Arsenal History: Sylvain Wiltord – The Invincible Flying French winger that won trophies galore

Sylvain Wiltord

Sylvain Wiltord would go on to appear in almost 200 matches for The Arsenal where he achieved much success within only four years.

The winger ended up securing two Premier League titles, two FA Cups and community shield at Highbury. With France he lifted one Euro, two Confederation Cups and a World Cup runners-up medal. After leaving The Gunners he became a member of the Lyon Ligue 1 Triple winning side. He had also won the top-flight of French football (when called French Division 1) before coming to N19 when at Bordeaux in 1999, making his tally four French titles in total where in the same year he also claimed French player of the year and the Golden Boot.

The Frenchman’s finest feat was being a part of the Invincible’s squad which were crowned champions of the 2003/04 Premier League after not losing a match all season.  Even though Wiltord was selected for only 12 matches during the campaign he was still allowed to wear a winner’s medal around his neck.

After having signed for a club record of £13 million nearly two years beforehand, Wiltord played a massive solo role in ensuring he won his first title with the Gunners in the 2001/02 Premier league season. He fired in the only goal of the 1-0 triumph over Manchester United at “The theatre of dreams” Old Trafford which saw the premiership secured with only a matter of games to go.  On top of this that year he rounded up ten strikes at Highbury.

Within weeks of that grand win Wiltord featured in the 2002 FA Cup Final when Chelsea were pushed aside 2-0 to see off Arsenals third and final double in their history. Later on in August Wiltord’s one and only charity shield was won 1-0 against Liverpool.

In less than a year Wiltord crushed Manchester United’s hopes of silverware again at Old Trafford during the 2002/03 FA Cup winning run. The young and whizzing winger came up smelling the roses for a second time at Old Trafford, in the second half of Arsenals 2-0 FA Cup fifth round victory over the Red Devils he scored within moments of the second half. Come May Wiltord returned to the Millennia Stadium to win his second and final FA Cup with the Gunners after coming off the bench in the final part of the match which witnessed Arsenal beat Southampton 1-0. This was not enough silverware for Wiltord, by the end of the year he won the Confederations Cup for the second time in two years with France after having claimed it in 2001.

After winning his second Premier League trophy Wiltord departed Highbury in 2004 after scoring 49 goals in all tournaments for Arsenal. Wiltord had attracted interest from West Brom and was eager at one point to go to arch rivals Tottenham in what would’ve been a highly controversial move in both sides history. In the end he chose to fly to France and turn out for Lyon where within three seasons he paraded around the streets of the City three times with Ligue 1 which he won in 2005, 2006 and 2007. This saw him included in The Union Nationales des Footballerus Professionels Ligue 1 team for two successive years come 2006.

During the same year he was for a change on the losing end for France as they were defeated in the World Cup on penalties 5-3 versus Italy following a 1-1 draw after extra-time, despite scoring the first pen. Six years previously before he joined Arsenal in the summer of 2000 he had clinched his first piece of silverware with his country when the Euros was picked up against Italy, in which Wiltord netted the equaliser to take the game into extra-time where it was won 2-1. By the end of 2006 Wiltord had stepped down from International duties after an impressive 92 games and 26 goals making him Frances 12th greatest talisman of all-time.

After leaving Lyon in 2007 Wiltord agreed to play for French teams Rennes, Marseille, Metz and Nantes where he was less successful before retiring in 2012 from football.

Wiltord is ranked as one of the greatest player to this day to honour the Arsenal shirt.

Liam Harding

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  1. He wasn’t a winger, he was a striker who occasionally played wide midfield for us. Possibly the most underrated player of the Wenger era? People always say Gilberto, but he’s so famous for being underrated, it doesn’t really fit him anymore.

  2. Wiltord was good, sometimes very good, and didn’t get enough deserved Invincible recognition, but never was among our ‘greatest’ players.
    And I think you meant N5.

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