As we enter a new decade, The Hard Tackle takes a look at the best players to have represented Arsenal over the past ten years.
It is fair to say that Arsenal didn’t exactly manage to hit the highs in the last decade, as they did in the previous one. While the Gunners consistently fought for the top four places during the majority of the past ten years, they have drifted away in the recent memory. In fact, they are yet to finish inside top four in any of the last three Premier League seasons.
However, there have been a number of excellent players, who have donned the Arsenal kit over the course of the past ten years. And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will pick out the best team of the decade for Arsenal.
GK: Petr Cech
It was a really difficult decision to choose between Petr Cech and Wojciech Szczesny. But, while the latter enjoyed his breakout at Arsenal and was regarded as one of the best goalkeeping talents in Europe, he never really managed to provide the assurance in goal as much Cech did.
Sure, the Czech Republic star, who arrived from Chelsea in 2015, was already in decline. But, during his reign in between the sticks, he provided the much-needed leadership in the Arsenal backline. With him in goal, the lack of a motivating figure in defence was never a question. Therefore, he gets the nod ahead of Szczesny, who played only till 2015.
RB: Bacary Sagna
Hector Bellerin made a strong case for being included in Arsenal’s team of the decade. But, the Spaniard only enjoyed two fruitful seasons at Arsenal, during the 2014/15 and 2015/16 campaign. After that, his development was marred by injuries.
As a result, we had to go to Bacary Sagna. The Frenchman provided a real assurance in that right-back slot for Arsenal, and his ability to keep up with his marker clearly makes him the ideal right-back for the Gunners even though he left in 2014.
RCB: Per Mertesacker
Per Mertesacker, in fairness, has become a legend for Arsenal, having played for the club for seven years before retiring in 2018. He made 221 competitive appearances for the Gunners, bagging three FA Cups and two English Super Cups.
Mertesacker was a maligned figure due to his lack of pace. However, his strong tackling and fantastic leadership were never doubted upon. And this is why he gets the nod ahead of players like Sokratis and Thomas Vermaelen.
LCB: Laurent Koscielny
A no-brainer, really. Koscielny was an ever-present figure in the Arsenal backline over the last decade, barring from the 2019/20 season when he handed in a transfer request and left the club. During his time at Arsenal, the Frenchman made a whopping 353 competitive appearances – only two central defenders have managed to play more games in the club’s history.
Koscielny’s excellent leadership, coupled with his ability to play the ball out from the back were vital to Arsenal’s attractive style of play that was prevalent under the management of Arsene Wenger.
LB: Nacho Monreal
There is no one replacing Nacho Monreal at left-back. No one even comes close to competing with the Spaniard, who made 251 competitive appearances for Arsenal since joining the club in 2013. Monreal offered a lot of composure in the Arsenal backline. But most importantly, his versatility in defence made it easier for the likes of Unai Emery and Wenger to rotate the squad and also deal with an injury crisis.
RCM: Aaron Ramsey
Aaron Ramsey was one of the easiest picks in Arsenal’s team of the decade. After making his breakthrough in the 2011/12 campaign, the Welshman was invaluable for the Gunners as he notched up 371 competitive appearances for the club.
Ramsey is an attack-minded midfielder, who was often utilised in a number eight slot. And during the final phase of his Arsenal career, he was even deployed as an out and out number ten. The ex-Cardiff City starlet was notably involved in 130 goals for Arsenal in all competitions before leaving the club in the summer, to join Juventus.
His departure created a massive void in the creative department – something the club hasn’t quite been able to fill despite the arrival of Nicolas Pepe and Dani Ceballos.
LCM: Santi Cazorla
Santi Cazorla was an interesting pick ahead of players like Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and even current manager Mikel Arteta. Unlike these three midfielders, Cazorla didn’t quite decline and was a consistent member of the Arsenal first-team before his progress was stalled by a set of leg injuries from 2016 to 2018.
The Spaniard was a deep-lying midfielder, by trade. But, his ability to operate as an attacking midfielder or even as a wide attacker provided the likes of Wenger with more tactical flexibility. He was often used as an alternative for Mesut Ozil in the number ten slot, though he mostly featured as a central midfielder for Arsenal.
RW: Theo Walcott
Theo Walcott had a mixed spell at Arsenal, for sure. Despite being regarded as the next big thing in English football during the early stages of his career, he was never quite able to live up to the expectations. But, at the same time, the winger has racked up impressive numbers at the Emirates.
Indeed. Walcott made 399 competitive appearances for Arsenal, though around one-third of which were made before 2010. Although he wasn’t always the X-factor in the attacking unit, the Englishman constantly racked up decent numbers, which helped the Gunners consistently secure top-four finishes.
Since the start of the 2010/11 campaign, Walcott scored 56 Premier League goals for Arsenal while mustering 41 assists and these are quite decent numbers for any winger playing at the highest level of football.
CAM: Mesut Ozil
It was a tough decision to choose Ozil ahead of Rosicky in the number ten slot. But, despite his fair share of criticism, it wouldn’t be fair to overlook the massive impact he has had since joining Arsenal, in a €47 million move from Real Madrid in 2013.
Ozil has been involved in more goals than any other player in the current Arsenal team. But more importantly, his tally of 76 assists in all competitions for the Gunners is bettered only by three players in Walcott, Thierry Henry and Cesc Fabregas, all of who had played significantly more matches.
Especially during the first phase of his Arsenal career, Ozil was very effective and was arguably the best playmaker in the Premier League, notably mustering a total of 39 assists in his first three seasons in England. Hence, he definitely deserves a spot in Arsenal’s team of the decade.
LW: Alexis Sanchez
It is almost impossible to overlook Alexis Sanchez’s incredible contribution to Arsenal despite his rather short stint at the club. The Chilean initially joined the club in 2014, in a €26 million move from Barcelona. And he was quick to make an impact, notably being involved in 24 Premier League goals in his debut season in England.
During his three and a half year spell at Arsenal, Sanchez was involved in a whopping 125 goals in just 166 competitive matches. Therefore, it was a no-brainer to include this ex-Barcelona sensation in this team.
ST: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been by far the best striker Arsenal have had in years. Olivier Giroud and Alexandre Lacazette did make strong cases for being included in the team. But, neither of them have been as effective as the Gabonese international, who notably scored ten Premier League goals in his first season in England despite playing in 13 games.
The ex-Borussia Dortmund star followed it up with 22 goals the following season, ending the campaign as the league’s joint top-scorer alongside Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane. He has been able to replicate his performances this term as well, netting 14 times in just 22 matches – making him an easy choice ahead of Giroud and Lacazette.
Arsenal Team of the Decade (4-2-3-1): Petr Cech; Bacary Sagna, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal; Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla; Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.