Patrick Vieira powering the midfield engine, Kolo Toure marshalling the defence, while record goalscorer Thierry Henry works his magic up front… but who else makes Arsenal’s greatest ever overseas XI?
- Arsenal have been blessed with some incredible foreign stars down the years
- Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry and Co starred during Arsenal’s Invincibles season
- More recently, Alexis Sanchez wowed the Arsenal supporters at the Emirates
- Sportsmail takes a look at Arsenal’s best ever overseas XI in Premier League era
Arsenal have long been blessed with incredible talent from overseas, most notably during the incredible Invincibles campaign with the likes of Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira starring at Highbury.
Moving to the Emirates has coincided with Arsenal’s fortunes fading considerably but their fans have still witnessed some special foreign players grace the pitch as they look to reclaim their place among England’s elite.
As Gary Neville recently named his best Manchester United overseas XI, Sportsmail has decided to go through the rest of the big Premier League sides to see who their best team of foreign imports have been in their history. Today, it’s Arsenal…
Arsenal supporters have been lucky to witness some incredible players grace English football
GOALKEEPER: JENS LEHMANN
When Arsenal signed the 33-year-old German goalkeeper in the summer of 2003 for a mere £1.5million, his arrival hardly got Arsenal fans off their seats – but it turned out to be a masterstroke.
He was the man chosen to replace David Seaman and had big boots to fill, but just nine months on from his arrival, the ‘mad German’ wrote his name in the club’s history books by becoming an Invincible under Wenger – playing every match in Arsenal’s record-breaking season.
Lehmann, who had huge authority and dominance between the sticks, kept 54 clean sheets in 148 appearances during his time at Arsenal across two spells.
Lehmann was also an influential figure in the Gunners team that reached the 2006 Champions League final – where they had their hearts broken by Barcelona in Paris – but the less said about his experience, the better. It only lasted 18 minutes…
Jens Lehmann provided huge authority and leadership during Arsenal’s Invincibles season
RIGHT BACK: LAUREN
A midfielder by trade, Lauren was converted into a right back by iconic Arsenal boss Wenger and the Cameroonian never looked back following the positional move at Highbury.
Lauren won the Premier League title twice with Arsenal in both the 2001-02 season and the 2003-04 Invincibles season and was a dangerous presence going forward, while he had steel and nastiness in defence.
Alongside his Premier League winners’ medals, Lauren – who was at the club between 2000 and 2007 – also scooped three FA Cup titles under Wenger.
It was an extremely close call between Lauren and Bacary Sagna, given his great service at the Emirates, but its the Cameroonian who just edges it due to his winners’ count.
Lauren (right) turned into a formidable right back under the tutelage of Arsene Wenger
CENTRE BACK: KOLO TOURE
Another one of Wenger’s famous moves to convert a player from his natural position. The Ivorian was initially regarded as a utility player, standing in as a defensive midfielder or right back during his early days at Arsenal.
But Wenger soon transformed Toure into a centre back and he became a key figure in the Invincibles campaign alongside Sol Campbell. The Gunners only conceded 26 goals that season, the least in the top flight.
Toure immediately endeared himself to the Arsenal faithful thanks to his string of consistent and committed displays, and even after Campbell’s departure, he quickly settled alongside new partner Philippe Senderos and helped guide Arsenal to the Champions League final.
Toure will go down as one of Wenger’s most astute signings after joining from Ivorian outfit ASEC Mimosas for just £150,000 back in February 2002.
Kolo Toure was another coup of a signing by Wenger during Arsenal’s glory days at Highbury
CENTRE BACK: LAURENT KOSCIELNY
Alongside Toure in the heart of the backline is the first player from the Emirates era. Koscielny, despite his controversial departure, still warrants a place in this star-studded side.
Wenger found solid centre backs hard to come by following the move to the Emirates but Koscielny certainly was a good find by the French manager after signing him from Lorient in 2010.
The defender was an ever-present in the backline for Arsenal if he wasn’t struck down by injury, with his pace and clever positioning making it difficult for attackers to impact the game.
Koscielny played a massive 353 games for the north London outfit, winning three FA Cups under Wenger before leaving the club as captain after a nine-year spell for Ligue 1 outfit Bordeaux.
Laurent Koscielny proved a great servant to Arsenal even if success dried up at the Emirates
LEFT BACK: NACHO MONREAL
Maybe not the most glamorous option but an effective pick nevertheless, and he was a loyal servant to the club during his time at Arsenal.
After Ashley Cole’s bitter departure to London rivals Chelsea, Arsenal struggled in the left back department but Monreal was one who never shied away from the challenge, and you’d know he would produce a solid display whatever the situation.
Wenger trusted Monreal enough that he knew he could also slot in central defence as cover. While he offered a threat down the left going forward during his time at the Emirates, he knew defence came first and offered protection for his team-mates.
Monreal would go on to win three FA Cups with Arsenal and make 251 appearances before leaving for Real Sociedad in the summer of 2019. He gets the nod at left back ahead of Gael Clichy, who was error-prone.
