WTTGT Writer: Matt Mace
There are many players who have graced the hallowed turf at both the Emirates and Highbury, who have never truly received the praise that they deserve. Industrious, tireless and with a never-say-die attitude; these players would rarely make the headlines but would always be one of the integral members of the squad. The likes of Kevin Richardson, Alex Song, Alan Smith, Edu and even Oleg Luzhny have produced high class performances on a consistent basis.
And whilst I am sure that many Arsenal fans will have their own personal preferences, and I encourage them to voice your thoughts. This is a list of my top five underrated players to wear the Arsenal shirt.
A current Arsenal scout, Grimandi arrived at Highbury following Arsene Wenger from Monaco in 1997. Despite being venerated as one of Arsenal worst defenders, it was his versatility and work rate transformed him into and energetic and underrated midfielder capable of slotting in when injuries and suspensions took their toll on the team. I’d even venture as far to say that if he were in the Arsenal squad now he’d be a valuable member of a somewhat transitional midfield.
It’s hard to label a striker as underrated. In today’s media it seems that they are either a natural scorer or a flop. Yet the same cannot be said for Kevin Campbell. Prolific in the youth and reserve teams he was given his debut against Everton in 1988. However, with the likes of Merson, Smith and later Ian Wright in the team, Campbell often found chances hard to come by. In the 1991-92 campaign Campbell formed a solid striking partnership with Wright but despite some brilliant performances, including hat-tricks against Ipswich and Swindon in which he was overshadowed by a stunning 40 yard lob by Wright. Boasting a ratio of a goal every five games may not be prolific, but his work rate and endeavour certainly aided Wright’s goalscoring records.
Who remembers the “famous four” of Arsenal? Dixon, Winterburn and Adams are all household names and legends in their own right. But despite being named Player of the Year by the fans for the ‘91/92 season, Steve Bould’s performances usually didn’t get the praise they should have from the media and managers alike. The emergences of Linighan and Keown often put his place under threat. And with age against him, he left for Sunderland in 1999 a hero amongst the terraces but overshadowed on the pitch.
The thing about these players is that you don’t really notice them until they’re gone. No more so the case than the £4.5m signing from Atlético Mineiro. After establishing himself as an important member of the Arsenal midfield in his first season, Gilberto was a lynchpin in the famous unbeaten season appearing in 32 of the 38 games. However, half way through the next season it was revealed that he had a fracture in his back. It was during his absence that Arsenal’s form, coincidence or not, dropped as they lost their unbeaten run and failed to retain their Premier League crown.
Davis is most famously known for that left hook on Southampton’s Glenn Cockerill, which resulted in the first ever disciplinary action through television evidence and a nine game ban. Yet with that incident aside, Davis was an instrumental player for Arsenal, and arguably the greatest player to never by capped by the England senior team. He made his debut in the 2-1 victory over fierce rivals Tottenham in 1980. This promising performance was the catalyst for the other 446 games that followed. A regular for Arsenal and a star amongst the league, it baffles me how the midfielder failed to receive a single England cap.
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