Arsenal Hall Of Fame; Robert Pires
Robert Pires might have left Arsenal for Villarreal in 2006, yet this has done nothing to stain his records at the North London having lifted the Premier League twice during his time at the club from 2000-2006.
Born on 29 October 1973 in Reims France by a Portuguese father and a Spanish mother, Pires graduated from the Metz academy before moving to Marseille and then Arsenal for £6 million as a direct replacement for Real Madrid bound Marc Overmars who left Arsenal for £25 million in 2000.
At Arsenal, Pires played as a winger and attacking midfielder alongside such talented stars like Patrick Vieira, Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Sylvain Wiltold and Freddie Ljunberg. The then French international initially took time to adjust to life in London, which led to repeated criticism of his inconsistent form but once used to his environment Pires delivered on a daily basis winning over his critics. Such was his form for Arsenal that he was included in the PFA Team of the Year thrice in 2001-2002, 2002-2003 and 2003-2004. The winger would complain about the physicality of the Premier League and how it was against his style a few weeks after joining from Marseille before going on to produce the form that convinced Arsene Wenger he was the right man for the club on the wings.
In his six years at the club, Pires scored an impressive 62 league goals in 189 games. Such was Pires’ form on the left side of attack that he was voted Arsenal’s 6th greatest player by the fans some years ago. At Arsenal, Pires suffered a cruciate ligament injury in the early part of 2002 which forced him to miss the World Cup in Korea and Japan as France who were then defending Champions were eliminated in the group stage which comprised Uruguay, Senegal (2nd placed) and Denmark (top). The winger will come back stronger and better the next season 2002-2003 scoring 14 goals and providing seven assists in 20 starts including the winning goal in the FA Cup final against Southampton. In addition to that Pires and Henry scored 57 goals in all competitions 2003-2004 season as Arsenal ended the season as Champions unbeaten for the first time in the Premier League history in 115 years.
Pires will depart for Villarreal in 2006 citing his first half substitution in the Champions League final against Barcelona in Paris after Arsene Wenger was forced to sacrifice a player due to the red card issued to goalkeeper Jens Lehman at the early stages of the first half. Pires will state his disappointment at being the player to be substituted with his family and friends seated at the stadium eager to watch him play. He also made it known he felt he was no longer valued by Wenger as a result of his advance in age with the Frenchman eager to give younger players preference. In addition, the winger also won the FA Cup thrice in Arsenal as well as providing the assists that made Arsenal almost unbeatable.
In summary the now Academy coach at Arsenal was also a success on the international scene having won the World Cup with France in 1998 as well as the European Championship in 2002 earning 79 caps in the process .