Nacho Monreal quietly went under the radar – and could slot in at centre back when needed
RIGHT MIDFIELD: ALEXIS SANCHEZ
There are plenty of options to choose from on the wings, including Freddie Ljungberg and Marc Overmars, but Sanchez makes the cut in this XI thanks to his devastating form at the Emirates between the years of 2014 and 2018.
After joining from Spanish giants Barcelona, expectations were high and it didn’t take him long at all to adjust to life in the Premier League, tormenting opposition defences from the off.
Sanchez’s speed, eye for goal and trickery on the ball made him one of the best players in the Premier League during his time at the club – becoming an instant hit among Arsenal supporters.
The Chile international scored an incredible 80 goals and created 45 assists in just 166 matches while winning two FA Cups – and he netted an incredible strike against Aston Villa in the 2015 final. He did however tarnish his reputation massively after seeking out a lucrative move to rivals Manchester United.
Alexis Sanchez hit the ground running at Arsenal after joining from Spanish giants Barcelona
CENTRE MIDFIELD: PATRICK VIEIRA
The captain of Arsenal’s Invincibles – this one was an easy choice. Vieira goes down as one of Arsenal’s all-time greatest players thanks to his incredible power, unique ability to glide past opponents with ease and his leadership skills.
As soon as he made his Arsenal debut against Sheffield Wednesday in 1996 at Highbury, it was clear Wenger had unearthed an absolute gem that would go on to be the figurehead of his team for years to come.
The French midfielder would go on to lift three Premier League titles – two as captain – while also winning as many FA Cups in almost 400 appearances for the north London giants.
Vieira offered the perfect balance in the middle of the pitch, protecting the back four staunchly while driving forward with real verve and pace, and he would score some vitally important goals for the club.
Patrick Vieira’s leadership and steel in midfield guided Arsenal to their best period of success
CENTRE MIDFIELD: CESC FABREGAS
The player who would take over the mantle from Vieira in the heart of midfield and would become Wenger’s go-to man when he needed some inspiration.
This was a tough choice with the likes of Invincible Gilberto Silva and Santi Cazorla to choose from, but Fabregas pips them thanks to his ability to get fans off their seats in a dash while also slotting into the midfield with absolute ease when he was just a teenager.
He had a real affiliation with the club’s fans and when he departed for boyhood side Barcelona, no one begrudged him.
However, a return to England with London rivals Chelsea somewhat broke any strong ties between Arsenal fans and Fabregas.
Spaniard Cesc Fabregas (right) slotted into Arsenal’s midfield with such ease at a young age
LEFT MIDFIELD: ROBERT PIRES
This was another straightforward option. The mercurial French winger dazzled opponents and left Arsenal fans in awe of his ability on the wing at Highbury.
After a slow start to life in north London – with fears he was too slim and weak for the English game – he would never look back and became one of the greatest foreign stars to ply his trade in the Premier League.
The French winger lifted two Premier League titles with the Gunners – playing a starring role in the triumphant 2001-02 season, while also winning three FA Cups and helping Arsenal reach the Champions League final.
During 284 appearances for the club, Pires scored 85 goals and produced 56 assists. Plus, he loved netting against bitter rivals Tottenham. For that reason alone, Arsenal fans love him.
Robert Pires became one of the finest foreign stars to grace the Premier League with Arsenal
FORWARD: DENNIS BERGKAMP
The forward line picks itself. While honourable mentions go to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Robin van Persie, there were only two real options here.
Bergkamp produced magic no one else could and would leave team-mates, opponents and fans alike speechless.
Ian Wright’s quote on his close friend still rings true to this day: ‘He was the best signing the club ever made. He changed the DNA of the club.’ Signed under Bruce Rioch in 1995, Bergkamp changed Arsenal’s style completely.
Bergkamp won three league titles with Arsenal and four FA Cups. In 403 matches, the majestic Dutchman netted 110 times and created 89 goals for his team-mates. He merits a place in this side solely for his ridiculous goal against Newcastle in 2002, when he spun past Nikos Dabizas with a flick off the outside of his boot before slotting in. No one has scored a goal like it before or since in the Premier League.
Dennis Bergkamp has been hailed as a revolutionary at Arsenal thanks to his magical skills
STRIKER: THIERRY HENRY
Arsenal’s record goalscorer. With 228 strikes to his name, Henry scared opposition defences both in Europe and the Premier League under Wenger.
After being converted from a winger into a centre forward by the Frenchman when joining from Juventus, Henry developed into a machine and arguably the finest player to grace the Premier League.
Many big names, including the likes of John Terry and Jamie Carragher, have labelled Henry as the toughest opponent they have ever faced. Many would have sleepless nights on the eve of playing Arsenal, due to Henry’s presence alone.
Henry left Arsenal with two Premier League crowns, three FA Cups and four Golden Boots to his name. His emotional departure to Barcelona still pulls at fans’ heartstrings.
Thierry Henry is Arsenal’s record goalscorer with an incredible 228 strikes to his name
Here’s how Arsenal’s greatest overseas XI lines up in a formidable 4-4-2 formation
Share this article
Source: Read Full Article