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Arsenal's top 10 players of the Arsene Wenger era

To celebrate Arsene Wenger's 72nd birthday, Sports Mole counts down the top 10 players from his time at Arsenal.

Arsene Wenger - AKA Le Professeur - celebrates his 72nd birthday today, giving us the perfect chance to look back at some of the most memorable names to grace the Highbury and Emirates turf during his Arsenal tenure.

The illustrious Frenchman may have departed in acrimonious circumstances amid the #WengerOut brigade, but with three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups to his name - as well as his influence in players' lifestyles - Wenger has been written into football folklore.

The ex-Nancy and Monaco boss nurtured, welcomed and developed numerous players in his time at Arsenal - fielding 222 to be exact - but certain names stood out head and shoulders above the rest during Wenger's 22-year spell.

Here, Sports Mole counts down the top 10 players from the Arsene Wenger era at Arsenal.

10 - Robert Pires

Robert Pires pictured for Arsenal in 2006© Reuters

Spectacular goals galore with this silky French winger, Robert Pires's £6m signing to replace £25m man Marc Overmars seems almost incomprehensible nowadays, with the ex-Marseille man thriving in six full seasons under Wenger's wing.

In 284 games for the club, Pires chalked up a stellar 85 goals and 60 assists across all competitions - including at least 14 strikes in three consecutive Premier League seasons - while he started 33 Premier League games during the Gunners' Invincibles season.

A two-time Premier League and three-time FA Cup winner at Highbury, Pires also scooped the FWA Footballer of the Year in 2002, and not forgetting the small matter of his Euro 2000 and World Cup 1998 successes with France, of course.

9 - Aaron Ramsey

Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey celebrates his opening goal in the North London derby with Tottenham Hotspur on March 2, 2019© Reuters

One does not have to be a die-hard Gooner to recall that horrific leg break that Aaron Ramsey suffered at Stoke City 11 years ago now, and the Wales stalwart has hardly had the best luck with injuries since that fateful evening.

However, Ramsey would always retain the faith of Wenger and ended up reaping the rewards in his breakthrough 2013-14 season - banking 10 goals and nine assists in 23 Premier League appearances - and he would soon establish himself as one of the Frenchman's most reliable performers.

Totalling 65 goals and 65 assists in 371 games for the club, Ramsey also netted the winning goals in the 2014 and 2017 FA Cup finals - as well as winning the club's player of the season twice - and rumours of an Emirates return for the 30-year-old continue to swirl amid his Juventus troubles.

8 - Sol Campbell

Sol Campbell pictured for Arsenal in 2006© Reuters

A name that Tottenham Hotspur fans cannot erase from their memory quickly enough, Sol Campbell's switch across North London in 2001 was not only a shock to supporters, but to the media as well, with journalists in the press room expecting to break Richard Wright's arrival on the day before the talismanic defender emerged.

The fact that Campbell's transfer was kept under wraps for so long is admirable in itself, but the Englishman's performances on the pitch were more so, as he amassed 211 appearances for the club under Wenger and struck 12 goals - to date, he is the only player to score for Arsenal in a Champions League final.

Another stalwart of the Invincibles setup which won the league at his old home, Campbell was also a key member of the 2001-02 double-winning squad and left Arsenal with five major honours to his name before a brief but sentimental return in 2011.

7 - Cesc Fabregas

Cesc Fabregas pictured for Arsenal in 2011© Reuters

Tongues were wagging when a 16-year-old Cesc Fabregas became the youngest player in Arsenal's history - an accolade he still holds dear - during an EFL Cup clash with Rotherham, and the Spaniard had barely turned 19 before starting against former club Barcelona in the 2006 Champions League final.

Arsenal and Wenger knew that they had a gem on their hands with Fabregas, who amassed a staggering 15 goals and 15 assists from 27 games in the 2009-10 season after setting up 20 goals in the 2007-08 campaign.

Fabregas's prime years at Arsenal went unrewarded - with the 2005 FA Cup all he had to show for his efforts - and the pull of Barcelona proved too tempting for a player who burned bridges with a few supporters by swapping red for the blue of Chelsea some years later.

6 - David Seaman

David Seaman pictured for Arsenal in 2003© Reuters

Already in possession of the gloves for several seasons before Wenger's arrival, Arsenal and England number one David Seaman may be remembered best for being on the wrong end of Ronaldinho's free kick at the 2002 World Cup than for any of his North London exploits.

However, the now-58-year-old held his position as Wenger's first-choice goalkeeper for seven seasons, kept 202 clean sheets in 492 games for the club, and his save from Sheffield United's Paul Peschisolido en route to the 2003 FA Cup crown still defies belief.

