AN Arsenal XI of their most used players in each position this decade has been revealed – with some surprising inclusions.
It’s been a turbulent ten years at the Emirates that saw them wave goodbye to legendary, and divisive, manager Arsene Wenger.
The decade also saw the Gunners finally lose their grip on a regular place in the Champions League – with Arsenal having last finished in the top four back in 2016.
And their XI of players most used between 2010 and 2019 is characterised by the players that clung on to a top four place in the first half of the decade… before finally losing their grip.
It includes the popular, and injury ravaged, playmaker Santi Cazorla – as well as other long-term injury absentees Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny.
Arsenal started the decade with Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski vying for a place in goal at the Emirates.
But it was Wojciech Szczesny who dominated between the sticks for the Gunners in 2010s.
The Pole actually made his Arsenal debut in a league cup clash against West Brom back in 2009, but the rest of his 181 appearances for the club came in this decade.
Szczesny left the Gunners under a bit of a cloud in 2015 – but is now flourishing with Juventus in Serie A.
The back four has a familiar feel, with Hector Bellerin, Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Nacho Monreal the Gunners’ most used players in each defensive position.
This goalkeeper and back four combination frequently appeared together for Arsenal – most notably in the 2015 FA Cup final triumph against Aston Villa at Wembley.
All four defenders have captained the Gunners at some point – with Bellerin the only one to still be at the club this season.
Monreal was allowed to return to Spain in the summer after appearing in Arsenal’s first three games of the campaign.
While Koscielny controversially forced through a return to Ligue 1 with Bordeaux, spoiling what would have been a very positive Arsenal legacy.
Mertesacker was signed in the aftermath of the club’s most embarrassing result of the decade – the 8-2 humiliation at Old Trafford against Manchester United.
And after retiring from playing in 2018, the popular German took up a position with the club’s academy.
Cazorla, such a popular and creative member of Arsenal’s team this decade, managed to feature 180 times for the Gunners – despite a gruesome Achilles injury robbing him of 668 days of his career.
He has finally managed to put his injury hell behind him, and is enjoying a career renaissance at Villarreal.
Aaron Ramsey, who said an emotional goodbye to the club in the summer, also features in the side, as well as attackers Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – and current playmaker Mesut Ozil.
Bearded frontman Olivier Giroud made the most appearances of any striker for the Emirates club this decade.
Many fans were surprised to see that Oxlade-Chamberlain made more appearances than Alexis Sanchez, with the Chilean one of the surprise omissions.
One wrote: “This was probably our best starting 11 of this decade that actually played together”.
To which another replied: “Swap in Alexis for either Theo or Oxlade-Chamberlain and that’s The Team”.
Another asked: “How did the ox have more appearances than Alexis!?”
One dreamed: “I know it’s based on appearance. But I’d have Alexis over Walcott. PEA over Giroud and for me that would be a top 4 team easy and pushing for the tittle.”
Another fan wasn’t impressed: “Cazorla and Ramsey , sound . The rest are pony”.
Some were surprised not to see the likes of Robin van Persie or Bacary Sagna.
And maybe if the pair had stayed for longer, rather than heading for Manchester, Arsene Wenger’s final years could have been more successful.
Arsenal won three FA Cups in this decade, all under Wenger.
But many fans have bemoaned the lack of title challenges in recent years – and will be hoping that new boss Mikel Arteta can build a team capable of changing that in the 2020s.