Rewards … “We love you Freddie ….”

June 25, 2019

The club have pretty much spelled out that they are putting a lot more emphasis on the development of academy players, and there has been a subsequent staff reshuffle in order to do so. On that basis, I’m going to take a leap of faith and say there will be more players promoted from the Academy than in previous years. It’s obvious that they must have some confidence in what we have currently, in order for them to highlight this approach in their recent PR campaign.

This quote from Raul Sanllehi was widely reported in the press last week.

“Promoting young players from within has always been a key part of Arsenal and what we represent,” Sanllehí says. “We want to continue that tradition for a number of reasons but you could boil it down to two main ones. Firstly, these players grow up with the club and we think having players with this natural bond around what it means to play for Arsenal is good in the dressing room and for the connection with our fans.

“Secondly, despite the huge investment we make into our academy, with rapid inflation in transfer fees it is financially efficient. It’s not about cutting costs or being ‘cheap’, it just means we can then focus funds to make the biggest impact, to get better players when we need to go to the external market.”

 

Freddie Ljungberg has moved from the Academy into the first team coaching team. He will no doubt continue to have a close bond with some of the stars from last seasons 2nd place finishing U23 squad (pipped by Everton). Along with some returning loan players, we should be able to add serious numbers to the first team.

Personally, I love this. These players coming through are well versed in Emery’s style and the Arsenal way in general. You can pretty much rule out settling issues with these recruits and for the most part they will have a really good understanding of what to expect in the league. I say this with Torreira in mind. It would be a massive shame for him to leave as, judging by the pats on their own backs, the club were quite pleased with the acquisition last summer.

Add the fact that a typical Academy graduate will probably have a lot more loyalty to the club that raised them. Think Bellerin, Wilshire, Ramsey all of whom declared a lot of love for the squad. I believe that we should be looking to embrace this new system as fans, rather than mourn the lack of expensive signings. After all, where has that gotten us of late.

We dipped into the transfer market for ‘Star’ players with the likes of Ozil and Sanchez towards the end of Wenger’s reign and we are still dealing with the financial fall out of that now. I think it’s safe to say we rolled the dice on these guys securing us Champions League football and came up snake eyes. Sanchez moving on and causing issues amongst the squad, and the financial burden of Ozil’s contract forcing us to say goodbye to players such as Ramsey who (probably fairly) believed they should be on a similar wage.

So we have taken a safer route. A path that when things go wrong you have a situation like losing Serge Gnabry. I’d take that over the loss of an established cup winning maestro like Aaron Ramsey. By creating an obvious and realsitic path for young players to make it into a premiership 11 that challenge for champions league football we will surely become a desired destination for elite youth players once again.

For me this is the right time to do it. There are teams in Europe that have provided first team players from their academies. Athletico Bilbao and Ajax on a consistent basis. Ajax have had some serious success that have raised their profile. If we follow in their footsteps and look to actually promote players and give them game time, the baying mob that is our fan base may be open to the prospect.

For me the fact that we played Elneny only a handful of times last season creates a bar for players to reach. Surely having his space taken up by a Chris Willock or Reiss Nelson would be preferable?

I am hoping to see a good few of our loaned out players make up vacant places next season, with a lower wage bill and less transfer activity needed from this point forwards. Hopefully the transfer money we do spend, can go on established winners that will provide guidance on and off the pitch.

Which academy players do you think deserve their chance next season?

Written by Els

This is a 24 minute interview with Vinai Venkatesham & Raul Sanllehi if you’ve got the stamina to watch it …  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bs5KfWVp4kU

 

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Did Arsene and Arsenal waste the Club’s footballing talent of 1998-2006, coaching-wise?

March 12, 2019

My brothers will tell you I am a glutton for punishment. All my life I have been sports mad (I taught it in schools for 23 years!). I read anything and everything on almost every sport imaginable – good, bad and indifferent material.

Although football, rugby and cricket are the very top of my interest, I will find myself studying the intricacies of free climbing, or bias in curling, the mechanics of the sand wedge or transference of force in a boxing jab. (I say “almost every” – I have little regard for F1 and American Football).

