The Wenger era: Centre-backs

Welcome to WTTGT’s new blog: The Wenger era.

Over the course of these posts, we’ll take a look at the best players to have graced the red and white of Arsenal since the Professor arrived at Highbury back in September 1996.

By the end of the blog, we’ll have formed the best Wenger XI as voted for by YOU.

Today we take a look at centre-backs, and you have a selection of the best from Wenger’s time at the club to choose from.

Happy voting!

Tony Adams

Simply known as ‘Mr. Arsenal’, he doesn’t have a statue outside the Emirates Stadium for no reason.

He became the youngest-ever Gunners captain in 1988 at the age of 21 and it isn’t hard to see why. His leadership, commitment and toughness was second to none, and he led the side to success after success.

Breaking onto the scene in 1983, Adams lifted the Premier League title twice, both as part of ‘doubles’ seasons, and ended his career with a testimonial against Celtic in 2002 after making over 500 appearances for the club.

Adams was so good that he was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

The moment he scored Arsenal’s fourth at a sunny Highbury in front of the North Bank as they beat Everton 4-0 before lifting the Premier League title will always be a part of Gunners history.

Steve Bould

Now the assistant to Arsene Wenger, Steve Bould joined Arsenal as an impressive centre-back in 1988 and formed part of the “famous four” along with Tony Adams, Nigel Winterburn and Lee Dixon.

He played in the club’s famous 2-0 victory at Anfield where the Gunners won the league title in final minute of the 1988-89 season, before going on to win the championship again two years later.

Bould missed the FA Cup and League Cup wins the following campaign through injury but was part of the side that won the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1994.

After the arrival of Arsene Wenger, Bould who had been playing second fiddle to Martin Keown, underwent a revival of form and was a key part of the team that won the double in 1998. He left at the end of the following season but has been involved in a coaching role at the club since 2001.

Martin Keown

He wasn’t pretty, and neither was his footballing style but Martin Keown was solid at the back.

Initially an Arsenal youth player, his first stint at the club came from 1984-86 before leaving, only to return again in 1993.

After missing out on numerous cup final wins in his first few seasons at Arsenal but was a part of the 1997-98 double-winning team, and battled with Steve Bould for the right to partner Tony Adams in defence.

He was a first-team regular and went on to win his second double in 2001-02, and then won another FA Cup title in 2003.

In his final year at the club, he played just enough games to earn a Premier League medal, as part of the unbeaten team.

Sol Campbell

The big man was already a hit with the Arsenal fans after moving from North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur in 2001.

Things got better for Campbell as he went on to win the double in his first season at Arsenal, after winning the FA Cup against Chelsea and securing the Premier League title at Old Trafford a few days later.

Injury and suspension ruined his next campaign as he missed the 2003 FA Cup win over Southampton.

However he made up for it the next year as part of the ‘Invincibles’ and went on to secure the league title at White Hart Land, the home of his old club.

He won another FA Cup the following year and then scored the opener in Arsenal’s 2-1 Champions League final defeat to Barcelona in 2006.

After leaving at the end of the season, he returned to the club in January 2010 due to injuries to the Gunners, and had a successful spell in the team before leaving again at the end of the campaign.

Kolo Toure

Breaking into the side as a midfielder in 2002, Ivory Coast international Kolo Toure was moved to play as centre-back the following year and formed a solid partnership with Sol Campbell as Arsenal went on to claim an unbeaten Premier League title.

The following year, Toure retained his place as a starter and went on to play 50 times and established himself as one of the Premier League’s best centre-backs and a firm Arsenal favourite.

Toure progressed and became crucial part of the Gunners team for the next few seasons and used is speed and athleticism to full effect.

He was made vice-captain after Thierry Henry left the club but handed in a transfer request in 2010 after reportedly having a bust-up with skipper William Gallas. Toure left that summer to Manchester City but still receives a warm reception whenever he returns to the Emirates.

Thomas Vermaelen

He may have only really played two full seasons at the club, but the ‘Verminator’ was a favourite among the Gooner faithful within a few games.

Having signed from Ajax in 2009 for around £10m, Thomas Vermaelen marched straight into the starting line-up and took just 37 minutes to score his first Arsenal goal on his Premier League debut at Everton.

He scored a brace against Wigan Athletic a few games later and won back-to-back player on the month titles for Arsenal.com.

He scored eight goals in all competitions in his first year with the club and was named in the PFA Team of the Year.

The following campaign was a bit of a disaster for Vermaelen, as an Achilles injury kept him out for the majority of the year, only to return in May at the end of the season.

He returned at the beginning of last year and was made vice-captain following Cesc Fabregas’ departure and signed a contract extension in October.

Injuries kept him out at a few times during the campaign but played the majority of it, scoring a 95th winner against Newcastle towards the end of the year as Arsenal went on to claim third place.

Matt Cotton

@FindingCotton

 

Who has been the best CENTRE-BACK during Arsene Wenger’s reign at Arsenal?
  
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