Continuing on from last weeks best Arsenal XI – goalkeepers, today we have a look at some of the best full-backs to have worn the famous red and white.
There have been some great full-backs over the years at the club and trying to whittle these down was a challenge. Some were very close to making the list but just fell short. Players like Sammy Nelson, Peter Storey, Viv Anderson and Bacary Sagna.
However, those below did make the list and there are a number of quality players:
Kenny Sansom arrived at the club in 1980 as a replacement for Sammy Nelson. He was an all-round full back, he knew when to push forward to attack and when to sit in and defend. He was an excellent passer of the ball and had fantastic pace. Sansom was a great tackler, he had the ability to stay on his feet and time his tackle to perfection and was also strong in the air. Sansom made 394 appearances for the club before leaving in 1988. One of Arsenal and England’s finest left backs, Sansom won the League Cup in 1987.
Lauren Bisan Etame Mayer, better known as Lauren was signed from Mallorca in 2000 for £7.2m. Originally Lauren was a midfielder but after initially struggling to gain regular first team football, he ended up playing right-back and replacing Lee Dixon. The move turned into a great one for the Cameroonian. Lauren was extremely underrated, especially in the clubs Invincible side.
He was excellent in the tackle and would happily roll up his sleeves when games became a battle. Because of his midfield background, Lauren had great technical ability and his passing was superb. What he brought to the club was calmness and he was so reliable every time he played. He won the Premier League twice, FA Cup three times and the Community Shield twice, as well as making 241 appearances and scoring nine times.
Eddie Hapgood was signed by Herbert Chapman for £950 in 1927 from Kettering Town. He arrived a thin, petite player but once the club had him working the weights he developed into a player renowned for his physique and power. He finally broke into the first team in 1929 and became club captain in the early 1930’s, leading the club to five league titles, and one FA Cup. Hapgood had already won the FA Cup before becoming captain. He was a fantastic left-back, he could tackle, dribble and had great ability in holding up players and not allowing them any space.
Hapgood was one of the stars of the world class Arsenal side of the 30’s.
Let’s take away how he left the club, because his playing time at Arsenal was immense. Cole came through the ranks, making his debut in 1999 and was a regular first-team left-back in 2000/01 season after an injury to Sylvinho. Cole was an attacking full-back, he was so quick and had vast ability going forward. Over the years, Cole got better and better and his defensive duties improved as he developed into one of the best left-backs in the world.
He made 228 appearances for the club, scoring nine goals. He went on to win the Premier League twice, FA Cup three times and Community Shield twice and was part of the Invincible team.
A world class left back, who’s all-round ability made his such an asset to the team. Not many players got the better of Cole and going forward with Robert Pires and Thierry Henry in company, he was devastating on the left side.
Lee Dixon was brought to the club by George Graham as a replacement for Viv Anderson. Steve Bould and Dixon were signed from Stoke for a combined fee of £765,000 in 1988. Dixon went on to become one of the best right-backs ever seen at the club, he was such a strong defender with great positional sense and had great ability to stay on his feet, keep tight to his opponent before nicking the ball away from them. Going forward Dixon was very good. He was able to cross well and knew when to push forward to attack. Surprisingly, Dixon could strike a ball well and scored 28 times for the club in his staggering 619 appearances.
Even when Arsene Wenger arrived, Dixon continued to improve and was part of the famous five defenders. He won four league titles, three FA Cups and one European Cup Winners Cup.
Another excellent George Graham signing and a part of the famous back five. Nigel Winterburn was a fantastic left-back, and after a period at right-back moved to his natural position on the left, replacing Kenny Sansom.
Winterburn was a strong defender who was great in the tackle, with excellent positional sense, but he could also push forward and attack, making many assists during his Arsenal career. He had great ability to get up and down the pitch and rarely did an opposing forward get the better of him. Winterburn won three league titles, two FA Cups, one League Cup and a European Cup Winners Cup, making 584 appearances and scoring 12 goals.
Pat Rice joined the club as an apprentice, turning professional in 1966. Rice became first choice right-back in 1970/71 season and never looked back. Rice was a hard worker who never stopped running. He was excellent in the tackle, with good pace and a great leader. Rice captained the side to the ’79 FA Cup.
He played 528 times for the club, scoring 13 goals, winning the league and Cup double in ’71 and then the FA Cup again in 1979. After leaving the club in 1980 he later returned to the coaching team from 1984 until 2012, retiring as Arsene Wenger’s assistant. A fantastic right-back and Arsenal though and through.