Jimmy Chin – National Geographic

In addition to reading much, I listen to sport, live commentary, and the opinions of ex sportsmen, “pundits”, and those somehow (unbelievably)  provided with money to talk bowlocks about sport with little or no significant experience to justify their existence in the role.

And so (eventually) to the point of my post…….

Listening to Georgie Bingham and the fake Irishman Cascarino recently, I heard, following copious praise for how well the wonderful Man Utd had used so many of its ” golden generation” in Club coaching and managing roles, with Solskjaer being the crowning glory, that ARSENAL and WENGER had not only wasted theirs from the 1998-2006 period, but, in the case of Arsene, had a definite policy to NOT involve them in Club.

Hackles up, I started to analyse this comment.

Firstly there is Steve Bould. (Although given his “staticness” on the bench during the Wenger era, perhaps he’s more evidence for Ms Bingham’s case than anyone else!) I am fairly certain that Keown, Dixon, and Winterburn, play some part in the daily running of the Club, if not as much in the coaching of defenders role that I would like to see!

Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Freddie and the BFG are now in charge of the Academy and U23s, and at that point I asked myself a question. How many of those missing do I think COULD have been usefully involved. My answer was reduced to two! I have always believed Patrick V. should have been incorporated into our set-up. ( I would still like him to be an Arsenal manager someday). And I would now have to add Marc Overmars for what seems to have been a silent but excellent role behind the scenes at Ajax.

Of the rest, TA has always been clueless to me in terms of coaching, and I believe the same might (perhaps unfairly) be said of Thierry. Sol might prove me wrong, but I doubt it. DB10 never really wanted a coaching role, and has now fallen out even with his Dutch love. Ray Parlour, Gilberto, Lauren, Manu P, Merson, Smith, Ian Wright…….COULD any of them have made it in coaching/managing at our Club? Doubtful IMO.

So have we wasted talent? Have I forgotten anyone important? What do you think?

LBG


An Arsenal Blast from the Past No. 14 Arsenal’s FA Cup Final History

May 16, 2014

Original FA Cup 001

Tomorrow Arsenal plays Hull City in their record eighteenth FA Cup Final appearance; they are tied with Manchester United. Hull City will be making their first appearance.

Here is a brief accounting of our Cup Final appearances.

 

1926-1927 – Arsenal vs Cardiff City

Arsenal’s first final, but sadly we lost 0-1 and it’s the only time the FA Cup left England.

This was also the first time that there was community signing at a FA Cup Final.

The tradition of signing “Abide with Me” which was written in 1847 by a vicar from Devon also had its debut performance.

FA Cup Song Sheet 1927 001

 

1929-1930 – Arsenal vs Huddersfield Town

Our first FA Cup victory, and first ever trophy, we won 2-0 on goals by Alex James and Jack Lambert. This was the start of one on our most successful decades, we were led by Herbert Chapman undoubtedly the greatest Manger of his time and arguably Arsenal’s best ever Manager. The Final was interrupted by a fly over of the German airship Graf Zeppelin.

 

1931-1932 – Arsenal vs Newcastle United

Our second loss we were beaten 1-2 with Bob John scoring our only goal.

In the thirty eighth minute with Arsenal winning 1-0 Newcastle attacked down the right wing, a long pass appeared to go over the line but it was hooked into the middle and they scored an easy equaliser. The linesman was ninety feet away and the referee sixty feet but the referee still gave Newcastle the goal. Newsreel confirmed that the ball had crossed the line.

 

1935-1936 – Arsenal vs Sheffield United

Our second victory we won 1-0 with Ted Drake scoring our goal.

Having won the League Championship three seasons in a row we now added our second FA Cup to our trophy collection. Herbert Chapman had died suddenly two years earlier and George Allison was now our manager. It was our sixth success in League and Cup in seven seasons.

 

1949-1950 – Arsenal vs Liverpool

Our third victory we won 2-0 with Reg Lewis scoring both goals.

This was the era of the Compton brothers, Denis and Leslie, both were famous footballers and cricketers. They played in both sports for England with Leslie not making his football debut for England until he was thirty eight years old.

