Arsenal have acquired and developed some wonderful British talent over the years. However, at times many pundits mock (due to the number of foreign players at the club now) and seem to forget that the Gunners are in fact an English based team. In tribute to those British players who donned the famous red and white of Arsenal in the past and present, this article will feature the best of British Arsenal had to offer in one unique team. Here is my all-time Arsenal best British XI:
Seaman was arguably one of, if not, the best ever goalkeepers in Arsenal’s history. The Englishman was bought to the club by George Graham for £1.3 million (a record British signing for a goalkeeper at the time) in 1990. Seaman spent 13 years at Arsenal where he made a total of 478 appearances and holds the current clean sheet record in the Premier League with 130. The former England international was also named in the team of the decade (from 1992/3-2001/2) and holds 75 caps for his country, England’s second-most capped keeper behind Peter Shilton. David Seaman managed to pick up 9 trophies whilst at Arsenal, which includes 3 First Division/Premier League titles and 4 F.A. Cups. The 6’ 3’’ shot-stopper became widely known around the world and enhanced his skills and reputation whilst at the North London club until 2003 when he left for Manchester City. David Seaman was one of the Premier Leagues finest goalkeepers alongside Peter Schmeichel and without a doubt deserves his place in this all time English Arsenal Line-up.
Although he may be hated by the Arsenal faithful, Ashley Cole remains one of the clubs best full-backs, ahead of Kenny Sansom and Nigel Winterburn. I was really torn as to whom to put down in this position, but considering impact, skill and movement Ashley Cole does rank amongst the highest than the other two contenders. Ashley Cole was arguably one of the brightest English players ever to come out of the Arsenal youth academy, who certainly adapted well to the Arsenal first-team and made the full-back role his own. Cole possessed great pace, movement as well as attacking prowess and actually revolutionized the full-back position for up and coming full-backs. The past full-backs at the North London club didn’t push up as much, yet Cole was able to attack and defend to the same capacity. The England international signed his first professional contract in November 1999 and spent 7 years at Arsenal enhancing his abilities. Cole made a total of 224 appearances for the Gunners and managed to bag 9 goals along the way. The speedy full-back picked up 2 Premier League titles and 3 F.A. Cups and was apart of ‘The Invincibles’ in the 2003/04 season. A great player for the club…it’s just a shame he didn’t stay longer.
Mr. Arsenal himself, Tony Adams epitomized what a centre-back was all about, strong, dedicated and vigorous. The famous Arsenal no.6 spent his entire 19 year career at the North London club where he made an outstanding 672 appearances for the Gunners and netted 48 goals as well. At the tender age of 18, Adams became a regular starter for the Gunners from the 1985/86 season onwards. Along with Nigel Winterburn, Lee Dixon and Steve Bould, Tony Adams was part of the ‘famous four’ that lined up in the Arsenal defence…probably the most famous back line in the English game. In 1988 he became the clubs captain and remained it until his retirement in 2001. The resolute defender captained his beloved Arsenal to 4 Premier League titles (2 First Division titles), 3 F.A. Cups, 3 League Cups and a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in the 1993/94 season. Arguably Arsenal’s best ever defender, hence why all the clubs fans refer to him as Mr. Arsenal.
Sol Campbell (Centre-Back)
The Sol man had to be in the line-up purely for the fact that the Englishman was a beast of a defender in the Arsenal back-line (some may say he still is). Arsenal brought in the former Spurs player in 2001 and was arguably one of the most controversial transfers in the history of the Premier League, but what a decision it was from Wenger. Campbell was an absolute rock in the Arsenal defence and was voted by tens of thousands of fans worldwide as the 15th greatest Arsenal player of all-time. The 6’ 2’’ defender spent 5 years at Arsenal from 2001 to 2006, where he picked up 2 Premier League titles, 3 F.A. Cups and was apart of the invincible side in the 2003/04 season and was also in the team who took part in the clubs only Champions League final. Sol Campbell resigned for Arsenal in January 2009 and proved to doubters that the Englishman can still cut it in the top-flight. Campbell has made 209 appearances for the club and also netted 10 goals as well, not bad for a centre-back. A real rock of a defender, and it was a shame him and Adams were not in the same Arsenal line-up, I don’t think they would have conceded a goal! Ok that maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but still what a force that would have been.
Another part of the ‘famous four’, Lee Dixon was a traditional full-back for the Gunners, who did his job, and did it superbly well. Dixon very rarely ventured forward, but was absolutely brilliant in his defensive duties. His reading of the game and positional sense was remarkable and was no doubt an influential figure in the late 80’s early 90’s. The right-back made over 550 appearances for the North London club and managed to accumulate 9 trophies within his 13 spell at Arsenal, which includes 4 First Division/Premier League’s and 3 F.A. Cups. I don’t think there was another English right-back better than the 5’ 10’’ full-back. A reliable and solid performer throughout his career in the Arsenal attire who definitely deserves his place in this line-up.
