Arsenal's greatest Premier League players
Only Manchester United and Chelsea have won more Premier League titles than Arsenal, who have also claimed eight FA Cups since 1992.
It therefore figures that the Gunners have provided a home to many fantastic footballers in the last 27 years – and in this slideshow, we count down the top 25...
25. Nwankwo Kanu
A £4.2m signing from Inter in February 1999, Kanu wasn’t always an automatic starter at Highbury – but that doesn’t diminish his status among Arsenal followers. He scored seven times in 17 games in his first half-season at the club, before notching 16 in all competitions the following campaign.
That was the only time Kanu got into double figures during his time as a Gunner, but he still offered plenty in terms of craft and creativity from a withdrawn forward role. The Nigerian won two Premier League titles and two FA Cups at Arsenal, before leaving for West Brom in 2004.
24. Paul Merson
Merson is a victim of timing with regards to this list. His best years at Arsenal came before the Premier League era began; the attacking midfielder made his debut in 1985 and helped the Gunners lift league titles in 1989 and 1991.
He was excellent in the first couple of post-1992 seasons, starring as the north Londoners won an FA Cup and League Cup double in 1993 and then again in the triumphant Cup Winners’ Cup campaign a year later. Alcohol, cocaine and gambling addictions threatened to derail his career soon after, but Merson still shone on occasion before his departure in 1997.
23. Alexis Sanchez
Unlike many players on this list, Sanchez didn’t win a league title at Arsenal – nor did he even come close to one. The Chile international arrived in 2014 when Arsene Wenger’s managerial powers were on the wane, but it’s hard to argue with a scoring record of 80 goals in 166 appearances.
Sanchez didn’t end his Gunners career completely empty-handed, winning two FA Cups before his move to Manchester United in 2017. Dangerous whether deployed out wide or through the middle, the ex-Barcelona man’s blend of craft and graft meant he was often Arsenal’s most potent attacking weapon.
22. Laurent Koscielny
The current club captain is approaching his 10th season as an Arsenal player, and although injuries have contributed to a slight tail-off in the last couple of years, Koscielny was probably the Premier League’s foremost centre-half in his peak.
An aggressive, proactive defender who excels at nicking the ball in front of opposition attackers, the Frenchman has frequently been the sole reliable presence in a shaky Arsenal backline. Koscielny has made 343 appearances for the club, winning the FA Cup in 2014, 2015 and 2017.
21. Kolo Toure
Toure tends to be viewed as a figure of fun these days, which is unfair because he was a fantastic defender in his pomp. He missed only one game in the Invincibles season of 2003/04, forming a fearsome centre-back partnership with Sol Campbell which was the foundation of Arsenal’s success.
Perhaps the Ivorian’s best season came two years later, when the Gunners set a European record by keeping 10 consecutive clean sheets en route to the Champions League final. He may have been prone to the odd mistake, but Toure’s leadership was sorely missed when he left for Manchester City in 2009.
20. Marc Overmars
Had Overmars remained in north London for more than three years, he would surely be higher up this list. The lightning quick winger hit the ground running following his move from Ajax in summer 1997, and although his form tailed off around Christmas time, he returned to his best just in time to help Arsenal win a Premier League and FA Cup double.
Overmars was instrumental in both of those successes, scoring the winner against title rivals Manchester United in March and opening the scoring in the Wembley showpiece against Newcastle. The Dutchman reached double figures for goals in each of his three seasons at Highbury, although he didn’t win another trophy before joining Barcelona in 2000.
19. Aaron Ramsey
Ramsey will end his 11-year association with Arsenal at the end of the season, with Juventus poised to sign the soon-to-be free agent for nothing. The Welshman probably would have hoped for more silverware when he moved to the Emirates in 2008, but he can still depart the club with his head held high after more than a decade of exemplary service.
Ramsey's individual apex came in 2013/14, when he scored 16 goals in all competitions and was briefly the Premier League’s standout performer. The box-to-box midfielder netted the winning goal in FA Cup finals against Hull in 2014 and Chelsea in 2017, while he also starred when Arsenal lifted the same trophy in 2015.
18. Gilberto Silva
The failure to sign an adequate replacement for Patrick Vieira was regularly held up as a key reason for Arsenal’s decline in the last few years of Arsene Wenger’s tenure, but the absence of a successor to Gilberto was just as pivotal.
The holding midfielder was an important part of the Invincibles side, making 32 league appearances and scoring four goals in 2003/04. Finding the net wasn’t his speciality (although he did notch 11 in 2006/07), but the Brazilian provided plenty of value with his smart positioning, accurate distribution and intelligent reading of the game.
