Arsenals Top Season 2003-2004 Step up – Arsene Wenger’s Invincibles

June 6, 2018

They are the only team to go unbeaten for a complete season since Preston North End went unbeaten in the inaugural season of the Football League in 1889 with a record of P22, W18, D4, L0, GF74, GA15, Pts58.

In retaining the Premier League Championship in 2001/02, Arsenal had earlier equalled Preston North End’s record of going unbeaten away for the entire season by beating Manchester United 0-1 at Old Trafford in our final away game. Perhaps it was this outstanding achievement which prompted Arsene Wenger’s outrageous prediction in September 2002 that his side could go a whole season unbeaten – the journos and footballing establishment mocked such a claim.

The ‘Comical’ jibe plus beret were a reference to an Iraqi Information minister at the time

Arsene only used 22 players in the whole season with Jens Lehmann playing in all 38 games – which included 15 shut outs.

Although he performed well throughout the 2002/03 season, long-serving keeper David Seaman was released at the end of the campaign. Arsenal brought in Jens Lehmann from Borussia Dortmund for a mere £1.5 million – a steal, considering just how important he would be for Arsenal over the next 12 months. Due to building the Emirates there were no big-name signings; club captain Patrick Vieira signed a new contract in the face of strong interest from Manchester United, Chelsea, and Real Madrid. With Arsene not make any big changes to the squad, and with no major departures, Arsenal started the season with the same group of players as the previous season.

The season kicked off with Arsenal in inspired form. A 2-1 home victory over Everton on the opening day was followed up with 4-0 win over Middlesbrough, a 2-0 win over Aston Villa and a 2-1 away victory over David Seaman and Manchester City. With just four games played, Arsenal had already put three points between them and fellow title-chasers Manchester United, leaving them sitting comfortably in first place, having scored ten and conceded just two.

Our unbeaten run came close to ending at Old Trafford in the sixth game of the season when United were awarded a penalty in injury time (no surprise there) but (our least liked player) Ruud van Nistelrooy stepped up and missed the penalty and the match ended tied at 0–0. Tempers boiled over in the game dubbed the ‘Battle of Old Trafford’ following Vieira being given a red card.

October presented a tough schedule with a trip to Anfield and a home game against Chelsea.  Despite falling behind against Liverpool we recovered to win 2-1. Going into the Chelsea game, both sides were level at the top of the table and were also undefeated in the league. The game appeared to be heading for a draw until a Carlo Cudicini blunder saw Thierry Henry give Arsenal the win, bringing an end to Chelsea’s unbeaten run. Despite the fact we had still not lost a poor 0-0 draw against Fulham on Nov 30th gave Chelsea the chance to take over at the top of the table.

At the turn of the year Arsenal had made it half way through the season without tasting defeat in the Premier League and the unbeaten season began to take place: but despite this feat, Arsenal entered 2004 in second place, one point behind leaders Manchester United.

The Gunners’ first game of the year once again ended with a lacklustre draw against Everton, while United secured a victory to increase their lead to three points. Although, things picked up with a dominant 4-1 win over Middlesbrough, which saw us draw level with United on points, goal difference and goals scored. Henry then began a goal scoring run which would see him net in each of the club’s next six games, the second and third of which came against Aston Villa a week later giving Arsenal all three points. Despite a trip to title chasers Chelsea and a visit to Manchester City, February would prove to be one of the best months in the campaign, with five wins in five games.

After 30 games Arsenal had officially beaten the Premier League record of consecutive game without defeat.

The 31st game saw perhaps the game of the season with Thierry Henry scoring a blistering hat trick to beat Liverpool after being 2-1 down at halftime.

Henry beats Dudek having left a trail of prostrate Scouse defenders in his wake

On April 25th we went to White Hart Lane knowing knew that a single point would be enough to end any chance of a late Chelsea comeback. Goals from Vieira and Pirés were enough to secure a 2-2 draw that handed Arsenal the trophy at the home of the North London pretenders with four games to spare.

We saw out the final month of Premier League action comfortably, with a bore draw against Birmingham City followed up with a 1-1 draw at Portsmouth and a 1-0 victory over Fulham. Despite going behind in their final game against Leicester City, Arsenal bossed the second-half, claiming victory thanks to goals from Henry and Vieira.

After Arsenal completed the only 38-match season unbeaten, the Premier League commissioned a unique gold trophy to commemorate the achievement. Arsène Wenger was presented the trophy as a parting gift from the club after his last home game as manager on 6 May 2018.

 Written by GunnerN5

 

 

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Arsenals Top Seasons 2001-02 – Our 4th Best

April 10, 2018

2001- 02 was a very competitive season with several teams challenging for the top spot in the league. For the first 11 games an unbeaten Leeds team were the early leaders and in November they were top of the table. At the start of December Liverpool was three points clear with a game in hand, Newcastle took over as leaders at Christmas but by February Manchester United was in first place, looking to make it four titles in a row.  Arsenal was never far off the pace but they suffered their lowest point of the season during October and November taking only three points from four games. They responded to that four-game winless run in style with a 3-1 victory over Manchester United which was memorable for Freddie Ljungberg’s lob and two gift wrapped presents from Fabian Barthez which Thierry Henry happily accepted.

