Over the years, Arsenal have been blessed with some truly great teams. We have been spoilt with Herbert Chapman’s successful team of the early thirties, Bertie Mee’s double winning side in ’71, George Graham’s resolute Arsenal and of course Wenger’s ‘Invincibles’.
But what I want to know is who we think is Arsenal’s all-time XI.
Each week, we will look at different positions and you, the reader, will get to vote until the all-time Greatest Arsenal XI has been compiled. So today we start with the goalkeeper, and the club has had some world class keepers in its time.
Moss played for the club for six years from 1931-1937 and won the old First Division three times and the Charity Shield twice. He played 161 times for the club, even getting on the score sheet once in a match where he was unable to play in goal after being injured. But in a match Arsenal needed to win, Moss played on the left wing and scored as Arsenal won the match 2-0 to clinch the title. Moss was a great goalkeeper but his bravery and courage stood out most of all. In the Championship winning season, he was excellent and went some way into ensuring the club won the title.
Jennings played for Arsenal from 1977-1985, making 327 appearances for the club. The Irish keeper was a colossus in the Arsenal goal. What made him great was his positional sense and his calming presence. When you needed your goalkeeper to come and claim a cross, Pat was your man. His ability in one on ones was fantastic, it wasn’t the sheer size of the man that would put strikers off, but his ability to stay on his feet for as long as possible, narrowing the angle to put so much pressure on the attacker. Jennings was brave and commanding in his box, and had no problem with what part of the body saved the shot, as long as it didn’t go in the net. He won the FA Cup in 1979 although he helped the team reach three other finals.
What can you say about Jens Lehmann? Completely mad, at times eccentric but a world class keeper. He joined the club in 2003 and that season played every match, as Arsenal stormed the league without losing a match. Lehmann was excellent in the ‘Invincible’ season, although still prone to the odd moment of madness. But, he had unbelievable ability and his shot stopping was second to none. For a tall player, he was able to get down low and save shots others would not get near too. He made 200 appearances for the club with his last coming in 2010/11 season. He won the Premier League and FA Cup once, as well as the Community Shield. Crazy yes, eccentric yes, but a truly world class goalkeeper.
Kelsey was an incredible keeper in the years that Arsenal had a lean spell in trophy wins. The Welshman’s handling was excellent, made even more impressive that in Kelsey’s day, keepers did not wear gloves. The rumours go that Kelsey used to rub chewing gum on his hands to help the balk to stick. Kelsey was a sweeper keeper before sweeper keepers were even a thing. He was able to spot danger early and would rush out of his area to sweep up any problems. His positional sense was excellent and hardly ever found himself in the wrong place. Above all, he was brave and was Arsenal’s number one for eight years. A one man club, Kelsey played 352 times from 1949-1962. The disappointment was that he kept goal in a barren spell for the club, but he was, without doubt, a world class goalkeeper and one of the finest to have graced the Arsenal pitch.
Like all keepers, David Seaman made mistakes, some more high profile than others, but some of his performances and saves eradicated the errors. Seaman joined the club in 1990 for £1.3m, which at the time was a British record for a goal keeper. He replaced John Lukic – who let me add was a possibility for this list. What Seaman had was fantastic reflexes, good handling, with great positional sense and he was brave. Seaman was always concentrating even at times when he had nothing to do for the majority of a game, he was always alert to tip a ball over the bar or come for a cross. We all remember his breath taking save against Sheffield United in the FA Cup semi-final when he somehow managed to claw out a Paul Peschisolido header. One of the best saves I have seen. He appeared 562 times and won the league three times, the FA Cup four times, League Cup once, Community Shield three times and the UEFA Cup Winners Cup once. He was such a calming presence to the team in front of him and it would breed confidence in the team knowing that David Seaman was in the goal. A great shot stopper and a world class keeper who at his peak would have been one of the best in the world.
Wilson was a late starter in his professional career as a footballer, but once he arrived he never looked back. Making 308 appearances for the club from 1963-1974, Wilson went on to win the Inter City Fairs Cup as well as the famous League and Cup double in 1971. Wilson was an intelligent goalkeeper and one of the bravest keepers to have played at the club. Wilson had no problem diving at the feet of on rushing attackers. Such a great keeper whose shot-stopping was excellent as was his handling. Wilson was and still is Arsenal through and through and went on to coach some of Arsenal’s keepers during his spell as goalkeeping coach at the club. Brave, commanding and agile and great Arsenal keeper.