Arsenal legend set for return

Dennis Bergkamp. Mention those two words to any Arsenal fan and their eyes will glaze over as they recall eleven years when one of the world’s greatest ever footballers graced the Highbury turf. For many he was Arsenal’s best ever player.

Before tomorrow’s game against Sunderland he will take his place alongside his peers – Tony Adams, Thierry Henry and Herbert Chapman – when a statue of the great man will be unveiled above The Armoury.Dennis Bergkamp

Along with just about every other Arsenal fan, I was amazed when Bruce Rioch and David Dein pulled off the most amazing transfer in June 1995. A British record transfer fee of £7.5 million was paid to Inter Milan for the Dutch maestro.

After a slow start in which the media, predictably, labelled him a flop he announced his arrival with a stunning goal against Southampton and then never looked back. He finished off his first season scoring with just six minutes remaining of the final game to ensure a victory that put the Gunners back into Europe.

 His annus mirabilis was the 1997-98 season when, despite being injured for the run-in, he played a major part in Arsenal winning the double, finishing the season as the club’s top scorer. On top of this he completed a personal treble winning the FWA Footballer of the Year and PFA Player of the Year awards as well as scooping the Barclays’ Premier League Goal of the Season award for his third goal in the game at Leicester.

Dennis was involved in all of Arsenal’s successes over the next seven seasons, mainly playing a slightly withdrawn forward role which resulted in fewer goals for himself but setting up a huge number for others. His 147 Premier League assists is the fifth overall and the most by any Arsenal player.

Perhaps his finest individual moment was the goal he scored against Newcastle on 2 March 2002. A swift Arsenal attack saw Bergkamp charging towards the Newcastle penalty area. As he saw Robert Pires receive the ball he signalled that he wanted it. Pires slotted the perfect ball through to Bergkamp who, just inside the “D” and with his back to goal, flicked the ball to the right of Nikos Dabizas and ran round the defender’s left to pounce on the ball and coolly slot it home. You can watch it over and over again and never tire of it.

My personal favourite moment was one that didn’t result in a goal. It was a game against Liverpool at Highbury where a swift-counter attack saw Bergkamp advancing down the right. He looked up and saw Thierry Henry charging through the middle with defenders either side of him. Dennis then produced the most exquisite curling pass that passed no more than inch in front of the first defender and perfect for Henry to run onto.

Although used mainly as a substitute in his final season at Highbury, it did not stop him showing his class. None more so than when he came off the bench against West Brom on “Dennis Bergkamp Day” to show the world that he still had it.

After eleven years of sterling service Dennis was awarded a testimonial, a rare feat for an overseas player. The game was played between past and present Arsenal and Ajax teams, and was the first game played at Arsenal’s new stadium.

A short blog like this cannot fully explain Dennis’ contribution to the Arsenal during the golden era of the late 1990s / early 2000s. A statue outside the Emirates is no less than he deserves. Thank you, Dennis.

For those with a penchant for numbers here are Dennis’ Arsenal stats.

Premier League

FA Cup

League Cup

Europe

Charity Shield

Apps

Sub

Gls

Apps

Sub

Gls

Apps

Sub

Gls

Apps

Sub

Gls

Apps

Sub

Gls

1995-96

33

11

1

 

7

 

5

 

 

1996-97

28

+1

12

2

 

1

2

 

1

1

 

 

1997-98

28

16

7

 

3

4

 

2

1

 

1

 

1998-99

28

+1

12

6

 

3

1

 

3

 

1

1

 

1999-00

23

+5

6

 

 

11

 

4

 

2000-01

19

+6

3

4

+1

1

 

3

+2

1

 

2001-02

22

+11

9

4

+2

3

1

 

3

+3

2

 

2002-03

23

+6

4

2

+2

2

 

6

+1

1

1

 

2003-04

21

+7

4

3

 

1

 

4

+2

1

 

2004-05

20

+9

8

4

 

 

4

 

1

 

2005-06

8

+16

2

1

 

1

 

1

+3

1

1

 

Total

253

+62

87

34

+5

14

16

 

8

37

+11

11

5

 

0

Total first-team appearances for Arsenal – 423 (18th overall)
Total first-team goals for Arsenal – 120 (11th overall)

Honours

Premier League winner (3) – 1997-98, 2001-02, 2003-04
FA Cup winner (3) – 2002, 2003, 2005
FA Cup runner-up (1) – 2001
FA Charity Shield winner (3) – 1998-99, 2002-03, 2004-05
FA Charity Shield Runner-up (2) – 2003-04, 2005-06
UEFA Cup runner-up (1) – 1999-2000

FWA Football of the Year – 1997-98
PGA Players’ Player of the Year – 1997-98
Premier League Goal of the Season – 1997-98 (v Leicester), 2001-02 (v Newcastle)

Andy

Andy is editor/contributor/author of The Arsenal History website

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3 thoughts on “Arsenal legend set for return

  1. Pingback: Arsenal Legend Set To Return Home | The Arsenal History

  2. Paul

    The greatest player I have ever had the pleasure of watching. I sat in the north bank upper and he could see runs and play the perfect ball before we even realised his target was moving. A fantastic player and certainly the greatest Arsenal player ever

    Reply
  3. Pingback: 10 Reasons why we will beat Sunderland + Starting 11 | She Wore A Yellow Ribbon

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