Who’s Your GOAT 🐐? By Dan Smith
Yesterday I was reading an article on the BBC comparing GOAT ‘s from various eras. This has inspired this piece.
It’s left me thinking when it comes to Arsenal, who do I view as the Greatest Of All Time?
I want readers opinions as well as I think it will be fun to see which names pop up the most in the comments. This of course might be subjective in terms of your age. You might choose a player that others were not old enough to ever see play live?
Maybe you are a younger gooner who only has recent memories?
This is how I thought we could break things down to formalize my final list.
Take the decade you were born in and from then to now, make a choice from each 5-year period (you can repeat a name if you see fit)
For example, my criteria will be,
1980-85 – Kenny Sansom
So I was born in 1987. Going by my own rules I have had to do some research (which is part of why I set it up like this). It came down to a choice of three for this time frame
Pat Jennings – simply because I love the idea of Spurs thinking the keeper was going to retire, only to jump to the red side of London.
David O’Leary – no one has played more times for the Arsenal then him.
Yet this wasn’t our most successful period, and in truth both of these contenders had better years then these. So maybe purely for consistency I have picked Kenny Sansom.
He moved to Highbury at the start of the decade and for the next 7 consecutive years was voted the best left back in the League by his peers (8 if I count his last year at Crystal Palace). In many ways the full back was ahead of his time.
He had a burst of pace which made him an attacking threat but also had great timing defensively.
Only one full back has played more times for England then Sansom (another Gunner in Ashley Cole), playing in two World Cups and a European Championship.
The transition of George Graham wanting to rebuild his back 4 saw him depart in 1988.
I actually became aware of the player in unfortunate circumstances, with details emerging over the years about his battle with addictions and being homeless. He was in hospital seriously ill a few months ago. On behalf of Just arsenal, I hope he’s doing better
1985-1990 David Rocastle
He was like the predecessor to Ian Wright. The kid who grew up on a poor estate and did good. If you ever get to hear Ian Wright talk about staying up all night listening to his friend talk about ‘The Arsenal’ it brings tears to your eyes.
He has such a connection with the fans it almost overshadows how good he was. At the time of ‘boring boring Arsenal‘, this was the closest we had to skill and flair.
He played every league game in the memorable 89 campaign, for the second time being chosen as the League’s best youngster.
Since his sad death in 2001 Arsenal have honoured him by naming their indoor training facility after him. At only 33 Rocky was taken from us too soon. We wish he were here but that’s me being selfish, as I know heaven is a better place for having him.
1990-1995 Tony Adams
Okay I had to have a shower. That’s how dirty I feel for not picking Ian Wright, but I had to pay homage to our famous back 4 and Adams was the leader of that.
The captain’s arm up, informing his defence when to step up for offside is so iconic it was copied in the Full Monty Movie.
He lifted the League, League Cup, FA Cup and Cup Winners Cup during this time frame. That’s all the more amazing when you consider this was the same period, he claimed to be an alcoholic.
He spent the first two months of 1991 in a prison cell for drink driving.
Anyone who understands the illness that is addiction will know how mentally strong he had to be to still deliver at the highest level while facing this daily battle.
He has written two books about his sobriety and in 2000 founded the Sporting Chance Clinic.
One of only 4 men to have a statute outside the Emirates yet the person Adams has become is better than any medals he won.
Wasn’t signed by Arsene Wenger but represented the transition of ‘Boring Boring Arsenal’ to what we would become under the Frenchman.
It was like when Mr Wenger arrived, the Dutchman found someone who completely shared his footballing ethos.
Bergkamp wasn’t your typical striker, he was selfless. Instead of scoring goals, he preferred to create for others. He was crucial to the clever movement we had off the ball, almost like the link which made everything else tick.
He would drop deep into the number 10 role, and then pick out the runs of others due to his world class vision and passing ability.
First, he formed a great partnership with Ian Wright and as we approached the millennium, Pires, Ljungberg and of course Henry.
Quite simply these were the years you could with a straight face argue we had the best player in the world.
Henry’s understanding with Cole and Pires on our left-hand side was instrumental to the most successful period in our history.
Arsenal Wenger had taken a winger and taught him how he could start on the wing, cut inside, and score 30 times a season.
His relationship with Arsenal became unique.
While many players will kiss the badge and claim to love a club, I believe Henry’s affection for the Gunners was and is very real.
I credit that to the likes of Adams, Dixon and Keown, who did such a fantastic job of teaching the French connection the value of the crest and what it means to wear the shirt. Once they retired, the likes of Viera and Henry taught those standards to the next crop of youngsters
As we moved from Highbury to the Emirates, Fabregas became the face of the ‘new Arsenal’.
Arsene Wenger decided to break up the ‘Invincibles’ (too soon) and replace them with youth. First, he sold Viera largely due to the development of Fabregas then made him captain when Gallas had his famous meltdown
Mr Wenger also changed the type of player he was recruiting, replacing physicality with shorter players with more emphasis on technical ability.
The truth was due to pressure to pay off the stadium debt, we had to sell an asset every summer, meaning at key moments in seasons we lacked the experience to get over the line.
It’s no exaggeration to say there were moments where Fabregas led us the closest we have come to winning the title since we last did.
The Spaniard was so good (including assisting the winner in a World Cup Final) it was a case of when and not if he would return to Barcelona.
2010-2015 Van Persie
The hardest 5 years to judge as this was when we learnt the ambition was to be nothing more than a team who just about managed to squeeze into the top 4.
Some might also argue Van Persie only played two of the seasons in which I’m saying he was better than anyone else at the club.
But look at his body of work
With 22 goals and 37 goals respectively, his last two seasons with the club were easily his most productive.
When we faced Birmingham in the 2011 League Cup Final, we were top of the League by 5 points and had just beaten Barcelona. It was a case of how many, not if, we would end our trophy drought. When we lost that final, we again lacked the leadership and our campaign melted.
When Fabregas, Nasri and Clichy left, Van Persie single handedly carried one of the worst squads in recent memory to the Champions League.
I can’t remember another season where we were so grateful to one player.
You know how some say without Auba’s goals we wouldn’t have finished 8th, well Van Persie took a team who were losing 8-2 at Old Trafford and got us third.
When thinking who to pick, wow it sums up how we have been in decline in the last 5 years .
Whoever I chose they look out of place
Ozil started well but hasn’t been the same player since Arsene Wenger left, Sanchez was good for two years but wasn’t the leader he needed to be.
I felt that as soon as he realised we were out of a title race he would go missing. If you think about the year we finished second to Leicester, he was poor when it was squeaky bum time. When youngsters had lost confidence he wasn’t helping by his tantrums.
Still though provided us some happy memories. Scored in two FA Cup Semi Finals and Finals and took us close to winning the Premiership.
So those are the names who got to my Final.
My final order ……
So my Goat 🐐 Thierry Henry