The Invincibles of Arsenal, who went a full season unbeaten under the stewardship of Arsene Wenger, played some of the finest football in Europe. It was a team that boasted some of the greatest talents that the game has ever seen. Their record has yet to be broken by any team in the Premier League.
I am compiling a list in the interest of cataloguing the best eleven players at their respective positions for Arsenal in this decade.
David Seaman: Goalkeeper
David Seaman was named seventh among the greatest players to have represented Arsenal in a poll on the club's official website. He was one of the safest keepers in the Premier League, and was a great success in his time at Arsenal. He was also the first choice goalkeeper for England, but blamed himself for the loss against Brazil when he was beaten by a superb free kick from Ronaldinho.
In the years from 2000-2003 he was hampered by injuries but was still an important member of the squad. Jens Lehmann replaced him as the first choice goalkeeper in the 2003-04 unbeaten season, and was also great for the Gunners.
Ashley Cole: Left Back
Ashley Cole, or Cashley, was one of the best players to have emerged from the Arsenal academy, and was an integral part of Arsenal after he cemented his place on the team in the early 2000s. Arsene Wenger deserves a lot of credit for promoting him from the academy to the first team, bestowing his faith on the Englishman.
Cole subsequently established himself as a regular for England, and was an integral part of the Invincibles. Cashley acquired this name when he quit the Gunners for Chelsea under acrimonious circumstances, leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of Arsenal supporters. Gael Clichy has replaced Cole in the Left Back position and is presently Arsenal's longest serving player, but he has still some way to go before he is as good as Cole.
Sol Campbell: Centre Back
Sol Campbell's transfer from arch-rivals Tottenham to Arsenal is still considered to be one of the most controversial transfers to happen in the Premiership. Campbell was one of the best centre backs in the world in his first tenure at Arsenal, and was one of the most important players in the Invincibles squad.
He put on some courageous displays, with his performance against Spurs deserving of special mention. He moved from Arsenal again last summer to join Newcastle United on a free transfer. Sol has had a long career, and should be appreciated for his committed performances for the Gunners.
Kolo Toure: Centre Back
It was a difficult decision for me to include Kolo Toure when there were other extremely good players like Martin Keown amongst others. But the fact that he was one of the most consistent players for the Gunners tilted the scales in favour of Toure and also, he was also the first choice centre back, along with Sol Campbell, in the Invincibles squad.
For more than six years he was a hardworking team player for the Gunners, and I have included him for his importance to the team in the best part of the decade.
He did get not get along well with William Gallas, and looked for a transfer away from Arsenal because of that. He was sold to Manchester City for around 15 million, where he was named captain for the 2009-10 season. However, he stepped down from the captaincy for City in 2010-11 season, and Carlos Tevez was given the armband.
He was voted the best right back in the Premier League in his debut season for Arsenal and has been consistent for the Gunners . He has not won a trophy with Arsenal, but is one of the key members of the current team.
Sagna has always put the team before himself, as was demonstrated when he played following the death of his brother.It was really difficult to choose between Lauren and Sagna, but in my opinion, Sagna can be a great player for Arsenal in the future.
Patrick Viera: Central Midfielder (Captain)
Patrick Viera is an Arsenal legend who endeared himself to supporters with his inspirational performances in the middle of the park.The tough tackling midfielder was one of the most influential players for the Gunners, realizing his true potential during his time at Arsenal under Wenger. He was one of Arsenal's best signings to date, and one of the main reasons why Arsenal were considered to be among the strongest teams in the world.
He was the captain of the Invincibles team, and forged a strong partnership with Gilberto Silva in midfield. He was a complete midfielder that was ranked fifth by Arsenal fans in a poll conducted by the club's official website. He left Arsenal in the year 2005 to join Juventus, where he stayed only for a season. He then moved on to Inter Milan, and in the last year was signed by Manchester City. He still remains a favourite with the Arsenal supporters, and received a rousing reception when he played at the Emirates last year.
Cesc Fabregas: Central Midfielder
Cesc Fabregas is the current Arsenal captain and is well worthy of his spot alongside legends like Patrick Viera and Thierry Henry. Fabregas was signed by Arsene Wenger at a bargain price at the tender age of 16 from FC Barcelona. Wenger believed in the youngster's talent, giving him numerous chances, but credit should go to Cesc himself for working hard and improving continuously as a player.
His creativity could be seen at a very young age, and he has improved a lot in his time at Arsenal, turning himself into one of the best central midfielders in the world. At only 23, he still has time on his side, and will be looking to lift a major trophy with Arsenal. On this current young team, Fabregas provides the spark and creativity.
He was named as the Arsenal captain after Wenger stripped William Gallas of the armband. He had the highest tally of goals and assists in the 2009-10 season for the Gunners, and was also nominated for the PFA player of the year award. His only regret with Arsenal is that he has not won many trophies with the team and though he has been linked with a return to Barcelona for some time now, there is every chance that Arsene Wenger can convince him to stay with the Gunners.
Robert Pires: Winger
Robert Pires' career at Arsenal ended on a very sad note when he was substituted to accommodate a keeper after Jens Lehmann was red carded after only 12 minutes. A heartbroken Pires said afterwards, "I was very disappointed. When I saw my number on the fourth official’s board to be substituted, I couldn't believe it. It was my last game after six years at the club, a Champions League Final in front of all my family in Paris where I became World Cup champion and it lasted just 12 minutes. That was very hard to take".
