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TOP 10 Arsenal Players of the Decade

By Alfie Cairns Culshaw

Ultimately, the 2010s have represented an extremely difficult decade for Arsenal Football Club, a ten years marked with several disappointments and a steady decline. A stagnating giant would be a fair and simple assessment.

However, the decade has seen some very good players grace the Emirates pitch, some of whom will be remembered as legends in the long-term despite this being a largely unsuccessful period. Here, I pick my top 10 Arsenal players of the decade, based on the overall impact they made on the club:

10. Theo Walcott (2010-2018)

Apps: 261

Goals: 90

Honours: FA Cup (2014, 2015, 2017)

Perhaps a surprise inclusion for many, but if you look at his overall impact at the club over these ten years, it’s very much justified. Only Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny made more appearances for the club in this period, whilst only Olivier Giroud scored more goals than the Englishman.

Such a frustrating player, who one day would struggle to oust Gervinho in the starting eleven, and another would look like one of the most threatening wingers in world football. His goal scoring record for a wide player was remarkable, with the 12/13 and 16/17 seasons particularly fruitful.

Never reached the level we thought he was capable of prior to this decade, but his contribution to this football club is often overlooked. Scoring in a cup final, several North London Derby goals and one of the best solo goals we saw in this decade against Newcastle at the Emirates- thankyou Theo.

9. Per Mertesacker (2011-2018)

Apps: 221

Goals: 10

Honours: FA Cup (2014, 2015, 2017)

A member of our only competent back four in this decade; Mertesacker arrived in 2011 as an established centre-back in Europe, but his reputation tarnished by his notorious lack of pace. It took him time to adapt to the pace of the Premier League, but he eventually formed a brilliant partnership with Laurent Koscielny at the heart of the Arsenal defence, which saw our best defensive run in the entirety of these 10 seasons.

Remembered for his lanky figure and infamous chant, “we’ve got a Big Fucking German”, Mertesacker forged a special relationship with the fans. His most memorable moments include his first Arsenal goal in a frantic North London Derby, a vital goal in the 2014 FA Cup semi-final vs Wigan, a goal in the 2015 final vs Villa and his heroic performance in the 2017 FA Cup final, in a game tipped as “the Mertesacker final.”

8. Olivier Giroud (2012-2018)

Apps: 253

Goals: 105

Honours: FA Cup (2014, 2015, 2017)

A divisive figure at Arsenal, with many believing he was nothing more than a glorified Andy Carroll, whilst others believing he was severely underrated. I would be inclined to sit on the fence.

Certainly not a world class striker who would produce the volume of goals necessary to be the main number 9 at a side competing for the title, but a player who would produce goals at a reliable rate of 15-25 a season, involved excellently in combination play and a huge aerial threat.

Our top scorer in this decade so he had to feature on this list, and produced some spectacular moments that will be remembered for a long time- the scorpion kick vs Palace, his involvement in the Wilshere vs Norwich goal, hat-trick away at Olympiacos, goal in the final vs Villa, assists for both of Ramsey’s FA Cup winners, just to name a few.

7. Nacho Monreal (2013-2019)

Apps: 251

Goals: 10

Honours: FA Cup (2014, 2015, 2017)

For me, one of the serially underrated and undervalued players to have played for this football club, not just in this decade, but ever. So incredibly consistent for the duration of his spell at Arsenal, particularly between 2015 and 2018, providing defensive solidity and versatility, as well as picking up a knack for scoring important goals, including at Old Trafford in the 2015 FA Cup quarter-final and against Man City in the 2017 Semi-Final at Wembley.

Robbed of Arsenal’s player of the year award in 17/18 after flourishing on the left-side of a back 3, whilst managing 6 goals and 3 assists. Arguably our second best defender this decade, if anyone questions his inclusion on this list, I’ll hunt you down- aggressively.

6. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (2018-2019)

Apps: 89

Goals: 56

Longevity isn’t on his side here, but without doubt he has to make this list. One of only two Arsenal players to win the Golden Boot this decade, as well as possessing a staggering goal contribution rate, managing 70 G+A in 89 appearances, and just 77 starts.

Whilst elements of his all-round game are questionable, his prolific nature makes him invaluable to our side, and he has saved us on numerous occasions in the last two years. The impact he has had is evident in comparison to our opponents as well, with nobody scoring more Premier League goals since he made his debut in the competition. He is barren in terms of honours, but there is no doubting that the quality he possess’ is up there with perhaps the top 3 or 4 that have played for us in this decade.

5. Robin Van Persie (2010-2012)

Apps: 81

Goals: 59

It was tight between him and Aubameyang, and my heart said Auba with the way in which RVP left the club, but my head told me to pick the snake. 8 appearances fewer than the Gabonese international, but 3 goals more pretty much does it for me.

