So, our pre-season tour of Asia didn’t end as we would’ve liked with the 3-0 loss against Chelsea but thankfully this isn’t about that. This is about Arsenal’s best player’s to have the number 11 printed on their back. I have a feeling the first two players I’ll talk about will be favoured more by you guys but we’ll see if the third is warranted to be here.
Up first is someone who has to have club legend associated with his name. As a resident of Islington from birth this player would join Arsenal at 16 as a schoolboy having been discovered by Arsenal player-turned scout George Male and went on to spend the next nine years of his career at Highbury. In that time he won the Inter Cities Cup as well as playing an instrumental part in our first league and cup double in the 1970-71 season. It’s Charlie George.
Three years after coming to Highbury as a schoolboy George would make his debut at the beginning of the 1969-70 season. That year would see the then 18-turning-19 year old cement himself in the first team as he made 39 appearances including both legs of our Inter Cities Cup final win against Anderlecht after knocking out Johan Cruyff’s Ajax in the semis.
A year later and the still only 20 years of age and George would etch his name into Arsenal history forever. After missing five months of the season through injury he would help us to win our first title since 1953 with 5 goals in 17 appearances however, his role in the F.A. Cup run which led to the club’s first double that year is what he’s remembered for.
He scored in three consecutive rounds early on in the competition including a free kick as part of his brace against Manchester City but his boyhood dream wasn’t over yet. Wembley, May 8th 1971 minute 111. After a goalless first 90 minutes in our third cup final since 1967 against Liverpool would go into extra time. Goals from Steve Heighway and Eddie Kelly would keep the scores level for a while but extra time found its victor through the one and only Charlie George. Wearing the number 11 shirt on the day he picked up the ball just outside the box before smashing the ball home and performing a celebration which was even more iconic than his hair as he laid down on the turf with his arms stretched out.
After creating a piece of history in ’71 George would stay at Arsenal for another four years, reaching 133 league appearances before disagreements with manager Bertie Mee would see him move to Derby County as well as having spells at various other clubs before retiring in the 80’s. But even though he might not be a one club man but he certainly is a club legend.
Next up is a more recent wearer of Arsenal’s number 11 shirt. This attacker arrived from a bit further than Islington after spending the first seven years of his senior career in his homeland of Holland. Spending three years at the club he helped us to our 2nd league and cup double in 1998 after winning the Champions League with Ajax in 1995. Enter Mr. Marc Overmars.
Coming to Arsenal for around £5-7m in 1997 Overmars was an instant hit as he took the Premier League by storm. His debut season saw everyone becoming familiar with him burning defenders down the left wing and finishing neatly as he ended the campaign with 16 goals along with Premier League and F.A. Cup medals. It wasn’t just as if he was stat padding either as he pulled out instrumental performances away at Manchester United to give Arsenal a confidence boost in the title race before bagging a brace in the title clinching victory over Everton.
Even though his next couple of seasons wouldn’t be as fruitful in terms of medals, Overmars didn’t seem to let up as he scored 28 goals in that period but in understandable fashion, as a player who wanted his efforts rewarded he moved to Barcelona in the summer of 2000. He may not be a cult hero like Charlie George but there’s no denying the quality he brought to the squad on arrival was a great help in the search for our first double since the days of George.
Lastly is a player who I’m having some second thoughts of including but his goalscoring stats are undeniably impressive for us. Another Dutchman, who joined in 2004 from Feyenoord this player won just the one F.A. Cup during his time at Arsenal but racked up 132 goals in his eight years with us. It’s Robin van Persie.
Taking into consideration he was hit with injury problems a lot earlier in his Arsenal career, being able to reach that goal total is a great achievement. From when he was a less important part of the team scoring free kicks at Highbury the ability of RvP was evident. A striker that had a rocket and wand in the same left foot showed glimpses of his greatest like his volley away at Charlton before showing that ability on a more consistent basis.
He may be remembered for his time playing with a 10 on his back but nevertheless the majority of the time he was wearing the number 11. In his last couple of seasons at Arsenal we would see what could’ve been had he been this prolific alongside Emmanuel Adebayor years earlier. From Premier League hat tricks to that goal from the tightest of angles against Barcelona and his 37 goal farewell season it was all just too late. Now ageing, much to the frustration of Arsenal fans he looked to Sir Alex for success and got it. Now he might be public enemy #1 but let’s not forget there was a time when this guy was a fan favourite.
But anyway, the less said about him the better I guess. Hope you enjoyed this week’s edition of squad numbers, I’ll get you another number for next week but, in the meantime, have a good week Gooners.