…Here, they are… taking the game to Liverpool. Pires. Ohhhhh…what a shot! It is a fabulous goaaal from Robert Pires. It was in from the moment he hit it. And it is..Liverpool 1 Arsenal 2… Whaaat a goal! Absolutely unstoppable!…
Arsenal’s sixth greatest player of all times, Robert ‘Bobby’ Pires, with his unmatched charisma, highly-envied demeanor and dazzling persona, is loved and worshiped by fans world over. His deft touches on the football – be it assisting a goal or scoring one – has always been a delight to watch. Pires’ enchanting presence on the field makes ‘playing football’ an enjoyment for his team-mates, and not just another day of work on the field. His presence on the left side of the Highbury Green was always felt by his opponents, as he ambled across the box to find the ‘back of the net’ all the time. The deadly triumvirate of Bobby, as he is lovingly called, Thierry and Ashley Cole gave nightmares to defenders in the early 2000’s. They could telepathically combine, pass the ball among each other, be aware of each others’ presence all the time and cause havoc against teams in England and Europe. The legendary D’Artagon look of Bobby, as he celebrates his goal ‘flying’ down the pitch will be painted in the memories of Gooners, forever.
…at the French league
Born to a Portuguese father and Spanish mother, Pires spent his childhood in Reims, France. As a child, he loved watching his dad, who was an attacking play maker like him, play football in the local league. Pires joined the Metz football academy in the summer of 1992. After having played quite successful seven seasons there, Pires shifted to Marseille, in a £5 million move. During his stay at the Lorraine region, Pires found the net 43 times, a very decent number for an attacking midfielder. The first season at Marseille was nothing short of eventful, as the club finished runners-up in the league and lost the UEFA Cup final to Parma. Pires had a minor disagreement with the club at the end of the next season, making him boycott the club just before the historical Euro win.
…the World Cup and the Euro
According to former French team captain Didier Deschamps, Pires was a laidback character in the dressing room.
Didier Deschamps – “For a long time, Robert was almost too nice, You had to shake him sometimes – a lot of time, even. He lacked character. But he has matured since”
The slack character trait of Pires was mostly off the field, because on it, he was determined and committed to the cause. The French side which won the back to back titles – the much-coveted FIFA World Cup and the respected Euro 2000 – had Pires playing a pivotal role in it. The left winger was in enormous form and provided assists as well as goals for the Le Bleus, which also boasted of stalwarts like the great Zinedine Zidane along with Bobby’s club team-mates Petit and Vieira. In fact, Pires provided the ‘winning assist’ to Trezeguet in the Euro final.
…Arrives at Highbury
When the fans were devastated after the transfer of Overmars to Barcelona, Wenger hand-picked the ‘in-form’ Pires from Marseille to replace the mercurial Dutchman. Pires, after having to ‘feel’ the stress of the ‘English way of football’, became a revelation at Highbury. Donning the ‘No 7’ shirt, Pires eased into life at London Holloway. A man possessed with a brilliant football brain, Pires ‘combined’ very well with his team-mates, especially with Titi, his country team-mate. The two had innumerable assists and goals among them during their stint at the club.
In his second season with the club, Pires had a fantastic start, as he led the ‘Assists-Chart’ for most of the season before suffering a ligament injury. That was a setback for the man, but not for the team, as they went on to lift the Premiership trophy that season. On the day the team became the Champions, Pires walked down the middle of the park to lift the trophy, and the entire team ‘bowed’ before him and saluted the lad. Such was the respect he already garnered for himself!
…Bobby – The Man!
Another admirer of the Frenchman was the club captain and fellow-Bleu Patrick Vieira…
Vieira – “The great thing about Pires is that everybody loves him. He has an opinion on everything. He is very open-minded and you can discuss anything with him”.
That was the most amazing character trait of Bobby. He could bring smiles into the faces of the devotees just by a ‘precision-lob’ over Peter Schmeichel’s head at Villa Park or by a ‘stinger’ of a through-ball to Thierry or by a beautiful run on the left flank rounding it off to Freddie to score or simply by running down the pitch in his trademark ‘arms wide open’ celebration.
Thierry and Robert scored 57 goals together in the historical ‘unbeaten’ season for Arsenal in 2003-04. The ruthless dominance of the Gallic pair, along with Ashley Cole, on the left side of the Arsenal midfield left opponent defense’ clueless and helpless at most times. Almost unplayable, the swift interchange of passes between the three led to many Arsenal goals and unforgettable glory. His sublime technique, first-touch passes and goals, rebound-finishing and overlapping runs, along with a fantastic goal against Liverpool at Anfield, summed up Arsenal’s season as ‘undefeated’ champions.
…Last match for Arsenal
Arsenal had reached the UEFA Champions League Final in the season of 2005-06, and they were supposed to play at Pires’ homeland, ‘a dream come true’ for the charming Frenchman. However, disaster struck. The Arsenal keeper, Jens Lehmann was sent off in an early stage of the match. Pires looked at shock horror as his number was showed by the fourth official; with ‘tears’ in his eyes but a smile on his face, Bobby left the pitch, after having played the final few minutes for his favorite club, Arsenal.
Pires – “I was very disappointed. When I saw my number on the fourth official’s board to be subbed, I couldn’t believe it. It was my last game after six years at the club and it lasted just 12 minutes”.
Years later, mentor and manager, Arsene Wenger had explained why he took off Pires on that memorable day.
…with the Yellow Submarine
Pires joined Villareal after seeing off his Arsenal contract in the summer of 2006. Similar to his Arsenal start, he suffered a ligament injury yet again, which kept him out for most parts of his first season. In his four years at the El Madrigal, Pires operated mostly in the middle of the park; with his vision and dexterity, he provided many assists, but failed to emulate his goal-scoring form with Arsenal. In the Champions League, Pires made a return to his favorite home with Villarreal, when the Arsenal fans gave a warm reception to their favorite son.
…Joins Aston Villa
After training at North London with Cesc and company, Pires finally decided to play his possibly final season of football, signing with Aston Villa, till the end of the season.
The new Aston Villa assistant coach, Gary McAllister on Pires’ signing – “I am sure he will arrive at the training ground in good condition. He’s a player everyone can look up to because of what he has achieved.”
On the 27th of November, as fate would play a funny game, Pires will face his former team in the league, when Arsenal, who have already lost two consecutive matches, travel to Villa Park.
Nous Vous Saluons!