Martin Keown has named Nicolas Anelka as the best 17 year-old of all-time, but where did it all go wrong for him at Arsenal?
The striker arrived from Paris Saint-Germain for a nominal fee, and hit the ground running in North London, despite his tender age.
Anelka scored nine goals in all competitions in his debut season at Arsenal, in 40 appearances, although he rarely played the full 90 minutes in helping his side to win the Premier League and FA Cup double.
The striker later revealed that after his first campaign with the PL giants, the fans didn’t appreciate his hard work, and at that point he had already made his mind up to fire his way to a move away from the club, and he did just that.
In 2008, Nicolas stated: ‘When I started the season there was a poll because I had taken the place of Ian Wright. I thought the fans really wanted it to be me and were pleased with me.
‘But seeing the result in the papers and on TV hit me hard because I had done things for nothing. I thought “So that’s how it is. This is how you thank me. Okay now you watch what is going to happen. I am going to play, score my goals and just when you are saying Anelka, Anelka that’s when I’m going to leave”.
Anelka scored 17 Premier League goals in the coming season, despite being only 18 for the majority of that campaign, and departed for Real Madrid.
Martin Keown has relived his early moments at Arsenal
‘Best 17-year-old I’ve ever seen,’ Keown said. ‘In fact, everything [Thierry] Henry did, I think Anelka could have done for Arsenal if he’d had wanted to stay. But you can’t stop that player, once he’s through he’s rapid, no backlift, great control, he’s away.
‘He used to do that in training every time I saw him, he loved that position.’
Ian Wright was of course a huge fans favourite in North London, and still is in fact, but were Arsenal fans harsh on our young future star?
Anelka showed an amazing amount of talent at such a young age, and his impressive performances for our club are still rememebered to this day, and to think back and remember he was only 17 and 18 for much of his time at Arsenal is just crazy.
We of course made a fair profit on the £500,000 fee paid to sign him, but if fans had given him more credit, could he have fired our side to further glory for years to come? Or would we have never unearthed Thierry Henry if we still had Anelka in the ranks?