 

1951-1952 – Arsenal vs Newcastle United

Our third loss we were beaten 0-1.

Newcastle became the second club to win the Cup in successive years after Blackburn Rovers in 1890 and 1891. Arsenal was down to ten men in the thirty fifth minute after Wally Barnes was injured, Newcastle scored the only goal of the game six minutes from time. Winston Churchill made the Cup presentation to Newcastle; he is the only Prime Minster to have made the presentation at Wembley.

 

1970-1971 – Arsenal vs Liverpool

Our fourth victory we won 2-0 with goals by Eddie Kelly and Charlie George.

Bertie Mee Double 001

This was indeed Red Letter day for Arsenal, having won the League Championship at White Hart Lane the victory secured our first League and Cup double. We were drawn away in every round of the competition and needed a replay to beat Leeds United in the semi-final. Charlie George scored his unforgettable winning goal from twenty five yards out in the twenty first minute of extra time.

 

1971-1972 – Arsenal vs Leeds United

Our fourth loss we were beaten 0-1.

This was a disappointing day for Arsenal but it set up the first stage of the “Double” for Leeds. They went to Wolverhampton just forty eight hours later needing only a draw to clinch the League Championship but to their disappointment they lost 2-1.

 

1977-1978 – Arsenal vs Ipswich Town

Our fifth loss we were beaten 0-1.

This was the fiftieth Cup Final and Arsenal was the odds on favourites to win their fifth FA Cup but Ipswich, managed by Bobby Robson, had other thoughts. They reduced Arsenal to nothing more than a supporting role and won the game with a goal in the seventy sixth minute but they also hit the post or bar on three other occasions.

 

1978-1979 – Arsenal vs Manchester United

Our fifth victory we won 3-2 with goals by Brian Talbot, Frank Stapleton and Alan Sunderland.

The game was described as the “Five Minute Final” a routine heavy weight bout with a finish that matched the “Matthews Final” in raw excitement. Arsenal led 2-0 with less than five minutes remaining when Manchester United scored two goals in 115 seconds. Extra-time appeared inevitable until Liam Brady, who was the architect of Arsenal’s first two goals picked up the ball straight from the re-start. He passed to Graham Rix, on the left, who centered to Alan Sunderland and he slid the ball into the net for the winning goal.

 

1979-1980 – Arsenal vs West Ham United

Our sixth loss we were beaten 0-1.

One of the most disappointed Arsenal fans on this day was GunnerN5 – I drove, on my own, four hundred miles through the mountains from Coeur D’Alene, Idaho to Cranbook, British Columbia. I had booked a hotel room in Cranbrook as the game was not being shown in the USA. Even a bottle of Macallan could not mask my disappointment and the return journey, the next day, was one of the longest and loneliest drives of my life.

 

1992-1993 – Arsenal vs Sheffield Wednesday

Our sixth victory we won 2-1 with goals by Ian Wright, Wright, Wright and Andy Linighan.

Arsenal became the first club to win both the FA Cup and the League Cup in one season but Sheffield United would prefer not to talk about that as they were the team that lost to Arsenal in both Finals. Andy Lineghan headed home the winning goal from a Paul Merson corner kick in the last minute of extra time

 

1997-1998 – Arsenal vs Newcastle United

Our seventh victory we won 2-0 with goals by Marc Overmars and Nicolas Anelka.

arsene-wenger_double

Arsenal finally beat Newcastle in a FA Cup Final having lost to them in both 1932 and 1952. This was Arsene Wengers first full season as Arsenal manager and he ended the season with a fist full of silver after winning both the FA Cup and The League Championship to secure Arsenals second “Double” season.

 

2000-2001 – Arsenal vs Liverpool

Our seventh loss we were beaten 1-2 with Freddie Ljungberg scoring our only goal.

Arsenal dominated the game but Liverpool came from behind to win 2-1, thus winning the FA Cup for the sixth time. It was the second trophy of their treble-winning season of 2000–01: they had won the Football League Cup in late February and would win the UEFA Cup four days later. As well as being the first FA Cup Final to be staged outside of England, it was also the first in which the managers of both teams were from outside the British Isles – Liverpool’s Gérard Houllier and Arsenal’s Arsène Wenger both coming from France.