Notably, on the player front David Seaman, Martin Keown and Ray Parlour were still going strong, while both Tony Adams and Lee Dixons careers were winding down.

Arsene Wenger brought in Sol Campbell, Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Kole Toure while John Lukic. Sylvinho and Nelson Vivas left the club.

The Arsenal 2001- 02 Squad.

Seaman (17), Dixon (13), A. Cole (29), Vieira (36), Keown ( 21), Adams (10), Pires (28),Ljungberg (25), Bergkamp ( 33), Wiltord (33), Lauren (27), Taylor (10), Henry (33), van Bronckhorst (21), Edu (14), Grimandi (16), Upson (14), Luzhny (18) Campbell (31), Wright (12), Kanu (23), Stepanvos (8).

Four games after beating Manchester United we suffered our third defeat, at home to Newcastle but it proved to be the final loss of the season. (ed: this was the game  in which Graham Poll came close to being lynched after sending off Ray Parlour for two bookables and handing the game to Newcastle late on with a disgraceful penalty decision; it still makes my blood boil thinking about it). 

In the next two games we defeated Liverpool 2-1 at Anfield with only 10 men and followed that with a 2-1 win over Chelsea on Boxing Day with Sol Campbell scoring his first goal for Arsenal. The next six games saw us win 3 and draw 3 ending in a 1-1 draw with Southampton at Highbury on February 2 which left us toiling in 3rd position.

It would take a special effort to beat off the many competitors to the title and the draw against Southampton proved to be the game that spurred us on – it would be the last time we dropped points all season. In the final 13 games we went unbeaten, including a 2-0 win at title rivals Newcastle which will be forever remembered by Denis Bergkamp’s stunning goal. He made it look so simple, pirouetting within a split second of his flick to score the goal and leaving no doubt as to whether it was intended. Nobody has pulled off anything as special since, suggesting it was a more remarkable piece of skill than he made it appear. The fact that we all talk about it 17 years later is an indication of just how wonderful Bergkamp’s touch and intelligence was to create such an incredible goal.

Five games later we beat Tottenham 2-1 at Highbury with Lauren scoring the winning goal from a late penalty. With 2 games left in the season we met Manchester United at Old Trafford, to have any hopes of retaining their crown United had to beat Arsenal, but Sylvain Wiltord’s 55th minute winner sealed a second Premier League title for Arsene Wenger’s side. We ended the season seven points clear of second-placed Liverpool, who sneaked ahead of United on the final day.

We finished the season off in style with a 4-3 win over Everton on the final day that saw Tony Adams lift the title trophy in front of the home fans as he bowed out alongside Lee Dixon.

Credit: Stuart MacFarlane / Arsenal Football Club.

Henry, Pires and Ljungberg  all made huge contributions to our season. Henry finished the season with 24 goals in the Premier League and the Golden Boot, Pires recorded a league-high 15 assists and won the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year award, Pires was so good that when he took his turn to lift the Premier League trophy on the last day, his team-mates bowed down in front of him.

Freddie Ljungberg scored 12 times in just 25 games and claimed the official Barclaycard Premier League Player of the Season honour.

We lost only three games, all at Highbury and went the full season unbeaten away from home in the league, scored in every game and finished the season with 13 consecutive wins.

Not to be forgotten is the fact that a week before the season ended we won the FA Cup Final beating Chelsea 2-0 with stunning goals from Ray Parlour and Freddie Ljungberg.

Unsurprisingly Arsene Wenger was named as the Manager of the Season after winning his second double in five seasons.

Written by GunnerN5


Arsenals Top Seasons 1947-48 – Our 7th Best

January 28, 2018

One night during WWII I was lying in bed when the room was suddenly lit up with a nearby searchlight coming on. Thinking it was a raid coming, I jumped out of bed and I started to get dressed. Looking out of the window, I saw dozens of searchlights sweeping the sky and waving backwards and forwards. I went into the front room where Mum and Dad had the radio on and they were just announcing the end of the war in Europe. Our next-door neighbour rushed in and everybody sat talking until the early hours of the morning. The next day nobody went to work and we had an impromptu party down at the corner of the road. People took cakes and sandwiches down to be shared out and a radiogram was fixed up to provide music for people to dance to.

Germany had officially surrendered and Londoners could now try to rebuild their damaged City and lives. Life was still very difficult, good jobs were scarce, food was still rationed, we still used Cow and Gate powered milk, and bomb sites were scattered all over town. But gradually life was returning to the streets and the daily fear of bombing raids, and having to dash to air raid shelters for safety, was now just a horrible memory.

