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Longest Serving Player 2007 - Arsenal
"All of these departures have left Ivorian defender Kolo Toure as Arsenal’s new longest serving player" In summer 2005 Squarefootball looked at the longest serving player at each of the Premiership clubs. Now we revisit the subject to see what’s changed and who has moved on. Few clubs have gone through as much upheaval as Arsenal since 2005. They have now reached a point where only 4 players remain from the squad that delivered the unbeaten Premiership season in 2003/04.
When we looked at their squad in 2005 the Gunners were still dominated by a clutch of players who first came to the club in the 1990s. In order they were Dennis Bergkamp (1995), Patrick Vieira (1996), Freddie Ljungberg (1998) and Thierry Henry (1999).
Vieira left almost before the ink was dry on the summer 2005 article, finally lured away to Juventus. Dennis Bergkamp played on for one more campaign before heading for retirement with the plaudits of all Gunners fans ringing in his ears.
Then this year came the end to the long running saga over Henry. His departure to Barcelona apparently convinced Freddie Ljungberg that the time had come to leave (though he may have been on the bench a lot if he’d stayed). He went to Upton Park just a couple of weeks ago.
As well as these 1990s stalwarts, Lauren and Robert Pires also left the club and both of them came in 2000. Sol Campbell is with the Cameroon international at Portsmouth and the former Spurs man arrived in 2001. Ashley Cole conceded his chance to become Arsenal’s senior servant by his 2006 move to Chelsea.
All of these departures have left Ivorian defender Kolo Toure as Arsenal’s new longest serving player. He arrived from ASEC Abidjan in February 2002 and in just a short while he became a vital cog in the squad. His initial appearance in the first team was the 2002 Community Shield game when he came on five minutes from time.
His first games for the side were often in midfield but Arsene Wenger soon had him in the centre of the defence to take over from the ageing Martin Keown. By the time of the 2003/04 season he had become an international class centre back.
After Toure comes a star who came to the club after winning the World Cup in 2002. Gilberto Silva is probably the least flamboyant of the Brazilians who lifted the prize in the Far East but he’s been an invaluable, if unobtrusive, presence in the Arsenal set up.
Gilberto is the kind of player who the fans notice more in a crisis and last season he expanded his game to cover for the losses of some of the star names- he even put in some decent performances in central defence.
There are two men who came on to the Arsenal staff in 2003. One is the eccentric but highly competent keeper Jens Lehmann, signed to replace David Seaman from Borussia Dortmund. The other is left back Gael Clichy.
Clichy came from Cannes and has patiently understudied Ashley Cole, only to be hit by injury when a chance came to step up. He had to watch Mathieu Flamini play left back and then when Cole left, found William Gallas in his way. It remains to be seen if he can finally make the berth his own in 2007/08.
Cesc Febregas was at Arsenal in 2003/04 but he wasn’t used in the unbeaten League campaign. He was blooded with three starts in the League Cup. Philippe Senderos came on to the staff in summer 2003 too but he didn’t make his first team debut that season. The same applies to Justin Hoyte.
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