The Official Online Arsenal Emirates XI (2006-2016)
Any statistics used accurate as of 26 January, 2017
Petr Cech Sagna - Mertesacker - Koscielny - Monreal Cazorla - Fabregas Nasri - Ozil - Sanchez van Persie
The Czech goalkeeping great represents perhaps Arsene Wenger’s biggest coup in the transfer market. It wasn’t just the fact that he was one of the great goalkeepers of his generation. It wasn’t the fact that he was a legend to our fierce London rivals. It wasn’t even the fact that he’d won a double digit number of trophies in his hundreds of appearances for the club. It was the satisfying fact that we stole him from arguably Arsene Wenger’s most hated managerial rival. It was the fact that Mourinho never wanted to sell to us that made it that much more satisfying. And it was also the collapse that followed and what should have been a glorious title win that season never came to be. But it was a statement that meant Arsenal were now signing players from rivals clubs after years of selling them. Undoubtedly passed his best but still remains a top goalkeeper and it says a lot that he was the near unanimous choice after only a season and a half between the sticks. But it’s a dream to have him between the sticks after years of Manuel Almunia.
One of the more polarising positions was the right back position but in the end Sagna won by a healthy margin. Signed in 2007 to replace Emmanuel Eboue as the club’s first choice right back, he made 284 appearances and was undoubtedly one of the club’s most consistent performers. Reliable at the back, reliable going forward. He was at one point the best right back in the league and remains a solid and sturdy option playing across the back four (or three) for Manchester City, racking up 75 appearances since signing on a free in 2014.
Is fast establishing himself as perhaps one of the top 5 transfers ever made by Arsene Wenger. Signed to little acclaim and putting in plenty of dodgy shifts during his first season or two but has grown into one of Europe’s top CBs. He’s athletic, has great reading of the game and has shown he can perform in games against the worlds finest. His breakout performance will forever be shutting Lionel Messi out and that remains one of the finest CB performances from an Arsenal player in Europe. A unanimous choice. A great CB. And soon to be a club legend.
Has always polarised opinion amongst football fans but he’s been a quality CB. His calm and composed manner has helped transform Koscielny into a world class CB. He’s a leader who commands a tremendous degree of respect in the dressing room. With his excellent reading of the game, positioning and composure he’s been a stalwart at the back since being signed in reaction to that dreadful 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford. He’s dealt with some of the leagues top strikers and quickest players doing off with the notion that he couldn’t handle pace. The only time he ever truly got exposed is when we played a high line but that’s more a tactical error than an indication of any lack of quality Per supposedly has. Top CB who will be a club hero for many years after he’s gone.
Much to the surprise of many Arsenal fans, Nacho Monreal actually developed into an excellent left back. With the ever inconsistent and largely average Gael Clichy having been moved on, we had to deal with the injury prone Kieran Gibbs and the man who just never knew where to position himself (Andre Santos) and it wasn’t until we took advantage of Malaga’s financial predicament that we finally got ourselves a LB who could defend and attack with equal ability. He may have flattered to deceive initially but once he grew into his position throughout the 2014/15 season he established himself as a stand out full back in the league. Gone are the days when you would be worried by his presence. Showing signs of slowing down now but the 18 months prior to this season are the best performances by any LB at Arsenal since the days of Ashley Cole.
As a player, Santi borders on unplayable when he’s at his best. I have never seen a player who can play as well with his opposite foot as he can with his stronger foot. In fact, so good with both feet is Santi that it is almost impossible to actually determine which is his better foot. His debut performance for Arsenal will go down as one of the most impressive of any player in the Emirates era. Santi oozes class, professionalism and just sheer footballing brilliance. It says a lot about his quality that in an era where Xavi, Iniesta, Silva, Busquets and Mata have plied their trade - Santi sits on nearly 80 caps for Spain. He was part of the consecutive European Championship winning squads and only missed the 2010 World Cup victory due to injury. Courted by Real Madrid, signed by Arsenal and I think it’s almost fair to say that Santi will be remembered as a club legend upon retirement.
Left a sour taste in a lot of people’s mouths with his decision to leave us to go to Barcelona so early in his career. You felt like he could have given us an additional year or two but his loyalty to Barcelona led him to make the ill fated move a few years too soon. With Xavi and Iniesta still operating at full capacity, Messi shining in the false number 9 role and Busquets bossing from the base of the midfield he never truly got the chance to shine. His move to Chelsea diminished his standing amongst Arsenal fans further. But if you erase the last half decade from your memory you’re looking at an incredible football player. A pass master, the club captain, a fan favourite and a match winner on his day. Wenger allegedly passed on the opportunity to bring him back to the club thus eliminating the opportunity for him to cement himself as a club legend. But despite his post-Arsenal career, his Emirates career was breathtaking and provided us with some fantastic moments.s
Not quite as good as Hleb in my eyes but evidently the people thought otherwise. A very talented player with a lot of ability and the attitude of a petulant child. Left on bad terms to join the blue side of Manchester where he won enough trophies to easily justify the mood. Could have been a club legend with his talent and ability but didn’t quite stay long enough for that. I harbour no ill feelings towards him as he was like any player who doesn’t have an affinity towards the club and didn’t really owe us anything. City were a club on the up with a manager who was seen as a top European manager at the time (Mancini) whereas we had become stagnant and garnered a reputation as a selling club. The move made sense for him but I was always bitterly disappointed that we lost a player of his talent. He’s the kind of player I wouldn’t mind seeing out on the wings for us now with his silky movement and technical brilliance. Now plying his trade in Spain.
The signing that ushered in a new era at Arsenal. Gone were the days when we’d lose top talent time and time again to rivals domestically and Europe’s biggest clubs. At the cost of £42m and signing from Real Madrid - Mesut Ozil is one of the club’s finest ever players. He is the natural heir to Dennis Bergkamp in terms of his playing style and ability. Elegant on the ball with unrivalled passing abilities, Ozil has established himself as a Premier League assist master since his arrival. Had it not been for our forwards fruitless performances in front of goal last season - I have no doubt Ozil would have shattered Henry’s long standing assist record in a single campaign. He operates on another level to every midfield and forward player not named Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla. Hopefully he extends his contract and can firmly establish himself in the club’s all time XI by the time he retires or moves onto pastures new.
Sanchez is a rare breed of footballer. He’s someone who has proven his ability in Europe’s top leagues. Ferocious in Italy, driven in Spain and magnificent in England. He’s the kind of player who’s so good you run out of superlatives when watching him. His combination of goals, assists and all round play have been invaluable to us over the last 2 and a half season. His brilliance is one of the bright spots of what hasn’t been particular stellar seasons since he arrived. But a unanimous choice out wide and with the likes of Rosicky, Hleb, Nasri and Ljungberg as competition it shows how highly regarded he is by Arsenal fans.
Robin van Persie
Quite possibly my least favourite football player on the planet. One of the best strikers I’ve ever seen play in the Premier League and just an all round great player. But the nature of his departure is one of my darkest memories as a football fan and generally speaking it’s not something I can ever forget. But from the volley to the goals against Barcelona there is no disputing his talent. The three seasons from his last two at Arsenal to his title winning campaign in Manchester red are among the best performances from a striker in the PL era.