Van Persie managed the most prolific season an Arsenal player has had since Thierry Henry in ‘the invincibles’ campaign, in 11/12, registering an incredible 37 goals in all competitions. Particularly remarkable given the personnel that were serving him that season, as he single-handedly dragged the team to 3rd (he also captained us that year). He also picked up the PFA Player of the Year Award and fucked off to United, which, to be fair to him, was a sign of how good he had been.

This season alone gives him a place in the top 5.

4. Santi Cazorla (2012-2018)

Apps: 180

Goals: 29

Honours: FA Cup (2014, 2015, 2017)

Probably my favourite player for the last ten years. He defied everything you’d expect to see in your archetypal Premier League midfielder. Not physically imposing, standing at a mere 5ft 6in, not quick and not blessed with natural strength. What he did have, was a wonderful footballing brain and superb technical ability. Blessed with exceptional close control, brilliant vision and the ability to deliver a pass immaculately, mixed with a humbleness and likability- it was absolutely impossible to dislike Santi as a footballer or as a human being.

He struck what was arguably our most balanced midfield pivot of the decade with Francis Coquelin in early 2015, and became absolutely vital to providing both creativity and bite to our midfield. His most memorable moments include his free-kick against Hull in the dramatic 2014 FA Cup final, his incredible performance at Manchester City in January 2015 (arguably one of the best individual performances of the decade), and winning our Player of the Year award in his first season (12/13).

Adding to all this, his two-footedness, reported jokester role in the dressing room and romantic injury story and comeback assure his place in the top 5 for me.

3. Aaron Ramsey (2010-2019)

Apps: 318

Goals: 59

Honours: FA Cup (2014, 2015, 2017)

Some may argue this is too high for the Welshman, but personally I’m not even sure this is high enough. The second top appearance maker for Arsenal in the decade, one of only two players to be crowned Player of the Year twice (13/14 and 17/18) in the decade, our top scoring number 8 in the decade (and ever), and two FA Cup final winning goals. Yes, he had a couple of difficult seasons, particularly after his long-term injury in 2009, but on the whole he was one of our most consistent performers.

His loyalty should not remain unrecognised. It’s widely understood that there was concrete interest from the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester United at various times in the last ten years but he stuck by the club that had developed him and given him the opportunity. In different circumstances, he could still have been here today, captaining the side.

Adding to his two FA Cup final winners, Ramsey produced some spectacular goals. The half volley against Galatasaray, the brilliant volley and solo goal against Norwich, the flicks against CSKA Moscow and Spurs, the scorcher against Liverpool and the beautiful team goal against Fulham stand out.

2. Laurent Koscielny (2010-2019)

Apps: 353

Goals: 27

Honours: FA Cup (2014, 2015, 2017)

I know- this is probably an unpopular opinion, particularly with last summer’s incidents, but hear me out. Koscielny was by far and away the best defender we have had this decade, and people seem to forget just how reliant we were on him for a large part of these ten years. Between 2012 and 2017 he was world class, possibly in the top 5/6 centre-backs in world football. He remained loyal despite heavy interest from Barcelona, and went onto captain the side for 2 seasons.

On top of all this, no-one featured in more games for the club this decade and he produced some vital goals for us including two that effectively sealed us Champions League football and an equaliser in an FA Cup Final. Convinced?

1. Alexis Sanchez (2014-2018)

Apps: 166

Goals: 80

Honours: FA Cup (2015, 2017)

Another name on this list who’s exit makes placing him here harder than it should be, but, for me, Alexis Sanchez is the most talented individual to play for Arsenal Football Club in the last ten years, and one who made a huge impact whilst he was here. In his time at the club, he managed a ridiculous 124 goal contributions (80 goals and 44 assists) in 166 appearances, two club Player of the Year awards in three full seasons and two FA Cup victories. Complimented by Mesut Ozil, he was the talisman and leader of this team between 2014 and 2017, carrying the side through this disappointing period.

I’d argue his performance in 2016/17 outdoes Van Persie’s 11/12 campaign as the best individual season in this decade, scoring 30 goals and registering 18 assists, dragging us from probable mid-table mediocrity to 5th place. His exceptional work rate and passionate desire to win increased his popularity amongst the fanbase, and thus made his departure to Manchester United all the more difficult to take.

His memorable moments include: the 96th minute panenka against Burnley, his FA Cup Final scorcher vs Villa, his exceptional hat-trick at the London Stadium, his volley against Man City, his perfect free-kick against Southampton, his FA Cup Semi-final winner against City, his FA Cup final goal against Chelsea, his inspired role in the 3-3 comeback at Bournemouth, his double at home to United, his screamer in the 4-1 thrashing of Liverpool, his stunning chip vs Ludogorets, his screamer against Cologne and his hat-trick against Leicester. Just to name a few.

Honourable Mentions: Mesut Ozil, Bacary Sagna, Petr Cech, Hector Bellerin, Alexandre Lacazette, Jack Wilshere, Alex Song, Mikel Arteta, Thomas Rosicky.

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