From Bastin to Henry and every goal-scoring Gunner in between, here are some of the best Arsenal forwards of all time.
Known for their brilliant Total Football-esque displays, Arsenal Football Club has been one of the most attack-minded clubs in English football. Whether it was under the tutelage of Herbert Chapman or Bertie Mee, or the mighty Arsene Wenger, the Gunners always know how to please a crowd. It’s only fitting that we name some of the guys responsible for those crowd-pleasing displays to find the best Arsenal forwards of all time.
Representing different eras of the club, Some of these greatest Arsenal forwards of all time were natural finishers, others pacey wingers or even playmakers. The thing they all have in common is that all of them helped Arsenal win numerous trophies and silverware, making the club the third most decorated club in England. So let us find out who is on our list:
Greatest Arsenal Forwards of All Time
As strikers can impact games in various ways other than scoring, the greatest Arsenal forwards of all time are not simply great goalscorers but rather players who impacted Arsenal’s attack immensely. So let’s see who made it into our list:
An Arsenal Academy legend, John Radford started his journey at the club in 1962 and slowly found his way to the first team. He became a starter during the 1965-66 season and remained so for nearly a decade. Radford is Arsenal’s youngest-ever hat-trick scorer at 17 years of age and still holds the record to this day.
Initially a winger, Radford soon showed his knack for scoring goals, scoring 19 goals in both the 1968-69 and 1969-70 seasons. This helped Arsenal win one of their few European trophies, as they won the Inter-Cities Fair Cup. Consequently, it was Arsenal’s first trophy in 17 years and their first-ever European trophy.
The following season would be one of the best in Arsenal’s history, where Radford helped Arsenal win the double of league and FA Cup. Radford scored 21 goals and wrote his name in Arsenal’s history as one of the best English forwards of all time.
Known for his work rate and warrior attitude, Radford was considered to be a hard-working striker. The Englishman was great at freeing up space for others and often provided them with assists. Radford scored 149 goals in 448 matches for Arsenal, making him the fourth-highest goal scorer of all time and undoubtedly one of the best Arsenal forwards ever.
Next up on our list of best Arsenal forwards of all time is a player that the Gooners have mixed feelings about: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Despite his short stint, Arsenal’s former club captain made a serious impact at the club. Joining from Borussia Dortmund for a then-record fee of £56 million, the Gabonese striker was exactly who Arsenal wanted. It was a fee that Aubameyang repaid twofold with his outstanding performances.
Aubameyang’s blistering pace and deadly finishing left most defenders in the Premier League reeling. The Gabonese striker won the Premier League Golden Boot once and just came up a goal short of winning it the second time, losing out to Jamie Vardy. This shows precisely why he is one of the best forwards in Arsenal of all time.
In his second full season at Arsenal, Aubameyang proved vital to his side, winning an FA Cup trophy and a Community Shield. With 92 goals in 163 matches for Arsenal, Aubameyang is one of the best goalscorers in Arsenal’s history. However, how he left Arsenal to join Barcelona and his later transfer to the rivals Chelsea has tarnished his legacy in the eyes of many Arsenal fans.
Read More: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Biography
Robin van Persie
From one controversial captain to another, we have the Dutch maestro Robin van Persie, who is far from popular among Arsenal fans. This is mainly due to his transfer to Manchester United, where he helped Arsenal’s rivals win the Premier League. However, from a neutral point of view, this supposed betrayal does not take away from the fact that he was one of Arsenal best forwards of all time.
Robin Van Persie joined Arsenal just after their Invincibles season in 2004. The Dutchman missed out on being part of the glory days of Highbury, but he won an FA Cup in his first season at the club.
Alongside club greats Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry, Van Persie learned the crafts of the trade. This was apparent in his playing style as he combined the pace and power of Henry with the visionary brilliance of Dennis Bergkamp. He gradually added lethal finishing skills to his game when he was shifted to a striker role and was given more responsibility. This made him one of the best strikers of his era and certainly one of the best Arsenal forwards of all time.
His later years at Arsenal proved to be the best, resulting in him winning the Premier League Golden Boot by scoring 30 times during the 2011-12 season. This proved to be his last season at Arsenal as he joined the Red Devils afterward and finally won the Premier League there. Nonetheless, with 132 goals in 278 appearances and an FA Cup medal to his name, Robin van Persie has undoubtedly become one of the best Arsenal forwards of all time.
