Top XI Arsenal Games Under Arsène Wenger – #Wenger1000
Best ever Arsène XI’s are everywhere at the moment and after watching a few people meltdown at mine on Twitter – which was strange in and of itself because it wasn’t that controversial and it’s an entirely subjective issue – I decided to steer clear for now and look at it in a different way and do a Wenger XI in games.
GK: Lehmann – Game: Villarreal (El Madrigal 2006)
Villarreal were almost completely dominant in this game and Lehmann had to save well from Franco, Franco, Sorin and Riquelme (FK) before making a fine save when Riquelme took a last gasp penalty that would have seen us go into extra time. I also chose this game because that penalty save summed up the “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” mentality from the previous 9 Champions League games and put us into the history books for consecutive clean sheets in the Champions League.
This narrowly beat out Seaman’s save against Sheffield United in 2003 which is still my favourite save of all time but you cannot ignore 10 games without conceding in the Champions League.
RB: Sagna – Game: Tottenham (The Emirates 2012 – the first time)
We all remember this game. Winning 5-2 again in the same year was hilarious and we look fondly back on both of those games but at the time we were all cacking it. Spurs were in the ascendancy and we looked down and out when they went 2-0 up within 33 minutes. Then Sagna popped up with a screaming, looping, deep header to bring us back to 2-1 and ignite the performance that saw us 5-2 winners and go on a fine run of form to finish above Tottenham AGAIN!
CB: Adams – Game: Everton (Highbury 1998)
This was a game Arsenal won comfortably to claim their first league title, and trophy, under Arsène Wenger but the final goal is what makes is most special. The revitalised rearguard of the boring boring Arsenal days combined in pulchritudinous fashion to score a goal that would rival any of the aesthetically pleasing and attacking football of the Wenger era. Adams burst forward, Bould floated the ball over the top and into Tony’s path, Adams took it perfectly on his chest and released a stunning half-volley to cap off a wonderful day. Adams’ celebration has been immortalised in bronze outside The Emirates for generations to see.
CB: Campbell – Game: Tottenham (WHL 2004)
This game finished 2-2 so it was hardly a dazzling defensive display and Sol didn’t score like the 2006 CL final which just missed out on being in my XI because despite the loss, Sol was immense and it certainly wasn’t a game Arsenal deserved to lose fairly. This game makes it purely because Sol was Tottenham’s captain before we signed him and he celebrated our title win on their pitch. Lovely stuff.
LB: Cole – Game: Dynamo Kiev (Highbury 2003)
This game makes it in as a personal favourite because it was Bonfire Night and I broke up with a girlfriend who told me to choose between Arsenal and her when I said I was cancelling our trip to the funfair to go to Highbury. I went, Cole scored a diving header in the 88th minute to win the game, I celebrated with the people around me including a lovely young lass who went on to be my new girlfriend for the next few months.
RM: Parlour – Game: Chelsea (Wembley 2002)
Ray had a knack for having an impact on big games, mainly cup finals and it was that knack that probably gave me my favourite ever moment in football. I was watching the 2002 cup final with a Chelsea mate who laughed when Tim Lovejoy had his infamous “It’s only Ray Parlour” moment. I don’t know who cheered more when “Only Ray Parlour” smashed the ball into the net, Bradley Walsh or me. I don’t have a video of myself on youtube to compare but I know that after that final I never spoke to the Chelsea lad again.
CM: Vieira – Game: Manchester United (Millennium Stadium 2005)
This was the last time we won a trophy. It wasn’t a great game to watch but Patrick Vieira scored the winning penalty with his last ever kick for Arsenal. Ignoring his City connection these days it was a lovely way to part company with the club.
CAM: Arshavin – Game: Barcelona (The Emirates 2011)
Okay, so technically he wasn’t playing as a CAM that night but I had to include this game and my LM spot has already been taken. This game gave me, and I am sure many others, the greatest night they have ever experienced at The Emirates. Barcelona were at the peak of their powers and Arsenal were a team in transition with a lot of inexperienced young players. That Dutch guy had put us level with 12 minutes left before Arshavin popped up with the winning goal 5 minutes later. Delirium followed. Arsenal have also continued their trend of beating some of the best teams in the world when no-one expected they would.
LM: Pires – Game: Juventus (Highbury 2006)
There are so many things to love about this game amongst it the coming of age of Cesc Fabregas, the slender Spaniard supposed to replace the beast that was Vieira. And replace him he did but what led up to Cesc’s goal is what I will remember this game for until the end of days. Robert Pires, I repeat, Robert Pires dispossessed Patrick Vieira with a sliding tackle, got up, passed to Henry who fed in Fabregas to score. Even if we hadn’t score that goal, the memory of Robert Pires slide tackling Patrick Vieira of all people would have made my night.
ST: Wiltord – Game: Manchester United (Old Trafford 2002)
We won the league at Old Trafford and Wiltord scored the goal. What more is there to say?
ST: Bergkamp – Game: Newcastle (St James Park 2002)
The goal has become iconic for Bergkamp’s immaculate turn but there was so much more to the goal than that. Vieira won the ball inside the Arsenal half before playing it to Bergkamp himself. Bergkamp casually sprays the ball 30-yards to Robert Pires on the left flank. Wiltord makes a run to create space for Bergkamp who gratefully fills it up again to receive the ball for this immortal goal. The turn and the finish was spectacular but when you look at the goal in its full buccaneering entirety you realise it was sent from an ethereal plain.
So there you have it. My Arsène XI in matches. Leave me a comment with your XI in favourite matches/moments.
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