The Greatest XI: The two up-top…

Sorry folks, I am still here. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an actual Arsenal fan put this team together for you? Today we move on to a position that everyone loves and will, no doubt, create debate. The front men. The strikers. The two up-top. The goal scorers.

Arsenal have been blessed down the years with some fine, fine guys to lead the line. Many won’t even make the five that I am lining up here, the likes of Robin van Persie, Alexis Sanchez, Nicolas Anelka, Nwankwo Kanu, Niall Quinn, Joe Baker, Alan Smith, Jimmy Brain, David Jack and, Christ, Ted Drake would probably make the top five picks at most other clubs considering what they did in their careers. But sadly, to make voting easier, I have chosen five for you to vote on – so, in no particular order…

#1 Cliff Bastin

Admittedly, Cliff Bastin had a bit of an advantage over some of the guys not making the voting list – he was playing for Herbert Chapman at the team’s pomp and if you get to play 350 times as a striker for a decent side, you really should bang in some goals. 178 Arsenal goals was a record that stood for 60 years and is more than respectable, especially when you consider his career was war affected.

#2 Ian Wright

The man who broke that record, in 1997, was Ian Wright. What a player Wrighty was. As a kid growing up I loved Ian Wright. It didn’t matter who he played for, be it Palace or Arsenal, there was something about him that just oozed goals. My first real memories of him were in Palace’s 1990 FA Cup run, and when he went to Arsenal he just kept getting better and better. The £2.5m spent by George Graham was a lot at the time, but it was repaid many times over – it’s just a shame that his England career never really took off. I am currently reading his autobiography, and it is no surprise to learn how hungry to improve he was off the pitch. Never forget, he jumped from non-league to Palace on a three-month contract initially to end up as the top goal scorer at one of the most historic clubs in England. That’s a career.

#3 Dennis Bergkamp

A signing that changed Arsenal Football Club forever. He was quite expensive too, but the impact Bergkamp had on the club was instant. Every player that trained with him knew they had to raise their level. Every player knew that football was changing, and Bergkamp was the future. If Dennis ate something, they ate it too. If he did extra training, they did extra training. Bruce Rioch gets given credit for signing Bergkamp, which in my opinion is a load of rubbish. This was David Dein’s work, the man who had the contacts, the patience and the charm to be able to sell Arsenal as a place where Bergkamp could be loved once again and rebuild his confidence. People were writing him off as a £7m flop in the early days, but what cost is £7m when you have the same kind of impact on a club as Eric Cantona did at Manchester United? Bergkamp was a bargain, and without him, Ian Wright and Thierry Henry may not be on this list.

#4 Thierry Henry

Ah, Thierry Henry. To remember the quality of this signing and the conversion from a winger to the main man is to remember what Arsene Wenger was and probably isn’t now. But hey, this is about Thierry. 226 goals? Sorry Wrighty, your record did not last that long. Henry in his prime was like a Concord, just gliding at supersonic speed. If he had been English, his entire game would have been built around his speed, rather like Michael Owen turned out to be a one-trick pony. Henry had the lot. Speed, sure. But he was clever, very very clever as the variety of goals he scored showed. But again, Bergkamp. Dennis Bergkamp made Thierry Henry the player he was. Mind you, Henry still needed to finish some of the chances created.

#5 Jack Lambert

We go back in time once more with Jack Lambert. He was the man who scored the goals that kick started Herbert Chapman’s tenure, the goals that led Arsenal to their first ever First Division title back in 1930/31. 38 goals in 34 games, including 7 hat-tricks! Imagine what that would be worth now if Romelu Lukaku is going for £75m. 98 goals in 143 games is prolific in any era, and although he may not be as well known as some of the other names mentioned today, he set the initial standard for all of them.

So there we go folks – do the right thing and vote wisely…

Arsenal Greatest XI: The Strikers

Cliff Bastin
Ian Wright
Dennis Bergkamp
Thierry Henry
Jack Lambert

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