The best French XI that played for Arsenal?

My Best Arsenal XI that played for France by Dan Smith

To acknowledge France’s achievement in reaching this Sunday’s World Cup final, I thought I write my pick of the best Arsenal XI to have played for Les Bleus. The nation has produced so many players who have made such an impact on our history
Feel free to offer your best XI in the comments, and of course there are no right and wrong answers!

Warmuz – GK
The only position we can’t really debate over as Warmuz is the only Frenchmen we have ever signed for the GK role. He was brought in as a free agent purely for back up purposes. Not that he didn’t have a solid time elsewhere, while most of his success was in France. Ironically he left us to replace a certain Jens Lehmann at Dortmund.

Clichy – LB
Gael left Arsenal in the same summer as Fabregas and Nasri, meaning his departure didn’t get the headlines it should have. He emerged in the ‘Untouchables’ season as back up for Ashley Cole or sometimes playing in front of him. It meant that when Cole controversially went to Chelsea we had a ready-made replacement.

Koscielny – CB
Laurent started his career as someone who always seemed to have a mistake in him, but developed into a true leader who on his day could claim to be one of the best defenders in the League. Achilles injury meant that he could no longer play 3 games a week. His body gave way at the end of the last campaign putting serious doubts over his future playing career.

Gallas – CB
William was part of the controversial deal which saw Ashley Cole go to Chelsea.
Having won the title at Stamford Bridge, Gallas arrived at the Emirates with a winning mentality, but it quickly became apparent he was frustrated with his surroundings. At a time when Arsene Wenger was putting trust in younger players, Gallas wasn’t the captain we needed. While some would argue we needed more characters like him in the dressing room, his leadership qualities were lacking at a time when his team-mates really needed an arm round the shoulder.

Sagna – RB
Despite arranging a deal with Manchester City before the FA Cup Final, it was evident what the win over Hull meant to the Frenchmen. Having been a solid and dependable performer for so long, it would have been unfair if he didn’t have a winner’s medal to show for his time in North London.

Vieira – CM
While Arsene Wenger was crossing the I’s and dotting the T’s on his contract, he advised the club to sign a teenager whose career he had been following since a young boy. While there was still a drinking culture at Highbury, Vieira represented what the new philosophy was going to be. A natural athlete who looked after himself in terms of training and dieting, he benefited from the veterans in the changing room. The likes of Tony Adams, Lee Dixon, Martin Keown, etc, were quick to teach him the values and traditions of the crest. It was rare for foreigners to become so emotionally attached to a club like Vieira did. Essentially it became his responsibility to pass on these standards to his fellow country men who would follow him to North London. At his peak he was constantly involved In transfer sagas but you never feared that he would jump ship to a title rival, not like certain future captains.

Petit – CM
One of many who in his prime perhaps regretted leaving, realising the grass wasn’t greener at Barcelona. In his 3 year tenure with us, his partnership with Vieira was unrivalled, giving a technically fast team a physical prescence. I can’t think of too many names who almost instantly clicked with a colleague to take the country by surprise. Capped off winning the double by scoring in the final of France 98

Pires – LM
Spent his first few games watching from the dugout as doubts persisted if he could handle the physical nature of the English game, but he became a classic example of what can happen when you give a signing from overseas time to adjust, as within 6 months he was flowing, forming an understanding with Cole and Henry which would lead to unprecedented success. In his second season he showed he had the mentality to step out of Henry’s shadow, wanting to be one of the main men. We won the double that year, with Pires picking up individual awards galore. Like Ljunberg on other side, movement off the ball led to him being a 15-20 goal a season midfielder

Wiltord – RM
For the benefit of this XI Wiltord starts on the right, a position he learnt to play at Highbury, another example of a player who learned a whole new role under the guidance of his manager. Not as skilful as an Henry, Bergkamp or Kanu, Wiltord was more of an out and out striker. He made sure he will always be remembered forever by scoring the goal which won the title at Old Trafford.

Anelka – CF
Arsene Wenger’s best piece of business? Nicholas was signed for half a million pounds as a teenager, and just two years later we made a 20 million pound profit on him. It seemed a disaster at the time but the funds were used to build a state of the art training ground and get the services of a certain Thierry Henry. Anelka would listen to his big brothers throughout his career, moving anywhere throughout Europe if they paid the right wages. He earned plenty of money and medals but never became the world class striker we predicted.