The Arsenal ground in North London was not spared war damage as the North Stand was extensively damaged by fire and the roof had collapsed, the South Stand terracing was also badly damaged and in need of repair. The debts from the construction of Highbury and the costs of repairing the war damage were a heavy financial burden, and Arsenal struggled when competitive football resumed.

The war had cut short the careers of many of the club’s star players, including Bastin and Drake and nine of the pre-WW11 staff  were lost during the war. Upon the league’s resumption in 1946-47 the club began poorly and were bottom at Christmas. However, George Allison managed to make two signings late in 1946 which laid the foundations for the success of the following 1947/8 season. Cultured left half Joe Mercer was signed from Everton in November at the age of 32 on the agreement that he could commute from Liverpool and Ronnie Rooke, a prolific goalscorer in Division 2, signed from Fulham a month later. With a face carved from granite, his 6ft 3in, 15 stone frame helped to define his powerful playing style.  Rooke scored 21 goals in the 24 games he played that season and helped to drag Arsenal up to 13th place.

 

After close to forty years with the Arsenal, George Allison decided to retire from football in the summer of 1947 and was replaced by his assistant Tom Whittaker, who had been the club’s trainer under Herbert Chapman. Whittaker took over the reins at Highbury with Joe Shaw joining him from Chelsea. Arsenal kicked off the1947/48 season with a 3-1 victory over Sunderland at Highbury, an ideal start for the new management team (see British Pathe video below).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ys2vdV_r8No

Leslie Compton, the previous club Captain who had been playing cricket for Middlesex, returned to Arsenal and we won the next six games. Joe Mercer had been Arsenal’s Captain in Compton’s absence but Whittaker felt that now Compton was back he should, once again, lead the team but Compton felt differently and persuaded him to keep Joe on as the club Captain. There certainly seemed to be harmony in the Arsenal dressing room as we remained unbeaten in the first 17 games of the season, winning 12 and drawing 5 before losing 0-1 away to Derby County in the 18th game.

That 17th game of the unbeaten start proved to be a milestone in the life of GunnerN5. I was nine years old and I spent endless hours playing football with my mates on Avenell Road as we kicked a rag football (made by my Mum) about using the main gate into Highbury as our goal. We were in awe of all the supporters as they streamed in and out of Highbury on Saturday afternoons wishing we could be inside with them. The Oohs and Aahs coming from the ground always left us wondering what was happening but we always knew when the Gunners had scored as that caused the biggest roar of all. My maternal Grandfather changed my life when he gave me the best birthday present I’d  received – for my 10th birthday he took me to my very first Arsenal game – it was November 22nd 1947 Arsenal vs Huddersfield Town and we won 2-0. That game was the start my lifelong journey of supporting the Arsenal and it was capped off with us winning the League Championship.

North London had the original Ronnie and Reggie up front as Ronnie Rooke and Reg Lewis powered Arsenal to the title with 47 goals between them (Rooke’s 33 goals still stands as a post-war record, although Thierry Henry did manage 30 goals in 4 less games in the Invincibles season). Arsenal were the dominant team of the season and were ahead of the other final top teams from the 2nd game of the season onward – as shown in the following table. The highlighted variance column shows how many points the 2nd, 3rd and 4th teams Manchester United, Burnley, and Derby County) were behind Arsenal after each game of the season. Top of the table for 41 of the 42 League matches – the phrase ‘never in doubt’ has never been more correctly used.

In the final Arsenal matchday programme of the 1947/48 League Championship winning season, ‘Marksman’ (aka Harry Homer), the programme editor of the day, wrote: “…my mind seeks an apt quotation with which to close this season which has been such a glorious one for Tom Whittaker, Joe Mercer and all connected with The Gunners. Shall we turn for once to Latin? ‘Victoria Concordia Crescit’. Translation: ‘Victory grows out of harmony.’”

Two seasons later and Arsenal unveiled its new crest which incorporated Marksman’s Latin maxim. Tom Whittaker explained in the 1949/50 handbook (which also included the new crest) that the Club had been impressed by Marksman’s motto and it had now been officially adopted by the Club. The new crest also featured ‘Arsenal’ in a gothic style typeface, the westward facing cannon, the Borough of Islington’s coat of arms and ermine(courtesy of Arsenal.com)

Written by GunnerN5


If Henry Can, Welbeck Can

March 16, 2016

Time to play with The Big Boys. Finish Top 4 and this is the reward. No-one expects us to win the CL, only one club can do so and, let’s be honest, it is not going to be Arsenal in the near future, but what Top 4 offers is the chance to play in the Camp Nou or the Allianz Arena or the Bernabeu.

In other words glory.

Can you remember when Thierry waltzed through the Real Madrid defence to score an unlikely winner? Or wee Arshavin slotting home to beat Barca? Or Ramsey scoring against all the odds at Dortmund?  Why do you remember those particular goals?  It is because we played and beat the very best and we have the opportunity to do so tonight.