Read More: Robin van Persie Biography
You may know him as a commentator for both Skysports and various renditions of the popular FIFA franchise, but Alan Smith is a legendary striker in his own right. Having played for the likes of Leicester City and Arsenal, Alan Smith became one of the greatest English forwards of all time during the 80s and 90s. A classic center forward, Smith was lethal in front of the goal, and his height allowed him to score from incredible headers. Sadly though, his career was hampered by injuries which ultimately made him retire sooner than expected.
Smith joined Arsenal in 1987 when George Graham’s famous Arsenal side were shaping up. Following a season of him adjusting to the style that the Gunners were playing, Smith showed took the league by storm in his second season at Arsenal, scoring 23 goals and winning the Golden Boot. Arsenal managed to claim one of the most dramatic league titles of all time with a win at Anfield on the final day of the season; a victory that Smith played a pivotal role in.
Smith would go on to win another Golden Boot two seasons later as Arsenal won the league yet again. He retired at the end of the 1994-95 season, having won 2 league titles, 1 FA Cup, 1 League Cup, and a European Cup Winners’ Cup. Alan Smith scored 115 goals in 347 appearances for the Gunners. His goals played a significant role in helping George Graham’s Arsenal achieve massive success, and therefore he rightfully claims a spot among the best Arsenal forwards of all time.
Ted Drake is undoubtedly one of the greatest English forwards of all time. An Arsenal legend from the 1930s, Drake was lethal in front of the goal, proven by the fact that he became the first Arsenal player that won the Golden Boot. Only six Gunners have ever done so in the club’s history, making Drake one of the best Arsenal forwards of all time.
Drake’s Golden Boot-winning season was in 1934-35, where he scored 42 goals in 41 games and helped Arsenal be crowned champions at the end of the season. His mind-boggling 42-goal tally from that season included three hat-tricks and four four-goal hauls. Drake also scored two goals in the FA Cup and Charity Shield that season, making his 4-goal tally in a single season, a club record that he still holds today.
During his 11-year stay at Arsenal, the incredible Ted Drake scored 139 goals in 184 matches, bringing unprecedented success to the North London club. He was also one of the pillars in Herbert Chapman’s great Arsenal side of the 1920s and 1930s, making him one of the best Arsenal forwards of all time, as is apparent by his appearance in Emirates Stadium’s mural of 32 Arsenal legends.
A legend of Arsenal Football Club, Cliff Bastin was Arsenal’s top scorer of all time from 1939 until 1997. Apart from his legacy at Arsenal, Cliff Bastin is also one of the greatest English players of all time, having been inducted into the English Hall of Fame of Football. Known for his blistering pace, Bastin was great on the ball and a deadly finisher in front of the goal. Bastin joined Arsenal in 1929, when he was only 17 years old, and remained an Arsenal player until the end of his playing days in 1947.
As one of the best Arsenal forwards of all time, Bastin had won almost everything by the time he was only 19. He had won a League title, an FA Cup trophy, and an England call-up, making him the youngest player to achieve those three honors. He is perhaps the most decorated player amongst the best Arsenal forwards ever, as he has won 5 league titles and 2 FA Cups.
Bastin’s record of 178 goals in 398 made him Arsenal’s top goalscorer of all time for almost 60 years before the next person on our list took him over. The fact that he was a left winger and not a traditional forward makes his record even more impressive. Many still regard Bastin as the club’s best-ever player and the best Arsenal forward of all time.
A fan-favorite among the Arsenal faithful and English fans in general, Ian Wright’s career is easily one of the most unique ones on our list of best Arsenal forwards of all time. Having lost his chance of entering professional through youth academies, Ian Wright had several trials before landing the striker role at Crystal Palace. There he proved himself to be a deadly striker and soon caught the eye of the likes of Arsenal.
Wright joined in 1991 and did not disappoint as he scored both his club debut in the league cup and his league debut. In fact, in his first league game for Arsenal, he scored a hat trick against Southampton. Unlike many classic center forwards, Ian Wright was relatively small of stature and was extremely quick. However, he used these to his advantage and would go on to win the Golden Boot in his first season at the club. After that, he continued to be Arsenal’s top scorer for six seasons in a row.
