Ranked: the top 10 Arsenal players of the Emirates Stadium era
Arsenal have spent over a decade in the Emirates Stadium now.
As Tottenham Hotspur open up their own new ground in North London, one casts their mind back to when the Emirates was gleaming and new. Now it’s an established stadium with its own history and great moments.
This reflection also comes because Aaron Ramsey, the longest-serving player in the current squad, has confirmed that he will miss the rest of the season through injury. This means the Welshman has played his final game for the Gunners as he is set to join Juventus in the summer, and will surely depart an Arsenal great.
So we looked back on the Emirates era to find the 10 best Arsenal players since they moved to the new stadium – with personal opinion, natural ability and overall legacy all taken into account.
Disagree with any of the choices? Get in touch @Squawka!
10. Mikel Arteta
149 Arsenal appearances
Slow and steady may not always win the race in football but it sure as hell is the way to win the hearts of Arsenal fans. Arteta arrived in the wake of Cesc Fabregas’ departure and whilst he was never as expansive as his fellow La Masia graduate, he was a model pro who always gave his all and routinely helped Arsenal maintain a metronomic control over games.
9. Olivier Giroud
253 Arsenal appearances
Olivier Giroud was the best looking man in the Premier League both with and without a beard. That’s some achievement! Slightly more so was his consistent goal threat for the Gunners. Capable from the start or off the bench and never shy of the big stage, Giroud scored 105 goals for Arsenal and played his part in all three of their recent FA Cup triumphs.
8. Bacary Sagna
284 Arsenal appearances
It’s hard to imagine now but there was a long stretch of time where everyone just accepted that Arsenal had the best right-back in the league. Bacary Sagna wasn’t too flashy but was so relentlessly good that you had to respect him. A brilliantly rugged defender who could help out in attack as well, but was at his best shutting down opposing attackers.
7. Aaron Ramsey
369 Arsenal appearances
Aaron Ramsey was meant to be the next big thing until a horrific injury midway through his first season threatened to derail his entire career. Ramsey rebounded, however, and has since gone on to become an incredibly skilled player. He scored in two of Arsenal’s FA Cup wins, including the extra time winner that ended the Gunners near decade-long trophy drought. Will depart this summer an absolute legend.
6. Santi Cazorla
180 Arsenal appearances
One of the nicest men in football, Santi Cazorla revolutionised the way Arsenal fans looked at their midfielders. Here was a two-footed genius capable of playing anywhere from the base of midfield to as a winger. He could dictate the tempo but also drive forward and score. Oh, and his set-pieces were amazing. Only injury prevented him from cementing himself as a genuine club great but he will always be the man who pulled the Gunners out of the fire in that drought-breaking FA Cup final win, scoring a stunner when the Gunners were somehow 2-0 down against Hull City.
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5. Mesut Ozil
226 Arsenal appearances (and counting)
Rarely understood, often criticised, always underrated. Mesut Ozil is a gift of a player that Arsenal were lucky to snag from Real Madrid and he has been a chance-creating machine in red and white. Sure, he doesn’t always look like he’s trying but despite the fact that Arsenal have rarely actually built the side around him, he’s done incredibly well. Would have smashed the Premier League assists record in 2015/16 if his forwards hadn’t forgotten how to score goals after the Christmas period. A misunderstood genius.
4. Alexis Sánchez
166 Arsenal appearances
Sanchez left on the sourest of notes and has been uniformly terrible for Manchester United, but while he was at Arsenal the Chilean was one of the two best players in the division. Absurdly gifted at basically everything you’d want from a forward (even heading despite his diminutive stature) Sanchez was a fiend for action. He loved big games too, scoring in both FA Cup finals he played in.
3. Laurent Koscielny
346 Arsenal appearances (and counting)
No, really, it’s a defender! Laurent Koscielny has never been the organising defender that Arsenal have at times needed, but in terms of pure 1v1 defending he was one of the best in the Premier League for a long time. Age and injury caught up with him but he’s come back from even that and is currently Arsenal’s best defender at the age of 33. He’s been nothing but loyal to the Gunners and it’s nice to see him playing so well after his injury horror.
2. Robin van Persie
278 Arsenal appearances
Robin van Persie may have listened to the little boy inside him and jumped ship to win a league title with Manchester United, but you can’t deny how impressive he was when he played for Arsenal. He was always a mercurial talent and was there when the Gunners first moved to the Emirates, but it wasn’t until later in his career that he blossomed. By the end of his time in north London he was the best striker in the league, a complete centre-forward who could do absolutely everything and score any way you’d like: left, right, tap-in, worldie… What’s more, no Arsenal striker has ever scored more Premier League goals than the 30 he smashed home in 2011/12. An absolute titan.
1. Cesc Fabregas
303 Arsenal appearances
Debut at 15 at Highbury, captain at 21… Cesc Fabregas was there on opening day of the Emirates Stadium and Arsene Wenger would have hoped he would come to dominate it as Thierry Henry did Highbury. And for a time, it seemed like that was the case. Young Fabregas was a magical playmaker, an assist-machine from the middle of the park.
Despite being so young, Fabregas was an inspirational skipper. Whenever Arsenal needed a bit of magic it was invariably the Catalan who produced it, or made the pass that allowed someone else to produce it. Given how much of a regista he became in his latter years, it’s easy to forget how dynamic he was now – but this guy could move. Not a sprinter, sure, but his mind and anticipation allowed him to run smarter.
He scored 19 goals in 2009/10 and then in the summer set up the winning goal in the World Cup final. That should have been the start of his true legend but all it did was alert his childhood club Barcelona that he was ready to come home. The Blaugrana made a bid, but Arsenal resisted. What followed was a mostly disappointing season and a summer transfer in 2011.
Fans didn’t begrudge him the move, but they ached to see him again at the Emirates. The fact that he subsequently moved to Chelsea and won two titles there yet still isn’t universally hated by Arsenal fans should speak to the affection that he generated during his six-year spell at the Emirates. Fabregas set the tone for everything Arsenal wanted to be in their new stadium.