 

Can Arsenal win? Why not? We have beaten Barca before and they have already declared that a couple of their first team will be rested (well, Pique at least). Barca will expect to win at a canter and there is no pressure on an Arsenal team who have been written off by both the media and their own fans.

We were a Bendtner kick and a bent referee away from beating them over two legs in 2011. Given that Welbeck is even better than The Greatest Striker Who ever Lived, we must have a fighting chance, though  it must be admitted that MSN are slightly better than VMP (Villa, Messi, Pedrito).

Our Team: Should Mr Wenger prioritise the weekend game with Everton or go with a full first choice team tonight ? Montreal and Bellerin were benched on Sunday and will surely start. Welbeck played just 15 minutes but what an impact he had! Will he start ahead of Giroud who took a battering from the Watford CB’s? In my opinion, Welbeck  – if fit – should be our first choice central striker until season’s end.

Campbell on the right or Theo? Was Theo rested or or dropped on Sunday?

Midfield must be Elneny and Coquelin, we have little choice.

And what of Ozil? He went missing in the home leg and has been peripheral in recent weeks. He tried to grab the game on Sunday and almost effected an unexpected comeback but where was he in the first 75 minutes? People question whether Ozil wants to stay at Arsenal; perhaps they should think about who would sign him to a winning team. Leave Arsenal and Ozil is unlikely to find a club playing to his unique talents nor will he find a place with the Big Boys. Sanchez is in the same situation.

We are massive underdogs for a reason , primarily thanks to Coquelin’s stupid foul for the penalty and BFG’s momentary lapse of reason, should they make similar mistakes we could be on the end of a hammering BUT Mr Wenger cannot PTB at Camp Nou – we have to score. Get one early and Barca could wobble. Get two and we will win.

Unlikely but possible, and whilst the possibility exists let’s believe it can happen

COYRRG

 

 

 


The Weekly Arsenal

November 29, 2013

First of all an apology, I’m sorry but force of circumstances prevented me finishing the week before last’s news round-up, Peaches was kind enough to do it for me, and for failing to produce last week’s at all. Various situations have now been resolved so here goes with the next edition.

Friday:

A quick shufti at the morning papers revealed the most positive piece of news…“Walcott set to return from injury”. “He has not played even a reserve team game, but I will put him in the squad on Saturday,” said boss Arsene Wenger. “He’s completely fit again.”

Now that’s what I call good news! We’ve missed Theo’s pace and his ability to get behind defenders.

Both Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere were back in full training after interlull injury scares.

Wenger revealed that Tomas Rosicky had been ill and would be assessed later but could be in the squad. Remarkable news about Abou Diaby, he could be ready to play as soon as March. Whether or not that’s March 2014 was not made clear.

Saturday:

First vs Third at ThoF, a big raspberry to both Sky and BT Sport for not showing the game live. “I think I have proved a lot of people wrong”.

Aaron Ramsey speaking to Julian Wilson in the Telegraph revealed his quiet satisfaction at confounding his critics, chief among them being Piers Morgan who described Ramsey as an “utter liability”. “People are quick to jump on players who are not doing particularly well, I think I proved a lot of people wrong, hopefully made them look a bit silly because they knew what I was capable of before my leg break and then were quick to criticise”.

Arsene Wenger “I’m not against buying in January. I don’t say I never made a mistake – I certainly made some”.

Thierry Henry is training with Arsenal, our record goal scorer is maintaining his fitness levels during the MLS close season. Could he get into our present first team squad? If so could Arsene sign him on a short term loan deal in January? He’s done it before.

Sunday:

“Giroud double sends Arsenal four clear” The BBC’s headline says it all for me. Artur Boruc’s laughable attempt to dribble the ball around Giroud presented our striker with his first of the afternoon and a tug on Mert’s shirt was enough to bring a penalty which Olly put clinically past Saint’s Pole in goal.

There’s not much doubt that the doubters are being put firmly in their place and being served up large portions of Humble Pie. I’m lovin it!!!

Monday:

A quiet day on the Arsenal News front, no dramas, no contentious decisions to discuss, no pundits writing off our chances of trophies, no calls for the Owner, board of directors and manager to quit.

Speaking on http://www.arsenal.com Arsene Wenger said of Saturday’s victory “This win shows we are ready for a fight when it didn’t go as fluently as we wanted,” said Wenger. “That is the most pleasing thing. We were tested by being challenged for every single ball and we responded quite well.

“We always had the focus and I could never feel that we eased off. They made it very difficult for us.

“We could see a good togetherness to help each other out,” Wenger added. “We knew that we were sometimes in trouble and you felt that they were ready to fight for each other.

“That is the solidarity level that was needed. It’s very important.”

You just can’t argue with that.