Wright played under several different managers, including George Graham and Arsene Wenger. He managed to win 4 cup trophies (2 FA Cups, 1 League Cup, and 1 Cup Winners’ Cup), including the cup double of the 1992-93 season. A Premier League title that came well into his final days as an Arsenal player in 1998, that was accompanied by an FA Cup.
Ian Wright became Arsenal’s best goal scorer of all time by breaking Cliff Bastin’s record when he scored his 179th goal for the club against Bolton Wanderers in 1997. Ian Wright managed to score 185 goals in 288 matches for Arsenal and is rightfully named as one of the best Arsenal forwards of all time.
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The Non-flying Dutchman hardly needs any introduction, as most football fans are familiar with his class, flair, and technique. Bergkamp was capable of scoring the most beautiful of goals, some of which are among the best of all time. Bergkamp came to Arsenal from Inter Milan in 1995. The move was significant for the Premier League as he was one of the first genuine superstars that chose to play in the Premier League. He not only changed the way Arsenal played, but he also became one of the best Arsenal forwards ever.
After the appointment of Arsene Wenger as Arsenal’s new manager in 1996, Bergkamp started to hit his stride as the Frenchman’s tactics suited him perfectly. Wenger’s Total Football allowed Bergkamp to control the match in the attacking phase, even assisting goals more times than he scored them. Over the years, Wenger partnered Bergkamp with many players, but it was always Bergkamp as the mastermind behind Arsenal’s attack.
Dennis Bergkamp’s career-defining partnership was with Thierry Henry as two of the all-time best Arsenal strikers linked up together to score and assist goals. Thierry Henry, who played alongside some of the greats, including Zinedine Zidane, described Bergkamp as the best player he ever played with, apart from Lionel Messi.
Bergkamp assisted 94 goals and scored 87 more in the Premier League for Arsenal. His elegant control of the ball, right-foot curl shots, and incredible vision have made him one of the greatest footballers of all time and certainly one of the best Arsenal forwards of all time. He was a player that every Arsenal fan as well as any football fan, should be grateful to have seen play.
Read More: Dennis Bergkamp Biography
No one but the great Thierry Henry could claim the first spot in our list of best ever Arsenal forwards as the Frenchman has won everything while being at the club and additionally became one of the best players of his generation if not ever.
Having been discovered by Arsene Wenger when the two were at AS Monaco, Henry joined Arsenal in 1999 after an unsuccessful spell at Juventus. Despite being a winger, Arsene Wenger pushed Henry to play as a striker, as the boss saw the qualities of a finisher in young Henry. Once Henry got his first goal, he never stopped scoring again. His wait for a trophy was a relatively long one since he finally won a trophy in the 01-02 season. Arsenal won the League and Henry ended up scoring 32 goals in all competitions, helping Arsenal win the double for the record third time.
King of Highbury
By 2003, Henry was one of the best players in the world. The Frenchman helped immortalize himself and his teammates after assisting Arsenal to win the league without losing a single match during the 2003-04 season. The Gunners extended the record to 49 games in the following season. Henry scored 39 goals in all competitions and became the Player of the Year for the second time in a row. He became the first Arsenal player to win the European Golden Boot and was runner-up to the World Player of the Year award, losing to Ronaldinho.
Thierry Henry’s winning mentality and genius on the field helped Arsenal reach the Champions League final in 2005-06, which they eventually lost to Barcelona. A couple of years later, Henry felt that to win trophies, he must leave Arsenal, who were rebuilding their squad, and therefore he joined Barcelona in the summer of 2007.
Thierry Henry scored 228 goals in 377 games for Arsenal, becoming the only player to win the Premier League’s Golden Boot 4 times. The King, as Arsenal fans call him, had blistering pace, incredible dribbling ability, powerful right-footed strikes and playmaking ability, making him the perfect footballer. He achieved almost everything that a footballer can during his time at Arsenal and, therefore became the best Arsenal forwards of all time. For those who saw his Va Va Voom as a player, he will almost never be forgotten.