Arsenal Squad Numbers: 8

Arsenal Squad Numbers: 8

It’s Arsenal squad number time of the week again, this week I’m going with the number 8. Thankfully there were quite a few candidates for this one, no Lassana Diarra wasn’t one of them, although I know I could get killed for this…I am still a fan of Samir Nasri.
We’ll start this back in the 1970’s just like the first two editions. Engrained in the history of the club with one of our 13 F.A. Cup triumphs is Alan Sunderland. Although Sunderland’s Arsenal career wasn’t filled with honours, the one he did win with us was very special. After signing for Arsenal from Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1977 Arsenal’s new number 8 helped them to the F.A. Cup final in 1978 but sadly we were on the losing side.
Sunderland’s time to shine would come in the following season. In the F.A. Cup final yet again all seemed lost as we let a two-goal lead slip in the last 5 minutes of the game against Manchester United. Brian Tolbert and Frank Stapleton had put us ahead in the first half but Sunderland’s winner is the one that is remembered most. Much like this year’s final Arsenal broke down the left straight away through club legend Liam Brady, who laid the ball off to Graham Rix. His cross soared by the keeper for Sunderland to tap in. Cue the iconic images of him running away, afro back, mouth open wide and arms aloft.
After the pinnacle of his Arsenal career trophy-wise, Sunderland stayed on at the club for five more years. Playing alongside Stapleton, Sunderland was the club’s top scorer in the 1979-80 and 1980-81 seasons before leaving for Ipswich Town in 1984. He notched up 92 goals in 281 games.
Next up is Sir Ian Wright of SE4. An Arsenal legend in every sense of the word. The original Jamie Vardy if you will, going from the non-league to winning the Premier League, but he was on top of the Premier League for much longer. A deadly striker capable of different types of finishes, left foot, right foot, headers, chips, and drives, all led to him becoming Arsenal’s top goal scorer until a certain Thierry Henry broke the record a few years later. To get the record for himself Wrighty had to beat the record of Cliff Bastin, scoring 179 to take the record and then setting it at 185.
With Wright on the go in ’98, in came another one of Arsene Wenger’s foreign investments, Freddie Ljungberg taking on the number 8 jersey. Coming in from Swedish outfit Halmstads BK for £3m definitely took on the baton in the right manner. As well as having the footballing ability, just like Wright, Freddie became somewhat of a symbol with that red Mohawk in the early 2000’s.
The Swede’s Arsenal career really started to kick on with the whole squad in as they began to become a real force in the country. Playing in a 4-4-2 which would see himself and Robert Pires bomb forward from their wings Ljungberg really thrived.
He played a major part in the 2002 F.A. Cup final as he gave us the 2 goal cushion that brought the trophy to North London, a truly magnificent effort which was arguably better than Ray Parlour’s earlier in the match as it curled into the corner. A few days later he had a part to play in our Premier League winning game at Old Trafford, as his shot was parried into the path of Sylvain Wiltord who secured the title that year. In his 9 years at Arsenal he bagged 72 goals in 328 games.
The final addition to this list may be controversial but looking back I think it’s reasonable to give him a shout. He’s only been our number 8 for a season but he has definitely contributed to our success of late, Aaron Ramsey. After coming to Arsenal from Cardiff in 2008 the Welshman did incredibly well to recover from that leg break, courtesy of Ryan Shawcross in 2010, and get himself back into the first-team within a couple of years.
Now back into the first-team on a consistent basis, Ramsey’s best season was soon to come in 2014. Scoring 18 goals from midfield that year, he topped off his grand season with a great finish that clinched the F.A. Cup after an emotional roller-coaster against Hull City. Fast forward another three years, this time wearing the number 8 shirt he came clutch again. After pretty much playing Chelsea off the Wembley turf they somehow managed to equalise. But thankfully, that duo was at it again to win the Cup, as a Giroud ball found Ramsey in the box who buried his header to win the cup for Arsenal and make us record winners of the competition.
Hopefully, in the future, Ramsey can contribute to more Arsenal success in the coming years but at the moment his record stands at 47 goals in 287 games.

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