Santi Cazorla issued a timely warning against complacency before Tuesday’s game with Marseille, speaking to the London Evening Standard he said:- “The main problem I see is everyone thinks it’s going to be an easy game for us to win, There is nothing at stake for Marseille because they have zero points but they are going to make things difficult for us. It may be tough and if we’re not careful we might slip up and then we might not be able to get through to the next round.

“We need to understand it’s a vital match, If we obtained a bad result then it would make things very complicated for us to go to Napoli and win there.”

One other tit-bit of news, not strictly Arsenal related, but I couldn’t resist it. Skinny chicken plucked, stuffed, trussed up and roasted after Hugo Lloris has an Artur Boruc moment.

Tuesday:

Team news ahead of the Marseille game was pretty positive, Arsene Wenger announced that :- “Everybody from Saturday is available and of course Flamini is available as well because he’s back from suspension”.

Naturally there was some speculation concerning how Marseille would approach the game, their record in the group, standing at played 4 lost 4, suggested they only had their pride to play for. As far as Arsenal were concerned it was vital that they should go all out for a win in order to avoid any Napoli Nerves in the final group match.

Ladbrokes were offering odds of 4 to 1 on for the home win, 5 to 1 against a draw and 9 to 1 against an away win. Meanwhile Borrussia Dortmund were 7 to 4 on to beat Napoli.

Wednesday:

The day dawned grey and damp but that was only the weather, Arsenal fans were rejoicing after another satisfying win in The Champions League, 2 – 0 against Marseille, a brace of goals by “Cracker” Jack Wilshere, the first after only thirty seconds, meant that even Ozil’s poor attempt from the penalty spot could be safely overlooked. Mersut later made up for his transgression by laying on the sweetest of passes for Jack to score his second.

It emerged that the Dozy Dane had been at it again, Bendtner was arrested in the early hours of Sunday, he was later charged with criminal damage after the door to the swimming pool, in the apartment block where he lives, was damaged. Bendtner was issued with a Police caution and released. Arsenal have “reminded” the 25 year old of his responsibilities.

Thursday:

Our former player and Assistant Manager Pat Rice has been admitted to hospital suffering from cancer. I’m sure all members of the Arsenal family will join me in wishing Pat a full and speedy recovery.

It was reported that the BFG was in talks with Arsenal over a contract extension. 27 year old Per Mertesacker who was close to an agreement on a contract that will keep him at the club until 2017 said. “I’m very delighted here with the club, especially after the first year was tough for me, a very tough challenge”. Sign da ting Merts.

It’s sad but true that some tabloids exist just to make trouble, when there is nothing detrimental to say about Arsenal they will pick on the slightest thing. According to that paragon of journalistic rectitude, The Mirror, Arsenal fans are outraged at Mathieu Flamini for cutting of the long sleeves of his shirt prior to the Marseille game. Shock! Horror! On the day when match fixing in the English (lower) Leagues rears it’s ugly head, this sorry excuse for a newspaper can only find a story about shirt sleeves to report.

That’s it for another week AAers thank you for your patience.

Norfolk Gooner


Vote for the Next Arsenal Manager

November 22, 2013

Having a few minutes free I start as I often do  to consider life after Mr Wenger. Who doesn’t?

The man has been a stalwart but even he will have to let go at some point. SAF was approaching his dotage when he retired and my hope is that Mr Wenger will retire in time to enjoy the evening of his life. He is approaching 65 and it would not surprise me if he refuses to sign a longterm contract. In which case, let’s play the “Manager Game” …….

I have certain requirements; they must be Arsenal men, they must be under 50, they must be winners,and they must be comfortable with the press. So that rules out most chaps. But who could possibly take over?

Many of our ex-players have taken coaching badges over the past decade and as such can be considered.

1. Tony Adams. Don’t laugh. This is Mr. Arsenal we are talking about. He has PL and foreign managership experience, he has interesting views on Arsenal and football in general which could improve the club. He knows how to organise a defence and above all else TA is a winner. So why not? Well …..

2. Remi Garde. This little fellow is definitely in the frame. Currently manager of Lyons in France and a self-confessed Spurs hater. He has the experience and has already (according to the Redtops) been approached to be Director of Football at THOF.  He speaks fluent German as well so will be able to chat to our new signings.

3. Dennis. The people’s choice. Currently working at Ajax and doing his badges. Could DB10 really become an Arsenal manager? The flying is the first problem, then there is the doubt that he could ever be a Number One. I can easily see him as an assistant manager or a coach but The Big Man? Somehow I doubt it but it would be nice and he does look good in a suit!

4. TH14. Why not? The man is hugely intelligent, absolutely loves the club, has massive experience and an excellent understudying of tactics. A man motivator, brilliant with the media and a true Arsenal icon. Manager material? Why not?

5. Steve Bould. He certainly must be considered. He has been working his way through the manager ranks at Arsenal and now gets to learn from The Great Man. Has he the “nuts” for the job? Well, he would certainly command respect! Woe betide any player who dared diss him. He has done very well with the youth team and is well thought of by the club. Has he the gravitas to take over from AW? You decide.