 

2001-2002 – Arsenal vs Chelsea

Our eighth victory we won 2-0 with goals by Ray Parlour and Freddie Ljungberg.

Ljungberg, having also scored in the 2001 final, became the first man to score goals in successive FA Cup Finals since Tottenham Hotspur’s Bobby Smith, who scored in 1961 and 1962. The match took place with one week remaining in the Premier League calendar for the 2001–02 season. Arsenal were in first position, but still needed a point from their final two games to secure the championship, which they achieved in their next match with victory over second-placed Manchester United. It was Arsene Wengers second and Arsenals third League and Cup double.

 

2002-2003 – Arsenal vs Southampton

Our ninth victory we won 1-0 with Robert Pires scoring the only goal.

The Gunners won their second Cup in 2 years with a dominant performance over Southampton. The gulf in class between the 2 teams was not evident in the score line as Arsenal won by the single goal, a scrambled shot by Robert Pires. The last 7 minutes of the game saw Arsenal retain almost constant possession accompanied by a string of cheers from their supporters. Southampton had a mere 2 chances to score. the last of which came in the dying seconds as Ashley Cole saved the day with a goal line clearance.

 

2004-2005 – Arsenal vs Manchester United

Our tenth victory we won a penalty shootout 5-4 with Patrick Vieira scoring the decisive penalty.

The game was dominated by Manchester United who did everything but score a goal, Arsenals defence was stubborn to the end and forced the game into a penalty shootout.

Van Nistelrooy took the first penalty for Manchester United, in front of the United fans, and sent Lehmann the wrong way to give United the early advantage. Lauren then converted the next penalty for Arsenal, before Scholes stepped up to take United’s second, only to see it saved by Lehmann, diving low to his right. The next six penalties were all scored – Ljungberg, Van Persie and Cole for Arsenal, Ronaldo, Rooney and Keane for Manchester United – leaving Vieira with the opportunity to win the FA Cup for Arsenal in his last match for the club before moving to Juventus. Although Carroll guessed the correct way to dive, Vieira’s kick was just out of his reach, giving Arsenal their 10th FA Cup. Manchester felt aggrieved to have lost a game where they outplayed Arsenal – but frankly who gives a damn?

 

2013-2014 – Arsenal vs Hull City

The game is still to be played.

The Cup is still to be raised.

The story is still to be written.

FA Cup Trophy

 

GunnerN5


FA Cup – The Freddie Final

February 15, 2014

Friday Afternoon 3rd May 2002.

At last the arrangements were sorted with me picking up JC from North London, Jon to travel on his own after a long shift and Ant taking my nephew, Matt via Loughborough (where Matt was at college). I’d persuaded my old man not to go to this Final, he’d been to the Scouse daylight robbery Final in 2001 and not really enjoyed himself due to all of the walking. His feet were not good by this stage. It meant we all had tickets (I’d luckily played the martyr and dropped out of the 2001 final).

1 (1)

I popped in to see him before picking JC up, armed with a bottle of rum to “assuage the guilt” (he only really liked Pussers Royal Navy rum but it was hard to get hold of). My old man had given JC £25 to buy us all a drink with the proviso that he’d have any change that was left. As Ant commented later, ‘Rest assured, Dad, there wasn’t any’! JC was full of beans on the journey, only pausing for breath on the journey from Brimsdown to Bristol at the M4/M5 junction. (Due to a shortage of rooms, we’d arranged to spend the Friday night at Cribbs Causeway just outside Bristol and then transfer to the Innkeepers Lodge in Cardiff on Saturday morning)

2

I never know why all of our football photos have pints of beer in them

Friday Evening 3rd May 2002.

