Despite their recent struggles, Arsenal have been one of the top teams in the Premier League since its advent. The Gunners have found success over the years by blending home talent with stars from around the globe. They have particularly benefited from an influx of French stars who moved to North London and helped Arsenal claim title after title. With French tactical mastermind Arsene Wenger as their manager for two decades, it also gave French stars added desire to play for The Gunners. So who are the 5 greatest French players to play for Arsenal?
5 greatest French players to play for Arsenal
When Laurent Koscielny moved to Arsenal from Lorient in 2010, his reputation was still very much developing as a promising centre-back. When he left London a decade later, he was known as one of the best defenders in Europe. Koscielny grew into a fearsome player in North London as his tackling, passing and excellent aerial abilities showed barely any weaknesses.
As his skillset grew, he became a key part of the Arsenal backline even inheriting the captaincy in 2018. It was this all-round skillset that helped Koscielny make 255 appearances for the club and make him one of their most trusted and long-serving players in the 21st century.
If his long blonde hair in a bob didn’t win you over, his passing and playmaking would. Petit was one of the first French players to move to Arsenal under the guidance of Arsene Wenger in 1997 and helped form a formidable midfield partnership with compatriot Patrick Vieira. Petit was not only an excellent technician but also capable of spectacular strikes from long range from time to time.
He was part of the Arsenal squad that would win the 1997/98 season in a season where he also won Player of the Month in April 1998. His consistency was rewarded further one year later when he was named in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year for the 1998/99 season. He would depart London for Barcelona just one year later, a decision he later admitted to regretting, but Petit left a memorable mark for The Gunners during his four-year stint with the club.
Patrick Vieira is one of the greatest midfielders in Premier League history. With impressive dribbling, an occasional eye for goal and s a no-nonsense attitude, there was nothing that Vieira couldn’t do. It was why he was such an integral part of the Arsenal squad that won 3 Premier League titles under the watch of Arsene Wenger.
His influence also saw him captain the side once Tony Adams retired in 2002 and was the leader of “The Invincibles” squad that went undefeated in the 2003/04 season. His consistent form and leadership earned him 6 Premier League of the Year inclusions as well as named as PFA Player of the Year in 2001.
This form eventually saw him nominated for a spot in the English Football Hall of Fame in 2014 showcasing why he was considered an all time great. Not just one of the best French players to play for Arsenal but one of the greatest footballers in Premier League history.
Loved by Arsenal fans and hated by opposition fans, it was easy to see why Robert Pires drew such strong reactions from the stands. Capable of showboating with success yet also delivering crosses and goals with regular success, the winger could destroy defences with ease.
Pires was a key part of helping Arsenal win titles in 2002 and 2004. His thirst for goals saw him reach double figures three years running from 2003-2005 helping make Arsenal a genuine attacking threat whenever he featured. He earned 3 Premier League Team of the Year nominations in his tenure at Arsenal. He has remained a favourite with Arsenal fans and remains one of the side’s best forwards this century.
After a miserable spell in Italy with Juventus, Thierry Henry’s move to Arsenal proved to be a true blessing for both sides. It was then that Henry unleashed the “Va Va Voom” on the Premier League destroying teams with ease season after season. He scored no less than 20 gaols for five straight seasons from 2001-2006 helping him win 4 Golden Boot awards.
Add that to his 2 Premier League Player of the Season Awards as well as the all-time Arsenal goalscoring record and you have the hallmarks of a true great. Henry was not only included in the 2021 English Football Hall of Fame but also has his own statue erected outside of the Emirates. A true great who will remain beloved by Arsenal fans for decades to come. One of the best French players of all time, let alone just for Arsenal.
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