6. Patrick Vieira. I have said for a few years that PV4 will manage Arsenal, he has everything we need; intelligence, leadership, the badges, media savvy, a love for The Arsenal and above all, he is a winner. It would be excellent if he could be the first black manager of a big PL club. Some say that his time at MC makes him a traitor and his criticism of some of our recent (last season) form was ill-judged but he is a man who speaks his mind and for that we should congratulate him – after all he was only saying what we all were!

7. Someone else. Now this is the most likely bet given the youth and inexperience of the above group.  It is likely that if AW retires next summer or in 2016/7, we will have another Bruce Rioch figure before the Arsenal man gets the gig. There isn’t anyone who comes to mind – Deschamps, Low, Klopp are unlikely to come – yes, I know, Klopp would be brilliant. OK …. just for you I will put him in the vote

8. Mr Klopp. Top bloke, superb at managing BD but who knows how he would fare in the PL.

So vote away …. you have 3 votes so we can get a clearer picture


Arsenal’s Greatest Forwards – Day 7

July 19, 2013

Continuing our Summer series of articles in search of Arsenal’s greatest ever team, this week we will end our quest for the greatest forwards to include in our team.  Don’t forget to take the opportunity to choose your personal favourite striker, this weeks posts will bring us bang up to date and there will be a vote on Saturday.

19. Thierry Henry: 1999-2012.

Thierry appeared in 377 games over a 13 year period and scored 228 goals.

Thierry was born and raised in Les Ulis suburb of Paris which, despite sometimes being seen as a tough neighbourhood, provided good football facilities. As a seven-year-old, he showed great potential, and was recruited by the local club CO Les Ulis. He joined US Palaiseau in 1989, but after a year his father fell out with the club, so Henry moved to ES Viry-Châtillon and played there for two years.

In 1990, Monaco sent scout Arnold Catalano to watch Thierry, when he was just 13 years old, he scored all six goals in a 6–0 win. Catalano asked him to join Monaco without even having a trial first, later he joined Arsène Wenger’s Monaco as a youth player. Subsequently, he signed professional forms and made his professional debut in August 1994. Although Wenger suspected that Thierry should be deployed as a striker, he put him on the left wing because he believed that his pace, natural ball control and skill would be more effective against full-backs than centre-backs. He was named the French Young Footballer of the Year in 1996, and in the 1996–97 season when Monaco won the Ligue 1 title. By his third season, he had received his first cap for the national team, and was part of the winning team in the 1998 FIFA World Cup. He continued to impress during his tenure with Monaco, and in his five seasons he scored 20 league goals in 105 appearances.henry arsenal

Thierry left Monaco in January 1999 and moved to Italian Serie A club Juventus for £10.5 million. He played on the wing, but found it difficult playing in an unfamiliar position against the Serie A defensive discipline, and scored just three goals in 16 appearances. Unsettled in Italy, he transferred from Juventus in August 1999 to Arsenal for an estimated fee of £11 million, reuniting with his former manager Arsène Wenger.  It was at Arsenal that he made his name as a world-class footballer. Brought in as a replacement for fellow French forward Nicolas Anelka, Thierry was immediately moulded into a striker by Wenger, a move that would pay rich dividends in years to come. However, doubts were raised about his ability to adapt to the quick and physical English game when he failed to score in his first eight games. After several difficult months in England he conceded that he had to “be re-taught everything about the art of striking”. These doubts were dispelled when he ended his first season at Arsenal with an impressive goal tally of 26. Arsenal finished second in the league behind Manchester United, and lost in the UEFA Cup Final against Turkish side Galatasaray. Despite recording fewer goals and assists than his first season, his second season with Arsenal proved to be a breakthrough, as he became the club’s top goal scorer. Armed with one of the league’s best attacks, Arsenal closed in quickly on perennial rivals Manchester United for the league title.

Success finally arrived during the 2001–02 season. Arsenal finished seven points above Liverpool to win the league title, and defeated Chelsea 2–0 in the FA Cup Final. Thierry became the league’s top goal-scorer and netted 32 goals in all competitions as he led Arsenal to a double and his first silverware with the club. 2002–03 proved to be another productive season for him, as he scored 32 goals in all competitions while contributing 23 assists, remarkable returns for a striker. In doing so, he led Arsenal to another FA Cup triumph, where he was man-of-the-match in the Final.  Even though Arsenal failed to retain their Premier League crown, he was named both the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year. His rising status as one of the world’s best footballers was affirmed when he emerged runner-up for the 2003 FIFA World Player of the Year award

In the 2003–04 season Thierry was again instrumental in Arsenal’s exceptionally successful campaign; together with team mates the likes of Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pirès, he ensured that the Gunners became the first team in more than a century to go through the entire domestic league season unbeaten, claiming the league title in the process. He was named as the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year, for the second year running. With 39 goals scored in all competitions, he led the league in goals scored and won the European Golden Boot.

