Premier League


Arsene Wenger's greatest Arsenal XI

By , Editor | 8mo
To mark the end of Arsene Wenger's 22-year reign as Arsenal manager, Sports Mole compiles the Frenchman's greatest ever XI.

English football witnessed the end of an era on Sunday when Arsene Wenger took charge of his final match as Arsenal manager, ending a 22-year reign the like of which we may never see again.

At times Wenger's Arsenal teams were glorious - some may go as far as saying the best we have ever seen on these shores - but the final years of his tenure were dogged by fan protests against his management.

Even so, since announcing his departure from the club he has served so loyally, the focus has switched back to the glory years under Wenger - from the double-wining teams of 1998 and 2002 to the Invincibles of 2004.

Here, Sports Mole selects Wenger's all-time XI from his 22 years in North London.

David Seaman had been at Arsenal for six years before the arrival of Wenger, but he went on to be first choice between the sticks for another seven years after that, eventually leaving Highbury having played 564 games for the club - more than any other goalkeeper in their history. Jens Lehmann deserves a mention for his part in the Invincibles campaign, but Seaman stands out as the clear choice in goal.

Another 1990s stalwart of the notoriously miserly Arsenal defence was Lee Dixon, who narrowly edges Lauren out at right-back. A Gunner for 14 years - including six under Wenger - Dixon was a key part of the double-winning sides from 1998 and 2002.

On the opposite flank is a man who Arsenal fans hold no love for, but must begrudgingly admit deserves his place in the team ahead of the likes of Nigel Winterburn. Ashley Cole's departure for Chelsea in 2006 felt like treachery of the highest order, but during his 228 appearances for the Gunners he helped them to seven major honours, including the unbeaten Premier League season in 2003-04.

Speaking of treachery, Arsenal themselves pulled off one of the most controversial signings of all time when they poached Sol Campbell from arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur on a free transfer in 2001, and it proved to be a masterstroke. Campbell won the double in his very first season and missed only three games throughout the Invincible campaign, going on to make more than 200 appearances for the club.

That figure pales in comparison to the man alongside him, though, with Tony Adams turning out a whopping 669 times for the club - second behind only David O'Leary in the all-time list. A one-club man, Adams won two league and FA Cup doubles in the Wenger era before hanging up his boots in 2002.

Adams may face a battle for the captain's armband from Patrick Vieira, though, with the Frenchman a clear choice in the middle of the park following nine years under Wenger during which he won three Premier League titles and three FA Cups.

The other central midfield spot is a more difficult decision with the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Ray Parlour and Gilberto Silva vying for a place in the team, but we have opted for Vieira's World Cup-winning compatriot Emmanuel Petit. Petit spent just three seasons with Arsenal, but he was integral to the double-winning campaign of 1997-98 and the partnership between himself and Vieira was arguably the most formidable of the Wenger era.

There are also plenty of options in the wide positions, but Freddie Ljungberg and Robert Pires are selected ahead of the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Marc Overmars. Both Ljungberg and Pires were key members of the 2001-02 double-winning side and the Invincibles team two years later, with the latter contributing 14 goals and seven assists to that historic campaign.

There is no doubt about the two forward positions, with arguably Arsenal's two greatest players of the Premier League era having forged a deadly partnership up front under Wenger. Dennis Bergkamp had the poise, class and technique which brought the best out of Thierry Henry's pace, skill and faultless finishing.

Henry is widely regarded as the greatest Premier League player of all time and is arguably Wenger's biggest success story, having been transformed from a winger into a prolific striker who would go on to become the club's all-time leading goalscorer with 228.

Bergkamp is not far behind in that list of the Premier League's greatest, though, and while Wenger wasn't the man who brought the Dutch maestro to North London, he certainly reaped the rewards as Bergkamp went on to score 120 goals and set up countless more in his 423 appearances for the club.

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