Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Arsenal dream team - the greatest Gunners ever

PAT JENNINGS Goalkeeper
Arsenal 1977-84, 327 appearances After thirteen years and 591 games with Spurs, Keith Burkinshaw believed the 32-year-old Pat Jennings was coming to the end of his career. It proved to be a miscalculation on a par with Pope Innocent III's prediction that the Second Coming would happen and it would happen in AD1284. Almost eight centuries after that gaffe he's still waiting to be proved right but Burkinshaw only had to wait eight games to realise he had made an awful mistake. Terry Neill poached the 119-cap Northern Irishman from N17 to N5 in 1977 and it wasn't until eight years later that Jennings played the last of his 327 games for Arsenal. Jennings made the game look easy but unlike his Highbury goalkeeping descendant, David Seaman, he didn't need a horse-tail and 'tache to prove that the cameras didn't matter. In an age more accustomed to 'keepers who punch, flap and beat away the ball like demented volleyball triallists, Jennings is an exemplar for the philosophy that a goalkeeper's hands is the only safe place for the ball. His performances for Northern Ireland in the 1986 World Cup, including a fitting finale against the Brazilians, came a year after he had retired from first team football and are a testament to Arsenal's finest 'keeper.
PAT RICE Right-back Arsenal 1967-80, 528 appearances, 13 goals
Belfast-born but London-bred, Pat Rice came up through Arsenal's youth and reserve system. He established himself as first-choice right-back at the age of 21 after three seasons of playing understudy to Peter Storey. His first full season at right-back culminated in Arsenal winning the 'Double' and nine seasons later he could still be found sweating blood for the cause, as well as captaining the side to an agonising penalty shoot-out defeat against Valencia in the 1980 European Cup Winners' Cup final. It was out of Rice's cloth that Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn were cut and, 42 years after making his debut, he continues to play a significant but understated role in the present and future of the club. Rice wasn't deemed good enough to play for Islington Schools but his work ethic, concentration and consistency saw him go on to make 528 appearances for Arsenal and condemned one North London pub to suffer some ol' punter's echoing refrain: "When I was a lad, that Pat Rice had nothing on me. Islington Schools first choice right-back I was, first choice right-back..."
DENNIS BERGKAMP Forward Arsenal 1995-2006, 423 appearances, 120 goals
Dennis Bergkamp becomes the third Ajax player to date - joining Frank Rijkaard and Marco van Basten - to be selected for a second dream team, a testament to Ajax's famed youth system as well as Bergkamp's singular ability. With Alex James already in the side, Bergkamp's inclusion may look like a luxury but by adopting the same totaalvoetbal system employed by the great Ajax side of the seventies - a system evolved from Herbert Chapman's own W-M revolution - David O'Leary could play as a libero and permit such indulgences. Like James before him, Bergkamp made the game look easy and his team-mates look better. If Ian Wright and Thierry Henry were penalty-box pickpockets of the first degree, Bergkamp was the footballing equivalent of a master art thief - cultured, adaptable and concerned principally with the value placed on artistic merit. Along with Gianfranco Zola he elevated the standard of English football that the last few years has struggled to match and by the time he retired in 2006 he had three league titles to match his three FA Cup winners' medals.

Arsenal may not have as many European trophies tucked away in the cabinet as some of the other sides to have featured so far but that hasn't stopped them continually being at the forefront of revolutions in the domestic game.

>> Click on the image to the right to launch our guide

From Herbert Chapman's 1930s team to Bertie Mee's 1971 Double-winning side and George Graham's 1980s defensive rocks to Arsene Wenger's Invincibles, the Arsenal dream team has caused many headaches.

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