Arsenal's Greatest Transfers #1

Arsenal's Greatest Transfers #1

As the 2016/17 has ended it’s that time of year when football fans become excited at the prospect of new signings who could improve their squads. In light of this, I’ll be looking back over some Arsenal transfers from the past that would be considered our ‘greatest signings’ so I hope you enjoy this during the summer break.
The first player on the agenda goes by a few names: Iceman, The Non-Flying Dutchman, yup it’s the one and only Dennis Bergkamp. He signed for an Arsenal side managed by Bruce Rioch in June 1995 for just £2.5m after a couple of years at Inter Milan which didn’t go to plan following his great form coming through at Ajax. Bergkamp then spent the remaining 11 years of his career spinning defenders, creating and scoring outrageous goals for Arsenal before retiring in 2006, also Highbury’s farewell year.
He signed for an Arsenal side managed by Bruce Rioch in June 1995 for just £7.5m after a couple of years at Inter Milan which didn’t go to plan following his great form coming through at Ajax. Bergkamp then spent the remaining 11 years of his career spinning defenders, creating and scoring outrageous goals for Arsenal before retiring in 2006, also Highbury’s farewell year.
In numbers this is how his Arsenal career panned out: 3 Premier League titles (1998, 2002, 2004), 4 F.A. Cups (1998, 2002, 2003, 2005) and if you want to count them 3 Community Shields (1998, 2002, 2004). During Arsenal’s golden era of the late 90’s and early 00’s Bergkamp also played 423 times racking up 120 goals and 116 assists, along with 1 statue outside the Emirates Stadium.
So, Dennis Bergkamp, as many say, one of the men that transformed Arsenal Football Club. Looking back you can’t argue much, signing in the mid-1990’s he became almost the link between the English core of the squad and the International flair that would come later on.
Despite ‘struggling’ early in his Arsenal career, not getting on the scoresheet until late September with a brace against Southampton, Bergkamp soon settled into the Premier League in the 1995/96 season, scoring 16 goals.
One partnership that seemed destined to blossom though was between him and Ian Wright, if you recall the story of the two meeting at a petrol station, with Wrighty almost blasting Bergkamp for driving to the wrong pumps, to the two sharing a room on away days. The Iceman set up our number 8 on 14 occasions in the 3 seasons the two played together (42% of his 33 assists during that time).
In these three seasons, we saw Arsenal transform even further with the departure of Bruce Rioch and the arrival of Arsene Wenger. Moving away from George Graham’s ‘Boring, boring, Arsenal’ and the usual hobby type routine of English football, which Bergkamp admitted helped him enjoy football again after the more disciplined approach in Italy, to the more beneficial, tactical and physiological approach of Wenger.
After finishing 5th in his first season at the club, Bergkamp had one of his best seasons in Wenger’s first title-winning campaign of 1997/98. That season saw him pick up 22 goals and 26 assists in all competitions, most notably THAT hat-trick away at Leicester, as he confirmed his importance to the side. His style of play went hand in hand with that of Wenger’s as he would usually drop into deeper positions to compliment his striking partner and create goals. The double season also saw him win 2 player of the months (August and September), PFA Players’ Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year, as well as winning Goal of the Season for his 3rd goal against Leicester which saw him take the ball down with his right before juggling past the defender with his left and slotting home with his right across the keeper.
After the 1998 World Cup where Bergkamp produced magic for Holland against Argentina with a goal similar to his goal of the season winning goal, the coming years saw the Non-Flying Dutchman sprinkle even more class over the Premier League with delicate chips, clinical strikes like that one against Manchester United in the 1999 F.A. Cup semi-final and slick assists it all resulted in more trophies again in the 2001-02 season.
Our second double winning season saw him produce 14 goals and 17 assists in all competitions. If you wondering which were the pick of the bunch, the standout goal without question was his goal away against Newcastle, when he controlled a pass from Robert Pires to go one side of the defender, before spinning the opposite way, and finishing expertly with a first time shot. With Bergkamp now 32, it was amazing to see the instrumental role he could still play in the team going forward, putting out very respectable numbers for his age and carrying on to produce moments of magic like his assist for Freddie Ljungberg against Juventus, which saw him bamboozle four Juve defenders before playing the Swede through to score.
Premier League success came again for Bergkamp and Arsenal 2 years later as he helped us win the league without losing a game. As his age would suggest Iceman wasn’t as prolific that season scoring 5 and assisting 8 goals but this doesn’t mean he didn’t play his part like before. Bergkamp helped secure the title at White Hart Lane by assisting Patrick Vieira before playing him through on the final day against Leicester to retain our unbeaten record for that season. He was a big player who stepped up when he was called upon.
The Arsenal legends last few years saw him feature less over time, especially with the arrivals of Robin van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor, but the fans would never forget the main man. This was shown on April 15th, 2006. Dennis Bergkamp day. The matchday which saw Arsenal play West Brom at Highbury would see numerous fans be given orange Bergkamp shirts to celebrate his time at the club, the number 10 fittingly scored his last goal for Arsenal in the dying moments of the match, a curled effort which reminiscent of many a goal from the Dutchman, the perfect way to sign off.
With 2006 also being the year that Arsenal moved into the Emirates Stadium, where would be a better to place to hold his testimonial? On the 22nd of July, a mix of current players and legends of Arsenal and Ajax were on show as the Emirates was packed out to say goodbye to a legend of both clubs. The game ended 2-1 to Arsenal following goals from Thierry Henry, Kanu, and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar but of course, the real winner was Dennis.
Since then he’s been coaching at Ajax but personally, I hope to see him at the Arsenal training ground in the future. But after looking back on his great time at Arsenal, there’s only one thing to say, Thanks for everything Mister Bergkamp!

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