In the 2004–05 season he maintained his reputation as one of Europe’s most feared strikers as he led the league in scoring, and with 31 goals in all competitions, he was the co-recipient (with Diego Forlán) of the European Golden Boot. In mid-2005 Thierry became the Arsenal Captain. The 2005–06 season proved to be one of remarkable personal achievements for Thierry on 17 October 2005, he became the club’s top goal-scorer of all time; two goals against Sparta Prague in the Champions League meant he broke Ian Wright’s record of 185 goals. On 1 February 2006, he scored a goal against West Ham United, bringing his league goal tally up to 151, breaking Arsenal legend Cliff Bastin’s league goals record. He scored his 100th league goal at Highbury, a feat unparalleled in the history of the club, and a unique achievement in the Premier League. He completed the season as the league’s top goal-scorer, and for the third time in his career, he was voted the FWA Footballer of the Year.

In a surprise move Arsenal sold Thierry to Barcelona on 25 June 2007, for €24 million.

Henry left Arsenal as the club’s leading all-time league goal-scorer with 174 goals and leading all-time goal-scorer in Europe with 42 goals; in July 2008, Arsenal fans voted him as Arsenal’s greatest player ever in Arsenal.com’s Gunners’ Greatest 50 Players poll.

Following his time with Barcelona, he signed a four-year deal for a reported €6.8 (£4.6) million per season, with the Red Bulls of the MLS.

After training with Arsenal during the MLS off-season, Thierry re-signed for the club on a two-month loan deal on 6 January 2012. This was to provide cover for players participating in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations. He made his second Arsenal debut as a substitute against Leeds United in the FA Cup third round and scored the only goal. In his last league game on loan, he scored the winning goal in stoppage time in a 2–1 win against Sunderland. 

Awards and honours:

Monaco:

Ligue 1 (1): 1996–97

Trophée des champions (1): 1997

Arsenal:

Premier League titles: 2001–02, 2003–04

FA Cup: 2002, 2003, 2005

FA Community Shield: 2002, 2004

Barcelona:

La Liga: 2008–09, 2009–10

Copa del Rey: 2008–09

Supercopa de España: 2009

UEFA Champions League: 2008–09

UEFA Super Cup: 2009

FIFA Club World Cup: 2009

New York Red Bulls:

MLS Eastern Conference: 2010

National:

1998 FIFA World Cup

UEFA Euro 2000

FIFA Confederations Cup2003

Individual:

UNFP Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year (1): 1996–97

PFA Players’ Player of the Year (2): 2002–03, 2003–04

PFA Team of the Year (6): 2000–01, 2001–02, 2002–03, 2003–04, 2004–05, 2005–06

FWA Footballer of the Year (3): 2002–03, 2003–04, 2005–06

Premier League Golden Boot (4): 2001–02, 2003–04, 2004–05, 2005–06.

Golden Boot Landmark Award 10 (1): 2004–05

Golden Boot Landmark Award 20 (1): 2004–05

Premier League Player of the Month (4): April 2000, September 2002, January 2004, April 2004

Goal of the Season (1): 2002–03

UEFA Team of the Year (5): 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006

MLS Best XI (2): 2011, 2012

MLS Player of the Month (1): March 2012

Onze d’Or (2): 2003, 2006

European Golden Boot (2): 2003–04, 2004–05

French Player of the Year (5): 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006

IFFHS World’s Top Goal Scorer of the Year (1): 2003

FIFA FIF Pro World XI (1): 2006

FIFA World Cup All-Star Team (1): Germany 2006

FIFA Confederations Cup Golden Ball (1): France 2003

FIFA Confederations Cup Golden Shoe (1): France 2003

UEFA European Football Championship Team of the Tournament (1): 2000

FIFA 100: 2004

English Football Hall of Fame: 2008

A statue of Thierry statue stands outside the Emirates Stadium honouring him as one of Arsenal’s all time greatest legends.

20. Robin van-Persie: 2004-2012 

Robin played in 278 games over an 8 year period and scored 132 goals.

Robin was born in Rotterdam, Netherlands. The son of two artists, he was encouraged to follow in his parents’ footsteps, but he preferred football.

He joined Dutch side SBV Excelsior’s youth squad at the age of 14 years, but left at the age of 15 and signed for Feyenoord. He was quickly promoted into the first team due to injury problems among the squad, and made his debut for the club at 17, which was the first of 15 total starts. He received the KNVB Best Young Talent award at the end of the 2001–02 season and then signed a professional three-and-a-half-year contract the following season. Clashes with his manager Bert van Marwijk saw him demoted to the reserve squad, he finished his tumultuous debut season on the first team, making a total of 28 appearances and scoring eight goals, in addition to finishing runner-up in the KNVB Cup. Feyenoord unsuccessfully attempted to extend his contract during the off-season. His deteriorating relationship with van Marwijk led to his spending most of the 2003–04 season on the bench. He again played 28 matches, but finished with two fewer goals than the previous season.

