The Arsenal legends who make up Arsene Wenger's greatest XI
On the eve of his 1,000th match as manager the pundits have been selecting their favourite players
ARSENAL boss Arsene Wenger takes charge of his 1,000th game in charge of the Gunners on Saturday as his side face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
His 18-year reign at Highbury and the Emirates has been a glorious one, with four FA Cups, three titles, two doubles and one incredible unbeaten season to savour. The club’s current nine-year trophy drought has taken some of the sheen off his reputation, but the Gunners are still in with a chance of another double this year.
Dozens of great players have worn the famous Arsenal shirt while Wenger has been in charge, but who makes the Frenchman's greatest-ever XI? Here's our pick of the experts' picks:
Goalkeeper: David Seaman There are only two candidates in this category and although Dennis Bergkamp and Alan Smith vote for Invincibles keeer Jens Lehmann, it's 'Safe Hands' Seaman who wins the day. "It's impossible to look beyond Seaman," says the Daily Mirror. "He was part of two double winning sides and his experience and quality were crucial in the transition from the old Arsenal to the new."
Defence: Lauren, Tony Adams, Sol Campbell, Ashley Cole Right back is the only position in the defence where there is any real debate. There were votes for Bacary Sagna and Lee Dixon, but Lauren wins because he was, in the words of the Mirror the "quintessential Wenger player" converting from midfielder to defensive rock. Tony Adams makes most teams but not all, with Kolo Toure and Laureny Koscielny getting the nod in some quarters. But Wenger was the "perfect manager" for Adams, says Amy Lawrence in The Guardian, and he "remained a vital figure, a strong personality, and a dependable player". Campbell and Cole are unanimous decisions and feature in every Wenger XI. Campbell "was a monster – a beast – and was full of pace and power when he was in his prime", says Sky Sports pundit and former striker Alan Smith. As for Cole: "Best left-back in the world," says the Daily Telegraph, which runs the rule over Denis Bergkamp's favourite XI. "Unloved by the fans, now, for obvious reasons, but what Wenger would give to have him back?"
Midfield: Freddie Ljungberg, Cesc Fabregas, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires Again, two of these four are unanimious choices, and no Wenger XI would be complete without the presence of Vieira and Pires. "Rarely in life do you meet people with the star quality that [Vieira] has," says Martin Keown in the Daily Mail. "He dominated the ball, and he dominated the opposition." Meanwhile, Pires "played with a panache and verve that summed up everything good about the way Wenger likes to play the game," says the Mirror. Fabregas beats Gilberto and Emmanuel Petit to the other central position, and Caughtoffside says the Spaniard who replaced Vieira was "technically one of the greatest Arsenal players ever". On the flank, Ljungberg gets the nod over Theo Walcott and Marc Overmars. He was versatile, creative and "fitted into the Wenger system with stylish ease", says ITV.
Attack: Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry The only surprise up front is that anyone other than these two got a look in. The only other player who does get a mention is Robin van Persie, but other than one vote for him it is a clean sweep for these two legends. After arriving at Arsenal, Henry "developed that rhythm and unique swagger and at times he was unplayable", recalls Keown in the Mail. "I never like saying that about anybody but with Henry, it was true." And what about the Dutch master? "Bergkamp and Wenger were kindred spirits in some ways," says Lawrence in The Guardian. "His playmaking and intelligence made him a superb foil for all his fellow attackers... and Bergkamp was the link in all Wenger's title winning sides."