Thierry Henry – captain
Has to make this list as for the greatest player (period) to play for Arsenal FC. Many individuals kiss the badge but you do sense the love Henry has for the club is genuine. Perhaps it was his relationship with Arsene Wenger formed back in Monaco, with gooners giving him the patience he didn’t receive from Juventus fans or the fact so many of his international mates were with him daily. It’s unusual for a man not born in the UK to have such an affinity with a British side. Like Viera maybe the old back four stressed the values of the shirt so much that he ended up also preaching it. I certainly miss the days when we had a world class talent who seemed proud to wear the red and white jersey. Transitioned from a winger to a striker, there was a period where we could claim to having the best player in the universe as a gunner. Surely Thierry will be our manager one day.


  1. Drew says:

    This team would win the world cup!

    1. gotanidea says:

      They did

  2. gotanidea says:

    Agree with your list, but let’s not dwell on the past and move forward with these acquirable French talents (in Klopp’s false nine formation):

    ………………………………Alphonse Areola
    Djibril Sidibe . Dayot Upamecano . Issa Diop . Lucas Hernandez
    ………………………………….Yann M’Vila
    ……………..Nabil Fekir …………………….. Tanguy Ndombele
    ……………………………….Anthony Martial
    ………Florian Thauvin …………………………… Kingsley Coman

    Go get’em Arsenal!

    1. Sparkles says:

      We do not need any of these players.

  3. snowden says:

    Thank you. A good read.
    In my opinion ruined by the speculation in the last paragraph! Great players don’t necessarily mean they are destined to be good managers. Think Billy Wright. I agree it can happened – think George Graham.(Although there were problems, that we outsiders had little knowledge of at the time.)

    Nevertheless a good read. Thanks.

  4. LENOhappy says:

    Off topic:was watching the crotial vs England match again,oh my can we ever have a playmaker as talented and committed and skillful as a certain Luka modric,why can’t ozil play consistently like modric

    1. gotanidea says:

      Modric played deeper, where there is less pressure from the opponents

      Cazorla, Pirlo and Modric used to play in a more upfront position like Ozil. They couldn’t handle the heavy pressure and switched to the deeper positions, resulting great improvements

      Emery said he will improve Ozil’s performance and I suspect he would assign him as a deep-lying playmaker like Thiago in World Cup, instead of a CAM. Not every player has Bergkamp’s combined physical attributes/ skills and therefore most Ozil’s assists came from set-pieces

      1. Break-on-through says:

        Even Bergkamp played a fair bit back there, he would move down field to start the attacks sometimes, or he would be forced into it with his area being congested. All the best play makers go back there so to get a feel of the ball, also a view of what’s ahead so he sees from another mans shoes. Cazorla, he made everything look so easy in midfield with all that space. It is more difficult trying to do it in the final third. He was wasted on the wing, he’d chip in, but he’s someone you want on the ball as much as anyone. Amazed Barcelona never tried to steal him, talk about a ready made replacement. For me there was no-one else who could fill in for Xavi better than Cazorla. Modric, but that was never gonna happen. Gundogan, those would be the three that spring to mind.

    2. Xxnofx says:

      We had one ,his name was Santi

  5. qoni says:

    one thing about ozil. playing in the days of wenger, he starting with the first eleven was guaranteed, but now under emery he must change his attitude or else plays on the bench with the subs. gooner – forever

    1. Break-on-through says:

      When I hear reporters saying how Ozil must do this, or Ozil has to learn to xyz, or else. And fans then saying how Ozil wont get away with it anymore. Then the manager’s of the mind that he needs to get Ozil firing on all cylinders before hugely improving, all round. Myself, I wonder what Ozil makes of it. He creates more chances or creates there about’s than any one player in the league. He also acquired the quickest target of assists ahead of all Premier League players past and present. Am wondering if Ozil even thinks he can do better, or if our manager wants Ozil to “keep this up” and just let him and his assistant worry the other stuff. I watched his assistant doing some defensive training with three starting team players. The first thing I noticed was the ball watchers, I seen him showing a trick to help stop players from watching the ball, before missing the danger. It looked like to me, something that I’d imagine Fergie and Mourinho teaching, or Adams and Keown using. Excited!!!!!!

