Robert Pires: The Games That Changed My Life

The ex-Arsenal man on the goal that he still gets asked about to this day and the pressure of replacing Marc Overmars in the hearts of fans

October 9, 1996: France 4-0 Turkey

Nobody else will remember this game, but it was my first goal for my country. It was a friendly at the Parc des Princes, which we won 4-0. It was an incredible moment in my life, not just my career, to wear Les Bleus’ colours and score with style.

My country has always been very important to me. I understand it was a friendly, but I was so happy to have all my family there to share such a moment with me.

Skip to 3.10 for Robert's lovely lob

October 17, 2000: Lazio 1-1 Arsenal 

I scored a good goal that got us an important draw in Italy

This was significant not because it was my first goal for Arsenal, but because fans were starting to doubt that I had what it takes to play for Arsenal and replace Marc Overmars. It wasn’t easy – he’d scored that famous goal at Old Trafford to make him a fan favourite.

I scored a good goal that got us an important draw in Italy – something that let the supporters know I could help the Gunners win many trophies in the future. I just ran and ran, and finished well. You can see how relieved I was to prove myself!

March 17, 2002: Aston Villa 1-2 Arsenal 

We were struggling against a really good Aston Villa side, but I scored one of my best goals at a crucial time to get us the victory that we needed. We were behind Manchester United in the league table, and needed to go on a good run.

We had to win that game. I was through on goal, saw the size of Peter Schmeichel, and thought the only way to score was to chip him. I love scoring over big goalkeepers like that! People still ask me about that goal, but it was the win that mattered most.

May 17, 2003: Arsenal 1-0 Southampton 

When we got to the final we knew we had to win

Nobody had retained the FA Cup for a long time [since Tottenham in 1982], and for us to do it – in a game when I scored the only goal of a very close match – was very special. The game wasn’t the most exciting I have ever played in, but I know how much it meant to the supporters to carry on winning things.

When we got to the final we knew we had to win and, for me personally, being the difference between the two teams on the day was important in my life.

November 13, 2004: Tottenham 4-5 Arsenal 

The atmosphere that day was something that I’ve never seen before in my career. The supporters of both clubs were always good in north London derbies, but this was something else, even though it was at White Hart Lane.

I think it’s one of the best matches the Premier League has ever seen and it’s always replayed on my TV. I’ll never forget playing a part in a match that brought people so much excitement [Pires scored the fifth goal after coming on as a substitute]. If that game went on for longer, the goals wouldn’t have stopped going in – the attacking play was just so good by both sides.

This feature originally appeared in the July 2015 issue of FourFourTwo. Subscribe!

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