On 17 May 2004, Robin signed a four-year deal with Arsenal for £2.75 million, just over half of Feyenoord’s original asking price of £5 million. Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger, who planned to convert him from a left winger to a centre forward, said of his new acquisition, “He can play on the left side of midfield, as a creative player behind the main strikers or as a target man. Robin spent most of his time on the bench during earlier parts of the 2004–05 season, and made his competitive debut on 27 October by scoring Arsenal’s opening goal in a 2–1 League Cup win over Manchester City. He was sent off for the first time, in an Arsenal shirt, on 26 February against Southampton, following a lunge at left back Graeme Le Saux, for which Wenger was seen yelling an obscenity at him from the sidelines. He then later lambasted him in the press stating “I do not support Van Persie today” Telegraph sportswriter Clive White described Van Persie in his match report as “21 going on nine.” He was consequently benched for a number of games, starting with Arsenal’s FA Cup replay against Sheffield United, and he was reintroduced into the squad only after Henry was out with a calf injury, his return to the first team saw him score twice in a FA Cup semi-final win over Blackburn Rovers. The rest of his season was cut short by injury, and he finished with ten goals in 41 appearances in all competitions. Robin’s good form at the start of the 2005–06 season earned him the Player of the Month award for November 2005 after eight goals in eight starts, and he was rewarded with a five-year contract extension until 2011. Two days after signing the contract, however, he was once again hit by injury when an opponent stepped on his foot and broke his toe during an FA Cup match.

The beginning of the 2006–07 season included an airborne volley against Charlton Athletic that Arsene called “the goal of a lifetime” and he was later named BBC Sport’s Goal of the Month for September, and he capped off the calendar year by being named the 2006 Rotterdam Sportsman of the Year. His season, however, ended early for the second time in his career on 21 January, when he fractured the fifth metatarsal in his right foot. After the departure of Thierry Henry he assumed the role as Arsenal’s main striker. Following a streak of seven goals in ten regular-season games, he was sidelined for two months with a knee injury suffered on international duty. He made his comeback in Arsenal’s Champions League group stage on 12 December and made his Premier League return in the win against Chelsea over the weekend. However, he picked up a recurrent injury that kept him sidelined until January when he played 45 minutes in a League Cup game against Tottenham Hotspur. He was withdrawn at half-time following another injury scare and featured sporadically throughout the rest of the campaign. The following season (2008–09) he was named as the Arsenal.com Player of the Season. With only one year remaining of his contract, it was announced in July that he had signed a new long-term contract with his club, stating, “My heart is with Arsenal and I just can’t picture myself in a different shirt.”

On 14 November 2009, he injured his ankle in an international friendly and was initially expected to be out for six weeks, but further tests showed that he would be out for five months. Before the start of the 2010–11 season, his squad number was changed to number 10. He made his 200th appearance in August but an ankle injury suffered in the game placed him on the sidelines once again. He returned as a substitute for Arsenal’s

0–1 defeat to Newcastle United on 7 November.

BSROn 1 January 2011, he scored his first goal of the season in a 3–0 away win over Birmingham City. On 15 January, he added two more goals to his tally in a comfortable 3–0 win over West Ham. This made him only the fourth Dutchman to reach 50 goals in England’s top division. Robin scored his first career hat-trick in a 3–0 win over Wigan Athletic on 22 January and two goals against Newcastle United in a 4–4 draw on 5 February. Continuing his fine form, he hit a brace the following week against Wolverhampton Wanderers scoring both Arsenal goals in a 2–0 win including a volley from inside the box. The ten goals he scored between 1 January and 12 February set a new Premier League record for most goals scored in the first two months of a calendar year.

He set the Emirates alight with a goal from an almost impossible angle in Arsenal’s fight back against Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 which ended 2–1 in favour of the Gunners. On 27 February 2011, Van Persie captained Arsenal at Wembley Stadium in the League Cup final, scoring the first half equalizer for the Gunners. It was his first goal at Wembley and his first in a cup final for Arsenal. However, he was later taken off in the second half with a knee injury he picked up while scoring the goal. He was voted as the second best player of the 2010–11 season on Arsenal’s official website and also received the team’s Goal of the Season award for his audacious strike in the 2–1 victory over Barcelona in the Champions League.

Having been appointed vice-captain for the 2010–11 season, he was promoted to club captain at the start of the 2011–12 season. He finished the season as the top goal-scorer in the Premier League with 30 goals, and became Arsenal’s 8th all-time top scorer with 132 goals.

On 4 July 2012, he announced that he would not be signing a new contract with Arsenal.

Finally after a series of rumours he was transferred to Manchester United for a reported £22.5 million. Supporters of Manchester United voted Van Persie as the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year for the 2012–13 season.

Written by GunnerN5 and complied by Gooner in Exile