Arsene's anniversary: Top 20 players from Wenger's Arsenal tenure
Arsenal visits Burnley on Saturday, marking the end of a week of celebrations honouring Arsene Wenger's 20 years in charge of the Gunners - a decorated tenure that has witnessed some of the world's best footballers ply their trade under the Frenchman.
Both a cultivator of talent and a shrewd shopper in the transfer window, Wenger has been responsible as much for the development of some of the sport's best as he has been culpable for the recruitment of a stellar list of players among Europe's best.
Considering both their longevity and how they thrived under the purveyor of pace and panache, here's a look at the 20 best players to have flourished under Wenger's watch:
1. Thierry Henry
A winger under Carlo Ancelotti at Juventus, Thierry Henry arrived at Arsenal in 1999, and Wenger immediately switched the World Cup winner to striker. Brilliant decision that, as Henry bagged a club-record 174 goals while winning the league twice - including the 2003-04 Invincibles campaign - paired with three FA Cups. No argument here.
2. Dennis Bergkamp
Equal parts playmaker and producer of preposterous goals, Dennis Bergkamp arrived at Highbury a world-class calibre player only to be refined under Wenger's watch. His goal against Newcastle sticks out as a characteristic moment of brilliance among dozens, as the Dutch international thrice lifted league titles at Arsenal, winning every individual award for his exploits during the 1997-98 campaign. There's a reason The Iceman's statue greets supporters as they arrive at the Emirates.
3. Patrick Vieira
The model for defensive midfielders, Arsenal has not been the same since Patrick Vieira left after the 2005 season. Relatively unknown when he arrived a Highbury in late 1996 as Wenger's tenure kicked off, no player before or after Vieira has combined a penchant for robust tackles with incisive passes to the Frenchman's standard. A double winner in his first campaign, few players have acclimated to the English top flight with the same ease as the angular midfield metronome.
4. Robert Pires
March 31, 2001. Club legend David "Rocky" Rocastle has died from cancer the same day Arsenal faced north London rival Tottenham at Highbury. Sporting the No. 7 that Rocastle wore, Robert Pires stars in victory to the delight of supporters, and forever etches his name in Arsenal lore. With 189 appearances and 84 goals, Pires was part of the Premier League's best-ever side in 2003-04, and on his day, was utterly unplayable.
5. Mesut Ozil
When Mesut Ozil made a deadline day switch from Real Madrid on Sept. 2, 2013, it signalled the start of an era of prosperity for Arsenal. No longer a club unable to keep hold of its stars like Fabregas and van Persie, Arsenal now had one of football's best No. 10's. With 87 appearances paired with 17 goals, Ozil makes those around him exponentially better. His 18 assists last season are second only to Henry's 20 as the league standard, and on his day, he's football's best passer.
6. Tony Adams
Fourteen years as captain and with 669 appearances, centre-half Tony Adams was good value for the moniker "Mr Arsenal." A one-club player, Adams was the heart of a near-impenetrable back-four that featured Steve Bould, Lee Dixon, and Nigel Winterburn. When Wenger arrived in 1996, Adams, who was England captain at the time, was battling alcoholism. The Frenchman's emphasis on diet and preparation perfectly coincided with Adams' struggles, elongating the career of one of the English top flight's best-ever defenders.
7. Marc Overmars
A merchant of speed on the flanks before it was fashionable, Dutchman Marc Overmars arrived at Arsenal in 1997 plagued by a serious knee concern. Wenger took a risk on the undersized winger, and Overmars repaid his faith, helping win the double in his first season. He and fellow Oranje international Bergkamp were a lethal pairing.
8. Alexis Sanchez
Like Ozil, Alexis Sanchez's move to Arsenal marked an era of prosperity for the Gunners after half a decade of decline. A tireless worker both on and off the ball, the powerful Chilean became an instant fan favourite. Initially played as an attacking midfielder or winger, Sanchez has starred in his new role as striker, with recent displays alongside Ozil, Alex Iwobi, and Theo Walcott inspiring a divided supporters base. A club legend in the making.
9. David Seaman
Arguably responsible for the best save of the Premier League era when he acrobatically denied Sheffield United's Paul Peschisolido in the 2002-03 FA Cup final at the age of 40, David Seaman lifted a top-flight title three times paired with runner-up honours on four occasions at Arsenal. The best shot-stopper to ever pull on the red strip.
10. Gilberto Silva
An often overlooked element of The Invincibles side, Arsenal doesn't end the 2003-04 campaign sans defeat without the lanky Brazilian midfielder. Paired with Vieira, a reticent Silva bagged 17 goals in 170 appearances for Arsenal while controlling the middle of the park.
11. Sol Campbell
One of nine players to play for both Tottenham and Arsenal, Sol Campbell is the epitome of an athletic centre-back, whose robust frame and barrel chest hid the fact that he was sublime on the ball. A master of towering headers, Campbell coupled with Kolo Toure to great success during The Invincibles season, and scored the opener in the 2006 Champions League final. It was his final match in an Arsenal kit.
12. Robin van Persie
Now a point of derision among Gunners faithful following a move to Manchester United, simply put, Robin van Persie was one of Europe's most lethal strikers on his day. With 96 goals in 194 appearances, it would be unjust not to have RVP on this list.
13. Cesc Fabregas
Like Van Persie, Fabregas left for greener pastures amid criticism from fans, though the Spaniard is the poster boy for successful progression through Arsenal's once-famed academy.
14. Ashley Cole
The Premier League's most decorated full-back, Ashley Cole was both a star and a local talent for the Gunners before making a move across town to Chelsea.
15. Freddie Ljungberg
An underwear model moonlighting as a footballer, Freddie Ljungberg's goal seconds into his debut against United set the precedent for the attacking Swede who enjoyed a decorated decade-long spell as the club's No. 8.
16. Santi Cazorla
One of the league's best midfielders on his day, Santi Cazorla quietly goes about his business while others get the praise. Few players are better designed for Wenger's measured brand of attacking football.
17. Sylvain Wiltord
His goal against United clinched Arsenal's 2002 double, as Sylvain Wiltord became a versatile star under Wenger capable of playing multiple positions among a litany of celebrated Frenchman.
18. Emmanuel Petit
Before Silva starred alongside Vieira, it was Emmanuel Petit who formed the league's best midfield partnership with his French international mate. A favourite of Wenger's whilst at Monaco, Petit combined intellect with power while winning a domestic double in 1997-98.
19. Nwankwo Kanu
Were it not for a congenital heart defect, Nwankwo Kanu may have become one of the league's most celebrated strikers. His three-goal performance against Chelsea stands out as one of the most noteworthy individual displays in Arsenal history.
20. Laurent Koscielny
A symbol of Wenger's penchant for plucking players from French near-obscurity, Laurent Koscielny has become one of the Premier League's best centre-backs under Wenger's watch.
Honourable mentions: Ian Wright, Martin Keown, Nicolas Anelka, Jens Lehmann, Kolo Toure
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