Winning three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and one EFL Cup during his time in North London, Seaman always returns to the Emirates with that beaming smile when legends matches come calling his name and is without question the safest pair of hands from Wenger's 22 years at Arsenal.

5 - Alexis Sanchez

Alexis Sanchez pictured for Arsenal in 2017© Reuters

One of the most naturally talented players to ever grace the Emirates pitch, Alexis Sanchez is not held in high regard by many Arsenal fans following his move to Manchester United, but it was impossible to ignore the Chilean's impact under Wenger.

After arriving from Barcelona in the summer of 2014, Sanchez's remarkable first season at Arsenal saw him scoop the club's player of the season award, a spot in the PFA Team of the Year, as well as the PFA Fans' Player of the Year after banking 16 goals and eight assists in his debut campaign.

Sanchez was forced to shoulder most of the attacking burden for the 2016-17 season but did not let that phase him, as he racked up 24 goals and 11 assists in 38 league appearances before scoring crucial goals in the semi-finals and final of the FA Cup that same year.

4 - Dennis Bergkamp

Dennis Bergkamp for Arsenal© Reuters

Renowned for his fear of flying, Dennis Bergkamp's aviophobia certainly did not impact his ability to soar across the pitch with a sense of elegance and flair that will not be replicated in the Premier League for a long time to come.

The non-flying Dutchman was another pre-Wenger signing at Arsenal but truly made a name for himself under Le Professeur, winning the FWA and PFA Players' Player of the Year awards in the Gunners' double-winning 1997-98 season.

Nailing down the second striker role right into his mid-30's, Bergkamp also registered 11 goal contributions in the Invincibles season and was an integral part of all three of Arsenal's Premier League-winning sides, while his support for Daniel Ek's takeover bid has only served to increase his ever-high standing with the Arsenal faithful.

3 - Tony Adams

Tony Adams pictured in 2002© Reuters

Would you believe it? Tony Adams certainly did, as Martin Tyler's iconic piece of commentary was a fitting tribute to the captain's infamous strike against Everton in 1998 - regarded by many as one of the greatest Arsenal goals of all time.

Adams had already pulled on the red and white jersey for 13 years before Wenger's arrival in North London - by which point he had turned 30 - and alcoholism issues off the field also plagued him, but Wenger stood by his captain.

The bond between player and manager was a notably strong one, as Adams remained a key part of the Arsenal side before hanging up his boots in 2002, while a total of 669 appearances for the club is second only to David O'Leary's 722.

A four-time top-flight champion, three-time FA Cup winner and two-time League Cup holder with Arsenal, Adams marshalled the famous back four with aplomb during Wenger's reign and is one of the most recognisable names from the Highbury era.

2 - Patrick Vieira

Patrick Vieira pictured for Arsenal in 2005© Reuters

Captain Fantastic himself Patrick Vieira only returned to North London mere days ago to witness his Crystal Palace side give his old club an excellent run for their money, and the reception he received from the Emirates faithful spoke more than 1,000 words could.

A tough-tackling midfielder with a penchant for spectacular strikes and skirmishes with Roy Keane, Vieira established himself as an Arsenal regular after barely turning 20 and donned the armband with aplomb during the 2002 and 2004 triumphant league seasons.

After nine years, 406 appearances, 34 goals and 44 assists for the Gunners, Vieira's final kick of the ball for the club won them the FA Cup in 2005 - sinking Manchester United in a penalty shootout - and Wenger's captain found his way into the PFA Team of the Year six seasons in a row.

The Gunners continue to try to fill the Vieira-shaped void in the engine room 16 years later with no luck, and given the way he set his Palace side up at the Emirates, the 45-year-old's career in management could also be a bright one.

1 - Thierry Henry

Thierry Henry celebrates scoring for Arsenal against Sparta Prague in the Champions League on October 18, 2005© Reuters

The king. The icon. The 228-goal man. Thierry Henry arrived at Arsenal in 1999 with a World Cup winners' medal in his suitcase, but after two underwhelming years at Juventus, his name was still relatively unknown.

Fears were immediately raised when Henry failed to make the net ripple in his first eight games for the club, but under Wenger's tutelage, the Frenchman transformed into arguably the greatest player in the history of the Premier League.

Henry's wonder strike against Manchester United in 2000 saw him truly announce himself to the Highbury faithful, while his 24-goal and 25-assist haul in the 2002-03 Premier League season was controversially not enough to win him the Ballon d'Or, being forced to settle for the runners-up spot behind Pavel Nedved.

However, with a total of 228 goals and 105 assists in 376 games for the club, Henry could do it all, whether it be blistering runs from his own half, humiliating the opposition with his array of tricks or simply finding the bottom corner with complete ruthlessness.

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