Arsenal and its glory days: Remember the title of ‘the invincibles’? Even if you haven’t, let me give you a short glimpse of this “sobriquet.” It was initially won by Preston North End in the season of 1888-89, when they went onto finish the campaign without a single defeat.
However, achieving that feat in the 21st century, especially in the era of Premier League football, seemed like blowing at a pipe dream. However, that tall order was taken care of and manifested in reality when Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal went on to lift the Premier League in the year 2003-04 without losing a single match in the Premier League.
They used to be a part of one of the big four before the establishment of Manchester City as a major power in English football. The legacy that the gunners have produced is incredibly amazing and despite a decline in recent years, the team continues to be a driving force in the heart of England.
The Emirates has proven itself to be a fortress and breeding ground of monsters that has borne witness to the rise of several footballing giants who would later go on to manifest themselves as icons of the sport.
In today’s story, we would like to take a quick look at five footballers whose careers peaked after joining Arsenal.
1. Patrick Vieira
Vieira was signed from Milan in 1996 for a paltry amount of £4.8 million. Nine years down the line, the Gunners off-loaded him and ever since they have desperately been in a failed pursuit of another Vieira. He was signed even before Arsene Wenger arrived at the club. He was just 20 and had a season of senior football under his belt, playing for Cannes. Ever since his arrival at the Emirates Stadium, he was incorporated into the first team.
Wenger was known for his offensive inclinations, while Vieira rallied the back four to bolster the Arsenal defence while the attackers went to raid ahead. His stamina was much more than the likes of Keane and Makelele that helped him surge ahead and assist the attacking likes of Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry.
Vieira wasn’t just an apt defensive medio, but he had successful contributions towards the offensive numbers too, as he assisted 35 goals and scored 29 while in his illustrious stint at Arsenal. There was just one downside to Vieira and that was his brash brand of football that earned him eight red cards which is still the joint highest in the Premier League.
2. Freddie Ljungberg
Despite his struggle as an Arsenal manager, Ljungberg was a crucial part of Wenger’s plans in his team’s offensives. In an infamous way, he was also popular because he was the Premier League’s foremost underwear model. With all said and done, no one can still deny the attacking gentry that was brought by Freddie to the table.
He was signed from Halmstad for £4.1 million in 1998. He went onto win the League’s Player of the Season award in 2001-02 where he went onto fire home a whopping 12 times that was also inclusive of that outrageous dink over Manchester United.
Sadly, for the Swede, there were too many injuries that cut his career short. However, with the limited bursts of excellence that he managed in the short span of time, he tied himself with Zlatan and Larsson’s illustrious stints at the Premier League of being the best Swede footballer.
3. Robert Pires
Pires was roped in from Marseille for £8.8 million in 2000. On a candid note, Pires was untenable and his hunger to create and the score was implacable. This man was an artist in football and was a destructor whenever he was given the ball at his feet to score.
His career was cut short by mounting injuries that finally culminated in his exit from the game. However, a fit Pires will be totally unstoppable, as he was an outrageous scorer, and he was one of the primary cogs who helped Thierry Henry to establish himself as an Arsenal legend.
Pires was blessed with almost all the virtues that an attacker must be gifted with, He had raw pace, some extraordinary skills and a deafening ability to hammer those thunderbolts from range. He was selected in PFA Team of the Year a staggering three times in his six seasons at the Emirates stadium.
He was also the FWA Player of the Year and Arsenal’s Player of the Season in the 2001-02 campaign. However, after an explosive five years at the club, overuse of him started denting his career prospects and he shortly fell out of favour at Arsenal, finally heading over to Villareal at the age of 32.
4. Robin van Persie
He arrived in England in 2004 for a price of £4.1 million from Feyenoord. Sadly, for the Dutch striker, despite all his prolific goal-scoring flair upfront, the only thing van Persie missed out on is silverware which he later managed to bag with Manchester United.
The only trophy that he won for the Gunners was a FA Cup, which arrived in the opening year of his arrival. He then went onto spend eight successful years at the club, terrorizing opponents with an extraordinary brand of football.
He was onboarded as the perfect successor to Thierry Henry, but when the French marksman pulled the plug on his Arsenal career, RVP found himself faltering due to an unwanted development of injury.
The most magical display from the Dutch striker arrived in his final two seasons, where he went onto pump 48 strikes from 63 caps.
5. Dennis Bergkamp
Needless to say, but Bergkamp was unarguably one of the best rather ‘the best player’ to have graced the Emirates stadium. He arrived at Arsenal in 1995 for a staggering price of £10.1 million. Imagine this transfer happening now, the amount would have been close to £150 million almost.
Despite the hallowed presence of Ian Wright and David Platt, it was Bergkamp who completely changed the dynamics of the Arsenal attack. Bergkamp established himself as one of the best players of the early days of the Wenger era.
He also went onto win the PFA Player of the Season in 1998 that saw Arsenal winning their first trophy under the French preceptor, Wenger. However, shortly, a gulf started accentuating between Bergkamp and Wenger that saw him being often benched by the gaffer.
There are only five players who have managed to ring more than 80 goals and 80 assists. The remaining four of the lot are Frank Lampard, Ryan Giggs, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney. The first name is obviously Dennis Bergkamp who drove a commentator crazy with an insane first touch and a sumptuous finish for the Netherlands.