History: Arsenal’s legendary Nigerian hitman Nwankwo Kanu


In 1999 Arsene Wenger caught Nwankwo Kanu in the transfer market for just over four million from Italian giants Inter Milan.

During his time at Highbury the fast and tricky to predict attacker collected two Premier League titles, two FA Cups and one Community Shield.

Kanu’s most attractive individual feat at Arsenal came in late 1999 when he scored a quick fire 15-minute hat-trick for the Gunners against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, single handily ensuring a 3-2 victory when Wenger’s side had gone 2-0 down earlier on.  On top of that he rounded off the 1999/2000 campaign with 17 goals in 50 games. Kanu was a gamble who paid for the North Londoners after only appearing in 12 matches for Milan.

Just before the commencement of the 1999/2000 season Kanu picked up his first piece of silverware at Highbury when the 1999 Community shield was raised over Manchester United which saw Arsenal claw back to win 2-1. Kanu helped Arsenal out with this slotting in the leveller after 67 minutes from the spot before Ray Parlour slammed in the winner moments later.

After having won the 1995 Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Intercontinental Cup at Ajax where he also claimed a hat-trick of Eredivisie (topflight of Dutch football) championships in 1996, he failed to add to his European cabinet of trophies at Arsenal in 2000 when they were humiliated by Galatasaray in the UEFA Cup final on penalties.

In 2002 Kanu lifted the Premier League after The Gunners won the title with a narrow 1-0 victory over Manchester United in May that year. However, Kanu struggled to play as many games as usual that season due to the rapid rise of Thierry Henry as the top attacker in the side. He also ensured Arsenal were crowned champions of the double within a week of securing the Premiership, after Chelsea were beaten 2-0 in the FA Cup final.

A year later he was gifted a second FA Cup winner’s medal once Southampton were just about put aside 1-0 during the 2003 final.

At the ant-climax of the 2003/04 Premier League season Kanu became a VIP member of a special group called the “Invincibles” after Arsenal went the whole campaign undefeated. The 2004 golden Premiership trophy proved to be Kanu’s final piece of silverware won at The Gunners. Within months of the memorable season’s finale Kanu left Arsenal once his contract came to an end for newly promoted Premiership side West Brom. He would stay for only two more years before moving onto top-flight side Portsmouth where he sealed the 2007 FA Cup winning goal against Cardiff City 1-0 in the final. In July 2012 after having watched Pompey tumble from the Premiership to League One suffering two bouts of relegation Kanu put his career to a stop for good.

The Nigerian made nearly 90 games for his country at senior level for nearly two decades from 1994 to 2011, in which he found 12 goals in. On the global stage he clinched four African Cup of Nations Bronze medals (2002, 2004, 2006, 2008) and an Afro-Asian Cup of Nations in 1995. He also won the 1996 Summer Olympic Gold medal in football where along the way he finished off the 4-3 victory for Nigeria against Brazil in the semis. Three years earlier he was a part of the Nigerian FIFA U-17 World Championship winning side which herald 2-1 celebration versus Ghana.

After scoring 44 times in almost 200 games at Arsenal Kanu is currently the 13th best player to run out for the Gunners in history in opinion of the fanbase.

Liam Harding

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