By 7pm JC was convinced he’d had 5 pints already, not a good sign for things to come. We decided on some Gooner Survey type questions for entertainment. Most hated player meant that the spuds got a mention. I think it was a unanimous vote for a certain Mr Edward Sheringham. JC couldn’t understand why no-one seemed interested in his amazing fact that Ronnie Rooke had bow legs like Malcolm McDonald. Favourite game of the season featured the 3-1 versus Juventus at Highbury (bearing in mind a certain game at the Old Cowshed was still to come). Matt had feasted on two meals already, one on arrival and an early evening Early Bird meal, still he was a growing lad. His requests to have a southern comfort and lemonade because he was feeling a little bloated were greeted with, ‘he’s not having a f*ckin chocky drink’ from Ant. Matt didn’t look happy when a suggested departure time before midday was mentioned….so 8am it was.

Saturday Morning 4th May 2002.

All was well in the family room overnight containing Ant, Matt and me. Poor Jon had shared with JC who had been talking to Ralph for much of the night. He was decidedly white and shivering and we all felt a little guilty at allowing him to partake of so much refreshment. Anyway, Ant, Matt and Jon emerged from the hotel sporting Freddie’s red hair. Freddie had been superb in the run-in of the League, scoring virtually every game (with compulsory Dennis assists) and his song had become everybody’s favourite.

3

I remember JC looking paler than this!

The transfer to the Innkeepers was simple as the traffic hadn’t started to build yet. The car journey to Cardiff was one of the worst parts of going to the Millennium apparently, so we did well to avoid it. We got a taxi to the city centre and then had a healthy double sausage and egg McMuffin to raise blood sugar levels before indulging in a few take-outs as the pub we had in mind wasn’t open until 11. Preposterous!

4

An astonishing likeness

Finally installed in the pub we settled down to watch Soccer AM (these were the days when it was quite good). Jon left the pub on a pastie run as had become tradition. JC had at least 6 separate efforts at eating his pastie but still didn’t finish it. A little later he seemed to have perked up somewhat when telling the assembled toilet goers a joke about a bloke found dead in an expensive toilet who’d left a suicide note, ‘Here I sat broken-hearted, paid a pound and only…..’ He still thinks that one is funny!

We left the pub at 1.40 and took some photos of Jon’s magnificent Freddie banner outside the ground. The top of the capital ‘F’ even had the red hair quiff.

5

Jon’s magnificent banner which got on the telly

Saturday Afternoon 4th May 2002.

The seats were absolutely top notch in row 4 of Glanmor’s Gap in the North Stand (look it up) which effectively meant we were in the most expensive centre band of the stadium right behind the goal Arsenal attacked in the second half. The first half was fairly unmemorable, the second up there as one of the best 45 minutes of my life. Ooo Ahh Ray Parlour scored a 30 yard curler on 70 minutes. Edu warming up behind the goal, celebrated as the ball grazed Cudicini’s fingertips and then smacked the back of the net. Freddie scored ten minutes later with a 30 yard run and curling lob of exquisite beauty, having left John Terry on the deck munching grass. We saw the Freddie banner three times on the stadium big screen during the presentations and celebrations, later finding out it was on our TV recordings too!

6

When Tone goes up, to lift the FA Cup, we’ll be there

Saturday After the Game 4th May 2002.

Leaving the stadium, we gave the old man a call and JC pretended to be David Dein. We decided to hang about near to the VIP car entrance with some tinnies and fried chicken. Ant stood in the middle of the road directing cars the wrong way out of the car park. We saw several famous people, Sepp Blatter (or was it Lennart Johannson?, who cares) Ainsley Harriot and Graeme Le Saux, who was greeted by the assembled Arsenal fans with, ‘Do you take it up the a*se?’. Those sort of homophobic songs really have no place in modern football.

7

Great Trophy

We also saw Lineker, Lawrenson and Schmeichel before ambushing the Arsenal coach complete with FA Cup installed on the front dash. JC was definitely feeling better, even finding time to chat up a couple of local girls and have a photo taken (I’m not sure this one got back to his wife).

8

Smooth operator

Saturday Evening 4th May 2002.