17. Steve Bould
Younger Arsenal fans will only know Bould as the club’s assistant manager, a position he’s held since 2012. Before that he was a key figure in one of the meanest backlines English football has ever produced, making 372 appearances for the Gunners between 1988 and 1999.
Two of his three league titles came before the Premier League era, but Bould still racked up almost 250 outings after the division’s rebrand. Strong in the air and an expert anticipator, the 6ft 4in centre-half helped Arsenal win two FA Cups, a League Cup, the Cup Winners’ Cup and a league championship post-1992.
16. Emmanuel Petit
Patrick Vieira’s midfield partner in the late 1990s, Petit arguably represented the final piece in the jigsaw when Arsene Wenger – who had worked with him at Monaco – brought him to north London in his first full season at the club.
The Frenchman was a real all-rounder, capable of winning, carrying and distributing the ball in the Arsenal engine room. He played 44 times in the Double-winning campaign of 1997/98 and made another 72 appearances before joining Barcelona in 2000.
15. Martin Keown
An Arsenal academy graduate, Keown was sold by the north Londoners in 1986 and re-signed seven years later. He went on to spend more than a decade at Highbury, winning three Premier League titles, three FA Cups and the Cup Winners’ Cup.
A competitive and uncompromising centre-back, Keown was able to go toe-to-toe with the toughest of target men – and more often that not came out on top. He called time on his Gunners career at the end of the Invincibles campaign, when he was largely a back-up but still an important contributor to the greatest season in the club’s history.
14. Robin van Persie
Van Persie spent eight seasons as an Arsenal player, most of which were disrupted by injury. Yet there’s no doubting his effectiveness when he took to the field: the Dutchman scored 132 goals in 278 games, a tremendous record for someone who arrived as a fresh-faced 20-year-old in 2004.
His final campaign in north London was undeniably his best, with Van Persie finding the net 37 times in all competitions in 2011/12. Thirty of those came in 38 Premier League outings, but Arsenal fans were left disappointed when he swapped the Emirates for Old Trafford that summer.
13. Ashley Cole
Cole may not be the most popular figure among Arsenal supporters these days, but he is still one of their greatest players in the Premier League era. The defender made his debut in the League Cup in 1999; a year later, he had made the left-back spot his own after taking advantage of an injury to Sylvinho.
Cole excelled as Arsenal won the Premier League title in 2002, and he was even better when they lifted the same trophy without losing a game two years later. He probably became a better defender after his move to Chelsea in 2006, but Cole was most fun to watch during his days as an attack-minded full-back at Highbury.
12. Ray Parlour
Parlour’s first season as a first-team regular coincided with the launch of the Premier League in 1992, although he didn’t really nail down a consistent starting spot until the middle of the decade. His best performances for Arsenal came under Arsene Wenger, when his energy and drive helped the club win three Premier League titles and three FA Cups.
His greatest individual moment came in the FA Cup final of 2002, when he broke the deadlock against Chelsea with a stunning 30-yard strike. An unsung hero outside of north London, Parlour’s importance was fully appreciated by the Arsenal faithful.
11. Lee Dixon
After spells with Burnley, Chester, Bury and Stoke, Dixon joined Arsenal in 1988 and went on to enjoy a 14-year career at Highbury. One quarter of the famous Gunners backline which also featured Steve Bould, Tony Adams and Nigel Winterburn, Dixon was a reliable right-back who contributed in the attacking phase of play but was first and foremost a solid defender.
Capped 22 times by England, Dixon made 40 appearances as Arsenal won a Premier League and FA Cup double in 1997/98. The Gunners won the same two trophies in 2001/02, which was the full-back’s final season as a professional.
10. Cesc Fabregas
Fabregas went on to win multiple trophies at Barcelona and Chelsea, but the best – and most enjoyable – part of his career came in north London. Signed as a 16-year-old in 2003, Fabregas was on the fringes of the first team when Arsenal won the Premier League title with an unbeaten campaign, before making the breakthrough in 2004/05.
The Spanish schemer provided invention from midfield, but he also possessed plenty of grit and did an admirable job of stepping up to fill the void when Patrick Vieira departed in 2005. Fabregas scored 35 goals and provided 70 assists for Arsenal in the Premier League, but he left the club with just a single FA Cup to show for his efforts.
9. Sol Campbell
When Campbell crossed the north London divide in 2001, Arsenal fans reacted with glee. But the defender was under considerable pressure to deliver following his switch from Tottenham, and those same supporters wouldn’t have taken long to get on his back if his performances were substandard.
