I did a British all-time XI a short while ago, featuring figures from the UK who helped us achieve great heights.
This piece now is the non-British all-time XI.
My criterion here is all players who either played for non-UK national side (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland), or were registered as non-British.
Foreign players have helped Arsenal to new heights and been amongst the finest foreign imports for many years.
Wenger, of course, stands out amongst foreign managers, and was the first manager to win the English league.
So then, who gets in my XI? Let us see, shall we:
Sagna O’Leary Koscielny Monreal
Vieira Cazorla Cesc
Henry Bergkamp Overmars
Manager – Arsene Wenger
Our best ever keepers are British (Seaman, Jennings, Wilson, Lukic, Kelsey, etc.) so this narrows the pool down. For me, the only other option is Lehmann. He was an Invincible, and despite his hot-headedness, he was a world-class keeper and up there with Neuer and Kahn as contemporary top-level German keepers.
Bacary Sagna is very underrated in PL terms, and whilst Lauren had the Invincibles, Sagna was consistent in a comparatively underwhelming defensive unit.
David O’Leary picks himself, as he is our record appearance holder, and was unfortunate that his prime was not during the Graham heights. He did feature in both the 1989 and 1991 title sides, but was not the mainstay as Adams and Bould were such.
Koscielny may be an interesting choice here. But despite his lowly start, and the Brum LC final error, I believe he emerged from that to be highly consistent. And arguably one of the best CBs in both the PL and the world. He left the club under a cloud in 2019, and returned to his native France, but then he was very consistent and amongst the best defensive signings Wenger made.
Monreal like “Kos” didn’t hit the ground running, but emerged as a highly consistent left-back, who like Sagna didn’t get many plaudits outside of Arsenal. He achieved recognition by getting in the Spain 2018 WC squad, and functioned well despite being in a weak unit overall.
Vieira picks himself – his debut vs. Sheffield Wednesday in 1996 was highly impressive, and he was the midfield steel and energy we had needed in some years before then. He stands amongst the very best mids of his generation, and his box to box energy, tenacity, hardness, and passing, were all top-notch.
Cazorla is amongst the most technically-able players we’ve ever had. He was genuinely two-footed and arguably surpassed Bergkamp in these stakes. His free-kick in 2014 Cup final put us on the road to winning our first trophy since 2005.
Cesc was an undoubted talent. He left under a major cloud with reports of strikes and unrest, but he since joined Chelsea and won with them. Despite this fallout, he remains one of our top players, and it seems that he still holds the club in good affection despite errors in how he left for Barca.
Henry picks himself too – our best ever striker, record goalscorer, and the best ever PL striker and player. He could do it all, and whilst Shearer, Rooney, Aguero, etc. all outscored him in PL terms, his style and expanded game were superior to all others.
Bergkamp is arguably our best ever player. He came from a poor time at Inter, and whilst OK in his first season, improved under Wenger and reached a stellar level in the 97/98 Double side. His technique, goal quality, and grace saw him contribute to our Wenger successes, and propel him amongst the very finest imports in the English game.
Overmars was a well-known Ajax product, and his pace, goals, and dribbling were a major fact in our 97/98 Double. He was in many ways the archetypal winger and would be a devasting wide-forward surpassing the likes of Salah, Mane, Sterling, or Son in modern-day terms.
Wenger too picks himself. He was our first ever non-British manager and is our most successful manager ever. Chapman and Graham were great, as were Whittaker, Allison, and Mee in achievements. However, Wenger won 10 major trophies, more than anybody else, and installed a worldwide legacy for the club.
The honourable mentions are a mix of players who not only had great ability but also helped us achieve.
One such, amongst others of course, who is overlooked due to the PL era highs is Anders Limpar. Whilst not well known when he joined, he was a critical player in our 1991 league title success.
What do you think? Who are our best ever non-British players?