But in the six years that he was at Arsenal, he was one of the best players for the Gunners. Arsenal supporters loved the way Pires contributed to the team and voted him the sixth greatest Gunner of all time by fans on a poll conducted by the club's official website. Pires struggled to come to grips with the physicality of the EPL in his first year, but quickly adjusted to it and produced some enchanting displays for Arsenal.
Even though his career ended on a disappointing note, he has captured the hearts of the Gooners with his magnificent displays. He'll be remembered forever as one of the most important members of the Invincibles.
Robin Van Persie: Winger/Striker
Robin Van Persie is one of Arsenal's finest talents, and if not for the numerous injuries he has suffered he would surely be considered among the world's best players. Van Persie has the creativity, vision and shooting ability to create goals out of nothing. The very presence of Van Persie on the pitch inspires the Gunners to play better and presents a threat to oppositions.
In the 2009-10 season he played as a centre forward, following the departure of Emmanuel Adebayor. He also extended his contract with Arsenal, saying that he couldn't imagine not playing for them. Though there was interest from big clubs like Chelsea, Manchester City and Juventus, he said he would be more than happy to remain with the Gunners.
At present, he is also the vice captain of the Arsenal team. This season, he was awarded the legendary No. 10 shirt, previously owned by Dennis Bergkamp and had a great season scoring the highest number of goals for the Gunners.
Dennis Bergkamp: Striker
Dennis Bergkamp is regarded by many to be one of the best support strikers in the history of the game. He could play in the "hole" and create numerous opportunities for strikers. He was more than capable of scoring some glorious goals, and was one of the most important Gunners players in the last decade.
The Dutchman possessed skills that most players can only dream of, and forged a deadly partnership first with Ian Wright, and later with Thierry Henry. Bergkamp possessed talents that many footballers can only dream of. He was one of the most loyal players for Arsenal and excelled not only at the club level, but also for Netherlands, scoring 37 goals in only 79 games.
In 2007, he was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame, becoming the first and only Dutchman to be inducted in. Bergkamp was voted as the second greatest player to have played for Arsenal by an online poll conducted by the club's official website.
Thierry Henry: Striker
This was one of the easiest decisions I had to make while compiling this list.Thierry Henry was voted as the greatest player to have ever played for the Gunners in a fan-poll conducted by the official club website.
Wenger worked with Henry at Monaco, before the latter joined Juventus and the former joined Arsenal. Henry was not a great success at Juventus, and Wenger utilised the opportunity to reunite with Henry.
At first, Henry was playing on the left wing, but Wenger converted him into a centre forward. Henry had early blips in the central role, but under the tutelage of Wenger, he grew to be one of the best centre forwards in the world. He terrorized opposition defenders with his pace, movement, skill and creativity.
Henry has many awards and achievements to his name. To name a few, he is the third highest goal scorer ever in the EPL, behind only Alan Shearer and Andy Cole. He has scored the highest number of goals for Arsenal in the league. He won the Golden Boot in the in both the Premier League and the European stage on more than one occasion. He was also named on numerous occasions in the PFA team of the year. It is not only the awards that matter, it was his contribution and love for the club that endeared him to the supporters.
7 Great Gunners Who Could Not Be Included
There are a lot of Gunners, who have contributed immensely for the club in this decade, but I could not include all of them in this list. Nevertheless, I would like to name seven more Arsenal players, who could have featured on this list.
Jens Lehmann: Goalkeeper
The German goalkeeper was considered eccentric by many, but what is undeniable is that he had quality, and could be unbeatable on his day. His performances in the 2003-04 season were very good, and it was a major reason that Arsenal went unbeaten throughout the season.
Ray Parlour: Midfielder
Parlour was one of the most under-rated performers in his time, but Arsenal fans have a special place for him in their hearts. He was one of the most consistent players in midfield, and was an important player for the Gunners. He was an important member in the Invincibles squad, and was one of the most loyal players for the club.
Lauren: Right Back
One of the toughest decisions I had to make, while compiling this list was to choose between Sagna and Lauren. Lauren was the first choice Right Back for more than 5 years for Arsenal, and was a part of the Invincibles. He was a very competent player, and also supported the attack on a lot of occasions.
Gilberto Silva: Midfielder
Gilberto Silva formed a partnership with Patrick Viera in the centre of midfield, which was the key to success for Arsenal. Silva played with a lot of passion for the club, and also established a good partnership with Cesc Fabregas, after Viera left the club. Gilberto was a role model for many youngsters, and helped youngsters develop into excellent players for the Gunners.
Nwankwo Kanu: Striker
Following the departure of Nicolas Anelka from Arsenal, Kanu emerged as one of the most important strikers for Arsenal. Though not thhe most prolific of strikers, he could score goals, when Arsenal needed it most. His importance to the side decreased following the emergence of Thierry Henry, but he was a fan favourite in his time at Arsenal and was voted 13th in the poll.
Martin Keown: Defender
He was not at his best after the millenium, but it would be a shame, not to mention him, considering his performances for Arsenal for over 10 years. He was a tough tackling defender, who had a long career with Arsenal, and is regarded as one of the best defenders to have played for the club. He lost his place to Kolo Toure in 2003, and moved on in 2004. He will be remembered as one of the best players to have played for the Gunners in the club's history.
Freddie Ljunberg: Winger
Probably, the most contentious decision in compiling this list was the inclusion of Robin Van Persie over Freddie Ljunberg. It was a really hard decision for me to make, because Ljunberg was one of the greatest players for the Gunners. He had great talent, even better work rate and was a huge fan favourite, who voted him as the 11th greatest Gunner in Arsenal's history in 2008. Ljunberg was one of the most loved players in the Wenger era, who supported him ever since his outstanding debut for the Gunners.