Arsene Wenger enjoyed unprecedented levels of success during his first decade as Arsenal manager. Not only did the Frenchman lift Premier League titles and FA Cups, he created a new brand of football that hadn’t been witnessed in England before.
It’s not an overstatement to say that Wenger created his own footballing dynasty in North London. His legacy can be seen in the Emirates Stadium trophy room. In fact, the stadium itself is an epitaph to the man’s achievements.
Gunners’ fans have been treated to some truly scintillating football over the years. Wenger managed to achieve the holy grail of football management — to win trophies while playing beautiful football. Hundreds of spectacular football goals characterise Wenger’s approach to the game, but seven, in particular, will live long in the memory.
7Thierry Henry v Liverpool, 2004
This game was arguably the most sensational of Arsene Wenger’s reign. Arsenal had started the week with the chance of winning an unprecedented treble. However, a defeat to Manchester United in the FA Cup followed by a Champions’ League exit at the hands of Chelsea left Arsenal fighting for the Premier League title. Liverpool were winning 2-1 at half-time, and Arsenal’s season was in danger of falling apart.
But Thierry Henry spun the game on its head. The French striker’s hat-trick is still the stuff of legend, but it was his second goal that blew everyone away. Henry picked up the ball around the halfway line, and embarked on a crazy dribble — beating several hapless Liverpool defenders before calmly slotting the ball away.
6Dennis Bergkamp v Leicester City, 1997
Dennis Bergkamp scored dozens of mesmerising goals during his time at Highbury. While many of those goals could have made this list, his exquisite effort against Leicester City back in 1997 deserves a special mention. Bergkamp scored a hat-trick that day, but it was his third that made history. The Dutch striker’s first and second touches were simply breathtaking, and his finish… genius.
5Thierry Henry v Manchester United, 2000
Arsene Wenger instilled confidence in all his players. Those who could were encouraged to express themselves with the ball, and no one did that better than the mercurial Thierry Henry. His 2000 goal against Manchester United was particularly special because it won the game, and came out of absolutely nowhere.
Henry received the ball from Gilles Grimandi around 20 yards from goal — on the corner of United’s 18-yard box. Despite Denis Irwin’s close attention, the French magician took one touch to flick the ball up, swivelled, and released an arcing shot that sailed past Fabien Barthez.
4Robin van Persie v Charlton Athletic, 2006
Arsene Wenger had the midas touch when it came to plucking geniuses from relative obscurity in Europe. Robin van Persie was such a player. His natural goal-scoring ability was in the mould of predecessor Dennis Bergkamp (who would have been proud to score this stunner).
The great thing about this goal is that it demonstrates the wonderful way Wenger’s team used to pass the ball around. And at the end of a great piece of team play comes a strike that is easily one of the best in Premier League history.
3Tony Adams v Everton, 1998
Some goals are so iconic that they’re played over and over again for decades to come. England’s fourth goal to win the 1966 World Cup, for example. Or Aguero’s last-second winner against QPR that won Manchester City their first Premier League title. Also in this category is Tony Adams’ goal against Everton.
Arsenal had already won the title and were leading by three goals with a minute of the season to go. In a moment that wouldn’t look out of place in a Hollywood movie, two centre-backs capped off a truly awesome season. Steve Bould chipped the ball towards an advancing Adams, who controlled the ball and fired a shot past the Everton keeper. The commentator and Arsenal fans were delirious — the captain had confirmed Arsene Wenger’s first Premier League title in style.
2Freddie Ljungberg v Chelsea, 2002
Some goals are more special because of their meaning. And Freddie Ljungberg’s FA Cup Final winner against Chelsea in 2002 certainly falls into that category. Arsenal led the game with ten minutes remaining, thanks to a great goal by Ray Parlour. But Chelsea were pushing for an equaliser, and getting closer and closer.
When Edu won possession in the middle of the park, he gave the ball to Ljungberg, who still had an enormous amount to do. The Swede motored towards the Chelsea defence, making a young John Terry look rather ridiculous in the process. After a quick glance at goal, Freddie curled an exquisite shot past Carlo Cudicini to win the cup for Arsene’s men.
This game was later nicknamed “Freddie’s Final”.
1Dennis Bergkamp v Newcastle, 2002
Ask 100 long-time Premier League fans what the best ever Premier League goal is, and at least 50 of them will say Bergkamp’s ridiculous strike against Newcastle United at St James’ Park. Very good players can do amazing things with the ball, but only the greats have the imagination and sheer audacity to pull off something as crazy as this. Without doubt, this goal is one of the best scored anywhere in the world… ever!
Viera started the move with a pass to Bergkamp from inside the Arsenal half. The Dutch striker then sent the ball across the pitch to Robert Pires, who made an attacking run down the flank. Meanwhile, Bergkamp continued, until he received the ball back from Pires. What Bergkamp did next is impossible to describe. Even Newcastle’s helpless centre-back Nikos Dabizas found it difficult to explain this witchcraft.
There are simply no words. Watch the magic for yourself, and know that you’re watching the work of a true genius. Well done Dennis, and thanks for the memories, Mr Wenger.