Arsenal History: Our Cameroonian Invincible defender Lauren

Lauren

Lauren was one of Arsenals finest defenders during the honeymoon era of the early 2000s and was truly adored by all fans especially during the Invincible season.

The defenders time in North London witnessed him win two Premierships, three FA Cup, two Community Shields. Before clearing balls out from the back at Arsenal he won the Supercopa de Espana with Mallorca. He would later pick up the FA Cup for a fourth and final time with Portsmouth against the odds! On the International stage he was honoured two times Africa Cup of Nations hero   for Cameroon and an Olympic Gold Medalist in football.

Lauren cemented his name in the World football history books during the 2003/04 season as an “Invincible” after Arsenal went undefeated all campaign to lift the Premiership. This witnessed Lauren included in the Professional Footballer’s Association Premier League team of the year. However his most memorable moment on an individual level (not for the best) during the glorious unbeaten run came at Old Trafford after throwing a few nasty words at Manchester United’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy after he failed to convert from the spot, witnessing Lauren pay for his consequences being unable to play the next four matches and handed an FA fine of £40,000 to pay off. Despite letting his emotions get the better of him at the time when reflecting later on in 2019 to BBC about that famous season, he expressed how he and his teammates couldn’t have worked any harder that year to become history makers.

“We were living 100% football. We used to play three or four games a week and some of the players would say ‘go and relax’.”

“On my day off, I would go to the training ground and people used to say to me that it was too much and that I had to rest.”

This was the second time round he had won the title at Highbury after the 2001/02 title was secured, where during the season he slammed in a penalty from the spot to hand Arsenal the decisive 2-1 winner over a much detested enemy in Spurs at home. This was also a momentous campaign which saw the double lifted after Lauren played in the 2-0 FA Cup walk in the park over Chelsea.

Lauren would gain further success in the FA Cup the following year recovering in time from a nasty calf injury to marginally help The Gunners dismantle Southampton 1-0 in the final.

Fast-forward two years and Lauren was on the winning end for Arsenal in an FA Cup final yet again after Manchester United were knocked down on penalties after a 120 minute 0-0 stalemate in 2005. Lauren volunteered in the penalty shootout cheekily tucking away the first. By this points Lauren had become used to winning silverware after having only won one trophy before moving to N5 in 2000 after Mallorca claimed the 1998 Supercopa de Espana 3-1 over Spanish giants Barcelona across two matches.

After making 241 games for Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal he departed for Premiership side Portsmouth in 2007 on his own terms which the club was open to anyway. He had also struggled with retaining his position in the first team due to a severe knee injury which stopped him playing for most of 2006. Inside his first year impressively he ensured Pompey were crowned winners of the 2008 FA Cup with once Gunner teammate Kanu firing in the 1-0 winner versus Cardiff City.

Lauren later played for Spanish side Cordoba where little success if any was achieved during his time at The Caliphs in 2010.

For his Nation Cameroon he was picked 24 times in five years between 1997 and 2002 scoring a single goal. In 2000 he sealed his first ever winners medal for his country after Cameroon won the African Cup of Nations, after beating Nigeria on penalties following a 2-2 draw, Lauren was also awarded African Nations Cup Player of the Tournament for the one and only time in his career for his fine defensive displays. A second piece of silverware sat only round the corner that year for Lauren, after Cameroon edged their way past Spain in a penalty shootout after a 2-2 draw to earn a Summer Olympics Gold Medal in football. Within two years Lauren claimed a second African Cup of Nations once Cameroon had tackled Senegal in favourite fashion on penalties due to a 0-0 finish after 120 minutes.

The man who still believes Arsenal are the best team in North London is regarded as one of the most robust of legends amongst many Arsenal fans today!

Liam Harding


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