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-midfielders, and you have a selection of the best from Wenger’s time at the club to choose from.
He came from Senegal, he played for Arsenal. Without a doubt, club legend.
Patrick Vieira was one of Arsene Wenger’s first signings back in 1996 as the club paid AC Milan £3.5m for the midfielder, a fee which looking back on it was an absolute bargain.
The Frenchman integrated well into the English game with his stamina, strength and physical dominance and was a key member in the 1997-98 double winning season as he formed a powerful partnership with compatriot Emmanuel Petit.
Despite some disciplinary issues, Vieira starred for the Gunners as they completed another Premier League and FA Cup double in 2001-02 in what was to be then-skipper Tony Adams’ last year in the game.
The following campaign saw Vieira made Arsenal captain, and although he missed out of the FA Cup final win that year, he was a major part of the ‘Invincibles’ team that went on to claim an unbeaten Premier League title and avoid defeat for 49 consecutive games.
His final year and, fittingly, his last kick of a ball in an Arsenal shirt, saw Vieira win the FA Cup for the Gunners after a 5-4 penalty shootout victory over Manchester United in which the French international scored the decisive penalty.
Know as “Manu” around Highbury, Emmanuel Petit joined Arsenal from Monaco back in 1997 and was reunited with his former boss Arsene Wenger.
Petit won the Premier League and FA Cup double in his first season after establishing a formidable partnership with Patrick Vieira.
They were the only trophies that the Frenchman picked up, as he swapped North London for Barcelona in 2000 after making 118 appearances for the Gunners, scoring 11 goals.
The Brazilian joined Arsenal in 2002, fresh off the club’s Premier League and FA Cup double and scored on his debut in the Community Shield win over Manchester United.
He broke into the first team within a month of being at Highbury and registered the quickest ever Champions League goal with a time 20 seconds against PSV in September 2002.
Gilberto went on to win an FA Cup winners medal in his debut season with the club and was instrumental in the following campaign as the Gunners went a whole season unbeaten on their way to clinching the Premier League title.
He added a second FA Cup winners medal to his collection the following season before going on to play in the Champions League final defeat to Barcelona in 2006.
The Brazilian became the first ever Arsenal player to score at the Emirates when the club drew 1-1 with Aston Villa in August 2006.
He enjoyed a rich run of form, scoring several league goals despite his holding position and captained Arsenal in the absence of the injured Thierry Henry before leaving North London for Panathinaikos in 2008.
When your home fans chant that you’re only 17 and better than Roy Keane, you know you’re a little bit special.
That’s exactly what happened to Cesc Fabregas, who became the club’s youngest ever goalscorer at the age of 16 years and 177 days in a League Cup tie at home to Rotherham United.
He broke into the side in 2004 after running the show in the Community Shield win over Manchester United and went on to cement his place in the Arsenal starting line-up, as the side went on to record their 49-match unbeaten run.
A smart playermaker, Fabregas picked up his only title with Arsenal at the end of that season as he earned a 2005 FA Cup winners medal.
He was a regular starter by the time the Gunners entered their last season at Highbury and was a permanent fixture in the Arsenal centre midfielder right up until 2011
He was named in the 2006 and 2008 UEFA Team of the Year as well as the PFA Young Player of the Year in the 2007-08 season.
He was named Arsenal captain in November 2008 before leaving to return to Barcelona last year.