  6. Sue says:

    That’s some team ?

  7. Sue says:

    Finally….. it’s match day!! COYG

    1. Enny says:

      Where is Kev wen u need him most, updates?????

  8. Sean Williams says:

    Great team. But in the Wenger years Adams and Keown, Viera and Sol Campbell were strong minded leaders. I felt sorry for Gallas. He expected players to do what he had seen at Chelsea, but the energies were dissipating and nobody listened to him. Gallas was both a great footballer and a leader but too many players took his angst personally. That was the beginning of ‘Wengers Fall’. Wenger was becoming ‘Uncle Arsene’ instead of the driven manager he should have been and he made some very peculiar signings that stopped us from challenging for the EPL.
    Nevertheless what a great French team that would have been.

  9. Okiror says:

    Will the match be shown on Tv?

    1. Sue says:

      The Arsenal match will be on at 3pm

      1. Xxnofx says:

        Free of charge ,or payed Sue
        Think I be gone to watch on there before and you had to pay

        1. Xxnofx says:

          Dosent matter I found the info
          Free to watch if you sign up

  10. jon fox says:

    Dan, First of all I want to apologise to you for some of my comments yesterday. We are allowed to disagree and perhaps I should remember this, as I am often telling others to do the same, so no hard feelings , I trust. Humility does not always come easily to this old “goat”, so I am truly sorry. I have not changed my point of view but more importantly I regret the way I expressed mine and demeaned yours. Moving swifltly on (he added, gratefully!), I would like to add my tuppence worth to this interesting subject, so here goes: It is only under Wenger that we have had numerous and good/ great or rotten French players so all are from his time. Basically, it is difficult to much disagree with your pick. Personally, I never liked Clichy and always privately called him Calamity Clichy or Calam, for short. I was thrilled when City paid us the sum of £7 million to take him off us. I always remember the 4 -4 at home to Spuds when he just fell over in fright, on the halfway line – since he was not tackled , allowing Spuds to go upfield and score. His mistakes were numerous BUT I cannot think of any other first choice French who was even at his standard as LB, so he will have to play. Dammit! I also prefer Anelka to Giroud; different class, though Giroud was a good club man whereas Anelka still needed to grow up as a man(not physically) when he was with us. The eleven really picks itself and though the keeper was a nonentity, all the others, save only Clichy, would walk into todays team as no brainers. This assumes all are at their peak, as Kos , though still here , should not now be first choice. At least not by the time he is hopefully fit again. Four players, Henry, Pires, Viera and Petit were world class by ANY standard and what would we give to have those playing for us today. And imagine what they would cost if bought or sold!

  11. DAN says:

    You don’t have to apologise Jon fox
    We are all entitled to opinions and clearly my views are in minority
    I’m just very anti board and feel they are the problem
    I see how certain clubs do things and it frustrates me
    Don’t say sorry though mate , be boring If we all agreed

      1. Xxnofx says:

        I’m with you dan ,the board for me are the problem and having a new manager is only going to him working differently with players and a new tactic to the way we play ,but it’s still the same players wenger had but with a couple of signings that we have been used to these last 10 years
        Where we have spent 70 odd million 5 players our rivals our spending 50 odd on one player ,I know money can be wasted on players but usually money comes out on top in the end and I think this season will be no different ,fighting for a top 4finish

    1. jon fox says:

      Cheers Dan. I was not saying sorry though for my opinion BUT rather for how I dissed you , which was unforgiveable. Mates again now, hopefully and both supporting the greatest club ever. BTW, I doubt many would disagree about the stingyness of Kroenke and the ineptness of our board for years past. It was a black day when Dein was forced out and when Kroenke took over. I do not forget that Dein finally sold his shares to SK either; a stupid mistake which he surely regrets ever since, though maybe not financially. Sigh! But we move on, as what else can we ever do!

      1. DAN says:

        It’s all gravy Jon Fox
        I look forward to debates throughout the season

  12. Break-on-through says:

    I’d rather have Giles Grimandi at CB because the Galas play acting was unbearable to watch. He thought the others were children, drama queen with all the world watching, he tore a strip out of Arsenal that day. We looked a joke thanks to this stroppy so and so.

Comments are closed