Back to the Innkeeper’s and JC sensibly declined the evening’s festivities in Cardiff town Centre. The ‘boys’ had pizza, several more beers and then were refused entry to a club because I was wearing an England polo shirt. Not very tactful, I know. Some local girls started singing the Freddie song when they saw Ant’s hair, but they didn’t know any more of the song except for the ‘We love you Freddie, we do’ line. We decided to call it a night and headed back to the hotel to watch as many re-runs of the goals as we could find.

9

It truly was a great weekend and wonderful result.

Celebrating the Club’s third double the following Wednesday, meant that we were floating on air for weeks to come. Wiltoooooooooooooooooooooooord!

Everton at home the Saturday following saw the presentation of the Premier League trophy and capped a pearler of a week to be an Arsenal supporter.

10

Champions Too

Written by chas.


Vote For Arsenal’s Greatest Midfielders Of The Modern Era

July 5, 2013

This must be the most difficult vote, three from the modern era of midfielders is nigh on impossible, whether its the legend of Rocky the strength and skill of Patrick, the sublimity of Pires or the goals of Ljungberg. To choose three from those four is difficult enough and then we add Parlour, Silva and Davis into the mix for good measure and not forgetting probably the best player to grace the Emirates Cesc Fabregas. Any three or four of those will make a decent midfield.

We did consider extending the vote to 4 players for this section but soon realised that in reality most of us would want 7 votes to make sure we voted for all of our favourites.

Look at this list of players and remember how lucky we have been as Arsenal fans, very few fans of rival clubs can boast anything near the quality we had in this era.

Note from ed……..

Apologies for the superfluous extra ‘s’ in Gilberto Silva


Arsenal’s Greatest Midfielders Day 6

July 4, 2013

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.

17. Robert Pires: 2000-2006.

Robert appeared in 284 matches over a 6 year period.

article-1287109-01C84CBA0000044D-155_468x286Born in Reims France, he is a graduate of the FC Metz youth academy, making his senior debut in 1993 against Lyon. During his six seasons there, he scored 43 goals in 162 matches, and won the Coupe de la Ligue, prompting a £5 million move to Olympique de Marseille in 1998, where he stayed for two year years.

Robert was signed by Arsenal for £6 million in 2000, after stiff competition from Real Madrid and Juventus. Initially his form was indifferent, and he was criticised for his comments that the English game was too physical. By 2001–02, he had fully got to grips with the English game and had one of his best seasons scoring many excellent goals. He led the Premier League assist charts and was voted both FWA Footballer of the Year and Arsenal’s player of the season, as Arsenal won the league title. This was despite not playing the last two months of the season after suffering a cruciate ligament injury in a FA Cup match against Newcastle United. This also ruled him out of playing in the 2002 World Cup with France.

After a lengthy layoff, he made his comeback in November 2002 and was voted Barclaycard Player of the Month for February 2003 and capping off his season by scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup Final against Southampton. He went on to be a crucial part of Arsenal’s quest for the Premier League title in the 2003–04 season, which they achieved, remaining unbeaten and becoming the first English top flight club to do so in 115 years. Robert along with his Arsenal team-mate Thierry Henry was a key player in that season, scoring a combined 57 goals in all competitions. In the 2004–05 season, he finished third in the Premiership goal scorers table and also picked up a second FA Cup winners’ medal after Arsenal beat Manchester United on penalties. His final game for Arsenal was in the UEFA Champions league final against Barcelona, in which he was substituted after goalkeeper Jens Lehman received an early red card.

In May 2006, he agreed to join Spanish side Villarreal. He joined on a free transfer, bringing to an end his six-year career as an Arsenal player. In 2009, he faced Arsenal in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League, Villarreal were defeated 4–1 on aggregate, but Robert received a warm return from the Arsenal supporters, who sang his name throughout both legs. He was told in May 2010 that his contract would not be extended and he would have to look for a new club during the summer.

He won 79 caps for his country and scored 14 goals. He won the Golden Ball (for most outstanding football) and Golden Shoe (for most goals scored) awards at the 2001 Confederations Cup in Korea/Japan.

