A question circulated on Twitter earlier this week asking Arsenal fans to name their top five Arsenal players of the Emirates Stadium era. A caveat to this question was that players like Thierry Henry, Freddie Ljungberg etc. were excluded as they are more known for their years playing at Highbury than the Emirates. This, of course, sparked serious debate online with a number of possibilities to choose from. So, I thought I’d give my take on this question. Here is my list in no particular order. Disclaimer: This is just my opinion and I am aware many people will disagree with me.
A simply majestic footballer in the middle of the park playing as a 10, as a sitting midfield player dictating games or even at times playing wide, Cazorla rarely disappointed in an Arsenal shirt. He made players around him such as Francis Coquelin look like world-beaters and had he not picked up a serious injury in December of 2015, it’s very possible that Arsenal would have pipped Leicester to the title.
The little Spanish magician is one of my personal favourite players of all time to watch playing the game. Two-footed, incredible footwork to get himself out of trouble and the eye for a pass in the final third that could rival anybody in the game. Cazorla’s Arsenal career, of course, didn’t end the way that anybody would have wanted. A series of bad injuries robbed us all of the chance to see Cazorla link up with Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette among others. After 11 ankle surgeries and nearly losing his leg, the Spaniard’s revival at Villareal is truly inspirational and I think anybody would be remiss to exclude him from this list.
Another player who had a large part of his Arsenal career stolen away from him by serious injury, Ramsey still managed to have an incredible career at Arsenal. His time at the club will, of course, be remembered for his two FA Cup final winners in 2014 and 2017. The goal at Wembley in 2014 will go down in Arsenal folklore as the goal that ended Arsenal’s nine-year trophy drought, a moment that no Arsenal fan will forget.
Ramsey’s 2013/14 season was remarkable, with him scoring 16 goals in all competitions and registering 10 assists as well. His combination with Mesut Ozil in that season was nothing short of phenomenal and was a joy to watch. Even in his last season at the Emirates when he had agreed on a move to Juventus, Ramsey gave his all for the club putting in some outstanding performances to help Arsenal reach the Europa League final and had his injury not been cut short by a hamstring injury, Arsenal would probably have gained the extra points required to qualify for the Champions League. His absence in the team this season has been noticeable with Arsenal lacking an attacking threat from the midfield which Ramsey provided in abundance during his Arsenal career. For two outstanding moments in winning Arsenal two FA Cups and for an overall brilliant 10 years with the club, Ramsey is certainly deserving of his place in this list.
Many Arsenal supporters may not agree with me on this one but I believe Ozil is certainly deserving of his spot on the list. I can understand why people would leave Ozil out due to a lack of consistency and at times not performing to his capability in the big games but for me, Ozil has been incredible as an Arsenal player. In the 2015/16 season, Ozil grabbed 19 assists, only one from Thierry Henry’s Premier League record. He looked sure to break the record but after Christmas in that season, Olivier Giroud seemed to completely forget how to score goals. Had the Frenchman been more clinical in the second half of the year, Ozil would have blown past Henry’s record which still stands from the 2002/03 season.
When he’s at his best, Ozil is still one of the best creators in world football. His combinations with Aaron Ramsey and Alexis Sanchez were fantastic viewing and it’s a crying shame we haven’t had the opportunity to see him link up with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette on a more regular basis. The German playmaker has completely fallen out of favour with Unai Emery but this shouldn’t cloud what he has accomplished in his time at the Emirates winning three FA Cups in his first four years with the club. Simply put, since Ozil’s arrival, Arsenal are at their best when Mesut Ozil is at his best which is why I have put him in my top five.
In his three and a half seasons at Arsenal, Sanchez was without question, the main man in the team. He put in some fantastic performances and never underperformed in the big games scoring against all of Arsenal’s top six rivals at one time or another and often they were absolute showstoppers. His 2016/17 season for Arsenal was nothing short of outrageous. Scoring 25 goals and notching 12 assists in the Premier League alone, it really makes you wonder why he didn’t win the PFA Player of the Year. His work-rate was one of his strongest attributes which for a player of his immense quality, can be rare.
As well as the statistics he put up, Sanchez, like Aaron Ramsey, scored in two FA Cup finals for Arsenal, also scoring the winning goal in extra-time in both of those year’s semi-finals. Obviously, his exit from the club will put people off putting Sanchez on this list but for three and a half years he was an asolute superstar in an Arsenal shirt.
One of Arsene Wenger’s greatest finds, Fabregas burst onto the scene prior to Arsenal’s move from Highbury to the Emirates. As Arsenal’s youngest ever goalscorer, the sky was the limit for the Spaniard and he did not disappoint. Following the exits of the likes of Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira, Arsenal were crying out for a new leader to step up and Fabregas filled this void expertly.
Fabregas was instrumental in Arsenal’s midfield for the first five years at the Emirates before he left for his boyhood club Barcelona. The Spanish midfielder very rarely under-performed in an Arsenal shirt and there are too many standout performances to mention. His 2009/10 season was certainly the season where he excelled the most netting 15 Premier League goals and putting the team on his back on a number of occasions. Despite going on to play for rivals, Chelsea, Fabregas is still an Arsenal legend who I think is definitely deserving of a place on this top five list.
Honourable mentions: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang narrowly missed out on my top five and that’s largely based on him being in the relatively early stages of his Arsenal career. Robin Van Persie, Laurent Koscielny and many more could also have been on this list for their contributions in their time with the club but I feel like the five I have chosen, are in my eyes the most deserving.