Such has been the immediacy and the degree of the impact that Santi Cazorla has made at Arsenal that he is already been likened to some of the true greats the club has had through its proud history. The diminutive silky-skilled midfielder arrived from Malaga in the summer and has instantly settled into the Premier League as the creative spark at the head of the Gunners’ midfield.
If his performances continue, he may well go onto be considered among the club’s greatest foreign imports. For now, here are five of the best:
Dennis Bergkamp arrived at Arsenal in 1995 on the back of a disappointing two year spell at Inter Milan. He departed 11 years later having proven himself one of the most gifted players to ever grace the English game. Things did not begin that way, though, as the Dutchman came under pressure for failing to score in his first seven games for the Gunners.
Signed by Bruce Rioch, in his only season in charge, Bergkamp was described as “a blessing” when Arsene Wenger arrived and he would prove to be exactly that as the embodiment of the Frenchman’s stylish approach.
To put Bergkamp’s contribution in mere goals would be an insult to the man, but 120 in 423 appearances is far from shabby. Among them were some of the finest strikes ever witnessed by Arsenal supporters, or indeed fans anywhere.
And the top of the list was that goal against Newcastle—don’t think for a second that he didn’t know exactly what he was doing—and the exquisite hat-trick clincher against Leicester.
Like Bergkamp, Thierry Henry did not have the best of beginnings at Arsenal. Questions were being raised in 1999 as to why Wenger had splashed £11 million on a wayward winger as the World Cup winner continued his struggles following a disappointing six months spent at Italian giants Juventus. But once Henry started scoring he never stopped—eventually netting an extraordinary club record 228 goals in 377 appearances.
Few players in the history of the Premier League have ever looked so unstoppable as Henry—his mixture of searing pace and close control as he invariably cut in from the left side before placing the ball past the opposition goalkeeper was scintillating to behold.
He eventually left for Barcelona in 2007, but he had forever endeared himself to the Arsenal faithful and them to him. A point made when Henry returned for a short loan spell from the New York Red Bulls earlier this year.
He may have not been as aesthetically pleasing as some of the other members of the great sides constructed under Wenger, but Partick Vieira was arguably as influential as anyone in that great era of success for the club.
In similar manner to Henry, Vieira arrived at Highbury after an unfulfilled spell in Italy, in his case with Milan. Vieira required no time to settle in North London, however, and soon established himself—alongside the man who would have such memorable battles with in the coming years, Roy Keane—as the most formidable midfield presence in the Premier League.
Initially in tandem with fellow Frenchman Emmanuel Petit, the two formed an almost impregnable barrier in front of a legendary Arsenal back four, leading the club to the title in his first full season.
It would be unfair to merely remember him for his work without the ball. The Senegalese-born Vieira had an underrated passing ability and was fearsome galloping forward with the ball with his imposingly gargantuan strides. Arguably he has never been replaced in the Arsenal midfield.
It is to Cesc Fabregas’ misfortune that he did not enjoy the same success as the likes of Bergkamp, Henry and Vieira. Just one FA Cup does not do justice to the impact the Spaniard made with the Gunners. Fabregas arrived from Barcelona aged just 16 in controversial circumstances after getting his early soccer education at the renowned La Masia academy.
However, as Fabregas admits his time at Arsenal under Wenger played a huge part in him becoming one of the world’s leading midfielders, before he returned to the Catalan giants.
“I went from being a boy to a man and they gave me absolutely everything in football," he said.
Born in Dublin, Liam Brady was the heartbeat of the Arsenal side for much of the 1970s as he time and again played wondrous passes with his magical left-foot. The archetypal playmaker, Brady made 307 appearances for the Gunners having joined the club as a schoolboy.
His most memorable outing, though, must surely be in the 1979 FA Cup final as he played a crucial role in all three Arsenal goals during a 3-2 victory over Manchester United. It was his burst through the middle and pass out wide to Graham Rix that led to one of the greatest climax’s in Cup final history as Alan Sunderland scored a last-minute winner.
Brady left for Italy after seven years in the first team, in 1980, and was a big success as he won two Serie A titles with Juventus. After a brief attempt at management following his playing career, Brady returned to Arsenal and has been in charge of the club’s youth development since 1996.