18. Freddie Ljungberg: 1998-2007. 

Freddie appeared in 328 matches over a 9 year period.

ljungberg_display_imageHe was born in Vittsjö, Sweden. Between when he was 5–14 years old, Freddie was coached by Olle Eriksson. He credits Eriksson for having a profound effect on his career as well as Brazilian football player, Sócrates. Also in his youth, he enjoyed playing ice hockey and developed a talent for handball; but decided to concentrate his attentions on football. Freddie also did well in academic subjects as well as sports and at 18 he decided to attend university, but struggled to balance the hectic academic timetable with the physically demanding commitments of football. Eventually, he quit university to concentrate on his football career.

He made his senior debut for Halmstad in October 1994 in the Allsvenskan against AIK. In 1995, he played 31 games in which he scored his first goal as a professional player. that same year Halmstad won the Swedish Cup. During his time with Halmstad, he made 139 appearances and scored 16 goals and he also won both the Swedish Cup and League title with the club. After two years with Halmstad, his star was on the rise with interest from Barcelona, Chelsea, Aston Villa, Parma and Arsenal.

Freddie was signed by Arsenal in 1998 for £3 million, Arsenal scouts watched him for over a year and Arsenal’s manager, Arsène Wenger, took the unusual step of authorising the signing after watching him play for Sweden in their victory against England on television, without seeing him play live. Freddie scored on his debut on 20 September after coming on as a substitute against Manchester United. He endeared himself to Arsenal supporters by having a bright red stripe in his hair. (A popular chant spawned from this to the tune of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons: “We love you Freddie, because you’ve got red hair, we love you Freddie because you’re everywhere, we love you Freddie, you’re Arsenal through and through” Later when he shaved his head this was updated to “We love you Freddie, because you’ve got no hair”).

Freddie became the first player to score a goal at an FA Cup final outside England, when Arsenal lost against Liverpool in 2001 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. A year later, against Chelsea, he became the first player to score in consecutive FA Cup Finals. He also scored a penalty in the shootout in Arsenal’s 2005 FA Cup Final victory over Manchester United. In 2008, he placed 11th in Arsenal.com’s Gunners’ Greatest 50 Players.

After nine years at Arsenal, Freddie joined West Ham United on a four-year contract, later agreeing to terminate his contract only one year into the four-year deal.

On 28 October 2008, MLS team, Seattle Sounders officially announced they had signed Freddie as their Designated Player for the 2009 season. The terms of his contract saw Ljungberg earn $10 million over two seasons with the Sounders. Much like the contract of David Beckham and as is the norm for professional sports stars in the US, Freddie’s contract allowed him to retain all of his private endorsement money.  In July 2009, Freddie was selected for starting MLS’ All-Stars; selection for the All-Star team is based upon votes from players, coaches, general managers, members of the media and an online fan voting system. Ljungberg received the most votes among fans, a testament to his popularity in the MLS. He was also appointed captain of the 2009 MLS All-Star Team in their game versus Everton.

He was traded to Major League Soccer club Chicago Fire on 30 July 2010, after 15 league appearances, Freddie announced that he would be leaving Chicago at the end of the 2010 MLS season.

He has represented his country at Euro 2000, the 2002 World Cup, Euro 2004, the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2008, and in total he has represented Sweden on 75 occasions.

On 24 August 2012, Ljungberg announced his retirement from football.

19. Gilberto Silva: 2002-2008.

Gilberto appeared in 244 games over a 6 year period.

Manchester+United+v+Arsenal+Premier+League+5LK__Q7P34HlBorn in Lagao da Prata, Brazil, he was raised in a poor family and as a child he balanced playing football with various labour jobs. He began his football career in 1997 with América Mineiro, where good form earned him a move to Atlético Mineiro in 2000. He became a star player for Atlético, playing for three years in the Brazilian Campeonato Brasileiro Série A. He came to particular prominence when he helped the Brazilian national team win the 2002 FIFA World Cup, playing in all seven of Brazil’s matches.

Arsenal signed Gilberto in August 2002 for a fee of £4.5 million. Upon signing Gilberto, Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger said, “What I like was the fact that he kept things simple. He can play all across the midfield but the holding role just in front of the defence is what he does best”. After two substitute appearances, he finally broke into the starting eleven on 27 August. He set a new record for the fastest goal scored in the UEFA Champions League, scoring after 20.07 seconds against PSV on 25 September 2002.