That was never an issue. A rock in the centre of the Gunners defence, Campbell was quick, strong, intelligent and adept in possession. Fittingly, his best season in an Arsenal shirt came in 2003/04, when Campbell played 35 top-flight matches as the Invincibles made Premier League history.
8. Freddie Ljungberg
Ljungberg arrived at Arsenal to little fanfare in 1998, and few fans would have expected him to become such a key player for the club over the next eight years. The former Halmstad winger took time to find his feet in English football, but by the time of his second season in 1999/00 he was an important member of Arsene Wenger’s first team.
Ljungberg was particularly crucial during the run-in of 2001/02, shining in Premier League victories over Manchester United and Liverpool, before scoring in the FA Cup final to help the Gunners complete a domestic double. In total he made 328 appearances for the club, scoring 72 goals and winning five trophies.
7. David Seaman
The greatest goalkeeper in Arsenal’s history, Seaman was a stalwart between the sticks for over a decade. He was the club’s No.1 for two seasons before the Premier League era – he conceded only 18 goals in the title-winning campaign of 1990/91 – but it was after the rebrand that he established himself as one of Europe’s best.
Possessing sharp reflexes and an ability to dominate his penalty area, the England international won three league titles, four FA Cups, a League Cup and the Cup Winners’ Cup in north London.
6. Ian Wright
Wright was phenomenal in the early years of the Premier League. He broke the 30-goal barrier in all competitions in each of 1992/93, 1993/94 and 1994/95, helping Arsenal win an FA Cup, a League Cup and the Cup Winners’ Cup.
The former Crystal Palace striker made the net bulge ‘only’ 23 times in 1995/96, before again scoring 30 the following season. His 185 Arsenal goals made him the club’s all-time top goalscorer until Thierry Henry broke the record a few years later.
5. Robert Pires
Despite an acrimonious couple of seasons at Marseille, Pires was a man in demand at the turn of the millennium. Arsenal fought off competition from Real Madrid and Barcelona to win the race for his signature, but he struggled to make an impact early on in his Gunners career.
Those who had written the winger off were made to look foolish in 2001/02, as Pires won the FWA Player of the Year award after shining for Arsene Wenger’s second Double-winning side. He was also instrumental for the Invincibles two years later, and ended his Arsenal career with 84 goals in 284 matches.
4. Tony Adams
Only David O’Leary played more games for Arsenal than Adams, who pulled on the club’s shirt 669 times during a superb club career. A one-club man who made his debut in 1983 and was still turning out for the Gunners almost two decades on, the centre-back was a natural-born leader and a tremendous centre-half.
His haul of four league titles, three FA Cups, two League Cups and a Cup Winners’ Cup would be impressive enough if he didn’t also have to struggle against alcoholism during his career. Adams won that battle in the end, just as he tended to do when faced with opposition strikers on the field.
3. Patrick Vieira
Vieira may have arrived at Arsenal before the appointment of Arsene Wenger, but it was very much Le Professeur who authorised his acquisition. A rangy, box-to-box midfielder who could tackle and pass, score and create, Vieira was the driving force behind Arsenal’s most successful post-war period.
Vieira played 406 games and won six trophies at Arsenal, but numbers alone don’t do justice to his tremendous influence. He signed off his Gunners career in the best way possible, scoring the decisive penalty in the FA Cup final shoot-out against Manchester United in 2005.
2. Dennis Bergkamp
A scorer of great goals rather than a great goalscorer, Bergkamp only found the net more than 20 times in one of his 11 seasons at Highbury. Yet it is reductionist to appraise the Dutchman in such terms; this was a player of the very highest calibre, and perhaps the greatest technical footballer the Premier League has ever seen.
Bergkamp’s goal against Newcastle in 2002 – which was voted as the best in the division’s history 15 years later – was the perfect example of what he was all about. His breathtaking first touch was a sight to behold, and he contributed heavily to three Premier League title triumphs and three FA Cup victories.
1. Thierry Henry
Given his prior struggles at Juventus, Arsenal fans could have been forgiven for wondering whether an £11m investment in Henry was a wise move in 1999. But it soon became clear that Arsene Wenger knew what he was doing; the Frenchman immediately repositioned the former winger as a central striker, before sitting back and watching him dominate the division to devastating effect.
Dozens of players have won more Premier League titles than Henry, who scored 23 times as the Gunners finished top of the pile in 2001/02 and 30 when they repeated the feat two years later. Yet few – if any – have made as significant an impact as the man who ended his Arsenal career with a club-record 226 goals. Simply the greatest player in Arsenal’s history.
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