Nicknamed by the older generation of Arsenal fans ‘Geordie’, George Armstrong was one of Arsenal’s most consistent performers in the 60’s and 70’s. Armstrong was a traditional wide-man who was primarily noted for his high energy levels, pace, speedy forward runs and accurate crossing ability. The winger was principally a left winger, but was also as effective on the opposite flank. Armstrong was apart of the double winning side in the 1970/71 season, and having spent 15 years at the North London club, the adaptable winger made an outstanding 628 competitive first-team appearances (500 of which were in the domestic league) and is currently the third highest in the appearance ranking for the club.
14 years at the North London club, 445 competitive first-team appearances and 32 goals, Ray Parlour was undoubtedly one of the most famous faces in the Arsenal midfield in the 90’s. The curly haired tenacious midfielder was not noted for his goals and flair, but more of the rough and tumble style. Parlour was a very versatile midfielder who was also capable of playing on the right side of the midfield, but the centre was where he imposed his presence the best. Nicknamed ‘The Romford Pele’ by many, Parlour was somewhat of an unsung hero and was a firm fan favourite purely for his high energy performances week in week out. The centre midfielder won 3 Premier League titles, 4 F.A. Cups, 1 League Cup as well as a UEFA European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1995. Parlour’s last season came in 2003 where the Englishman claimed a historical mention in the side which went on a fantastic unbeaten season. Ray Parlour was the modern day version of Patrick Vieira, although he wasn’t technically gifted as his other team-mates, the Englishman made up for it with his high level of desire and determination. Ray Parlour is a legend end of.
Paul Merson was possibly one of the most technically gifted Englishman ever to wear the famous red and white of Arsenal. The 5’ 11 midfielder possessed bag of skills, great movement, superb passing ability as well as extraordinary vision which made him, without a doubt, one of Arsenal’s greatest ever English players. Merson was a very versatile player, who played upfront, as a playmaker midfielder as well as a winger; equally, he performed in all three positions brilliantly. In His 11 year stay at Arsenal, Merson managed to rack up a total of 425 appearances in all competitions as well as hitting the net 99 times. He was a brilliant player to watch, and ideally set the tone for aspiring playmakers at the club. Merson helped Arsenal to 2 First Division titles, 1 League and F.A. Cup as well as a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. A true legend for Arsenal and is he is still loved by many of the Arsenal faithful to this day.
Known to the Arsenal faithful and his team-mates as ‘Rocky’, David Rocastle was one of Arsenal’s finest and gifted players in his time. The right-sided midfielder possessed great pace, dazzling skill, attacking prowess as well as a fine touch and control of the ball, basically an all-round performer. From 1984 to 1992, the Englishman made 277 appearances in all competitions for the club, as well as bagging 34 goals for Arsenal football club. Rocky was an inspirational and key player for the North London club who helped the Gunners to 2 League Championships in 1989 and 1991 as well as a League Cup triumph in 1987. Rocastle was undoubtedly a fan favourite and was truly an exceptional and influential footballer in his time, and one who is regarded by many Arsenal fans and ex-team-mates as an Arsenal legend.
The striker was the clubs all time goal-scorer with 178 goals in 396 starts for the North London club, and kept this record up until 1997 when Ian Wright shattered it. Bastin will not be remembered as much as the other noticeable strikers the club have had, but during the 30’s mid 40’s, the Englishman had an infatuation of scoring goals. The forward spent 17 years at the North London club in which he helped guide his side to 2 F.A. Cups as well as 5 First Division titles. By the age of 19, Bastin won an F.A Cup, League title and was also capped for England, which makes him the youngest ever player to do all three. Cliff Bastin was voted as the 16th greatest Arsenal player of all time on Arsenal.com by tens of thousands of the clubs fans. Cliff Bastin is the clubs third highest ever goal-scorer behind Ian Wright and Thierry Henry, and because of this deserves his place in this side.
Signed in September 1991 for only £2.5 million from Crystal Palace, who would have thought Ian Wright would have had such an impact on the North London club as he did. The Englishman spent 7 years at Arsenal, where he made a total of 285 appearances in all competitions for the club and bagged a remarkable 185 goals. Wright surpassed Cliff Bastin’s goal scoring record which was held from 1939 to 1997. Wright’s record was then broken in 2005 by none other than Thierry Henry, which means Wright stands as Arsenal’s second highest ever goal scorer at the club. Whilst at Arsenal, the striker lifted up 1 Premier League title, 2 F.A. Cups, 1 League Cup and 1 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. Wright was also picked in the PFA team of the year twice in 1993 and 1997. The Arsenal forward also claimed the Golden Boot in 1992 as well as a place in the English Hall of Fame in 2005. Unquestionably Wright was one of Arsenal’s finest ever strikers and was an absolute goal machine. Ian Wright was undoubtedly a great goal scorer as well as a scorer of great goals, an Arsenal legend for sure.
Any glaring omissions?
Follow me on Twitter – http://twitter.com/TMer4kl1