Even though he suffered a lapse in form towards the end of the season, he won an FA Cup winner’s medal, playing in the final at the Millennium Stadium as Arsenal beat Southampton 1–0.

The next season he was an important member of the squad that won Premier League title whilst going the entire season unbeaten. He played in 32 of Arsenal’s 38 unbeaten games during the season. In October 2005, Gilberto made his first appearance for Arsenal as captain, against Sparta Prague. Although Gilberto had a period of bad form during the winter months of the season, his form returned and on 17 May 2006 he played for Arsenal in the UEFA Champions League Final against FC Barcelona, which Arsenal lost 2–1. On 19 August 2006 he scored Arsenal’s first competitive goal at the newly built Emirates Stadium and was made vice-captain of Arsenal in 2006.

Gilberto was called “the invisible wall” his play often went unnoticed as he positioned himself between the two centre backs and the rest of midfield, breaking up opposition attacks before they could gather momentum. He played this role as part of the defensive unit for both club and country.  Both Arsenal and Brazil are both attack minded teams, and he created cover for attacking wing-backs and other midfielders who had a poor record of dropping back to help the defence.

According to ProZone (a data analysis system used by football managers) figures cited by The Sunday Times in January 2007, Gilberto was one of the few midfielders in England to attain “the elite Champions League level” of performance.

He made his international debut against Chile on 7 October, coming on as a substitute. On 7 November, in total he played in 93 games for Brazil.

20. Cesc Fabregas: 2003-2011.

Cesc appeared in 303 matches over an 8 year period.

Cesc was born in Arenys de Mar, Barcelona, he had supported FC Barcelona since childhood and went to his first match when he was nine months old with his grandfather. He began his club football career with CE Mataró, before being signed for Barcelona’s La Masia youth academy aged 10 in 1997. His initial training was as a defensive midfielder playing alongside notable names such as Gerard Piqué and Lionel Messi. He was a prolific scorer, sometimes scoring more than 30 goals in a season for the club’s youth teams.

Cesc+Fabregas+Arsenal+v+Barcelona+UEFA+Champions+ogSuLT1RuEKlSensing that he would have limited opportunities at Barcelona, he joined Arsenal in their Academy, when he was just 16 years old, signing on 11 September 2003. He made his debut for Arsenal not long after, on 23 October 2003, in a League Cup tie at home to Rotherham United. In doing so he became Arsenal’s youngest ever first team player, aged 16 years and 177 days. He then became the youngest goal scorer in Arsenal’s history in a later round of the League Cup, scoring in a 5–1 victory against Wolverhampton Wanderers. He signed his first professional contract with Arsenal in September 2004. He concluded that first season by gaining his first honours with Arsenal when he was in the starting eleven that defeated Manchester United on penalties in the 2005 FA Cup Final.

After the departure of Patrick Vieira, to Juventus, Cesc was given the number 4 shirt and featured regularly in the Arsenal central midfield alongside Gilberto Silva. He made 49 appearances in all competitions during the 2005–06 season.  He also played in the Champions League Final against his former club Barcelona, Arsenal were defeated 2–1. His increased exposure drew transfer speculation during the summer; Real Madrid expressed a desire to sign him despite his long-term contract with Arsenal.  On 24 November 2008, he was named as the Arsenal club captain. However he was ruled out for four months after sustaining a knee injury against Liverpool.

In August 2011, he signed for Barcelona, ending one of the most protracted transfer sagas in recent times. Statistics show that in the 5 years prior to his departure from Arsenal he created 466 goal-scoring chances, made 75 assists and scored 30 goals.

His international national career began when he represented the Under-17 side at the 2003 FIFA U-17 World Championship in Finland. As a result of his club performances, he was called up to the senior squad in 2006. He has played in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, UEFA Euro 2008, 2010 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 2012, helping Spain to become eventual winners in the three most recent tournaments.

Written by GunnerN5 and compiled by Gooner in Exile