Golazo Merchants: Arsenal’s Gallic genius, Robert Pires

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Premier League followers will all have their opinion on the division’s biggest ever sides, whether or not that be any of Manchester United’s succession of winning-machines below Sir Alex Ferguson, a formidable Chelsea throughout Jose Mourinho’s first spell or the newer record-breaking achievements of Manchester Metropolis and Liverpool.

Every of these sides deserve their place amongst the Premier League‘s most interesting, however maybe no staff has captivated fairly so brilliantly as peak-Arsenal below Arsene Wenger, a free-flowing and fluid footballing staff whose precision passing laid the foundations for an excellent period in north London.

Wenger’s groups have been sprinkled with a stardust plucked largely from his native France, amongst his most interesting captures the signing of the Gallic genius, Robert Pires.

Pires arrived in English soccer from Marseille shortly after the flip of the millennium and after an infamously gradual begin to his Premier League profession, flourished right into a key part of an iconic facet and one of many shining lights of the division.

That is the story of one of many Premier League’s nice Golazo Merchants:

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Pires was born within the French metropolis of Reims the place he loved a multi-cultural upbringing, usually sporting the shirts of Actual Madrid and Benfica throughout his youthful years, an ode to his Spanish mom and Portuguese father, the latter having moved to France as an escape route from army service.

Soccer was the younger Pires’ ardour and he started his footballing journey within the academy system at Reims, working his approach by the ranks regardless of being near quitting the game in his teenagers. His mom persuaded the teen to proceed pursuing his dream and he moved to FC Metz, the place he made his skilled debut as an adolescent in 1993.

Pires swiftly grew to become a daily within the facet and his expertise was instantly evident, changing into a daily goalscorer through the 1994/95 season earlier than hitting double figures in three consecutive Ligue 1 campaigns.

The winger’s kind earned him worldwide recognition and he made his senior debut for France in 1996 after scoring 5 objectives for the nation’s U21 facet, although regardless of curiosity he remained at Metz till the age of 25, his want for assured recreation time preserving him tied to the Ligue 1 facet.

A transfer up the footballing pyramid grew to become inevitable, nonetheless, and after serving to France to success within the 1998 World Cup on dwelling soil, Marseille got here calling and he headed south to certainly one of France’s grandest establishments.

Pires’ two-season spell with the membership noticed him endure combined fortunes as Marseille narrowly missed out on each Ligue 1 and UEFA Cup success, earlier than a problematic interval – together with stories of a boycott – introduced an finish to his time with the membership.

By now Pires was rising in affect on the worldwide stage and it was Arsenal who made a transfer to signal the winger, beating off competitors from boyhood facet Actual Madrid and Juventus to safe his signing because the north London facet sought a alternative for the departing Marc Overmars.

Pires arrived in a £6m deal and with a promising popularity following his exploits in France, although the summer season signing endured a tradition shock of epic proportions upon his arrival within the Premier League.

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It took Pires – by his personal admission – simply 20 minutes for the realisation of what awaited him in England to sink in, the lower than modern environment of Sunderland the setting for a brutal introduction to the Premier League as Arsenal crashed to a gap day defeat on Wearside.

Pires had watched the primary hour from the substitutes’ bench earlier than a forgettable cameo look, the Frenchman considerably startled by the tempo and physicality of the English recreation.

“By the 20th minute I was already thinking, what am I doing here? It was hard, very different to France, but in the end I got used to it. I wouldn’t say you’re scared but you can see that you have to change how you play – English football is physical, they kick you very hard.”

What had promised to be the following step on his upward trajectory to stardom threatened to show right into a nightmare spell throughout the channel, the fleet-footed winger struggling to adapt as he was subjected to combative challenges a world away from the lesser-demanding Ligue 1.

There have been glimpses of his guile and sophistication, together with this purpose in opposition to Blackburn within the FA Cup, however they proved few and much between in a debut marketing campaign that noticed the Gunners end as runners-up for each the Premier League and FA Cup, with many an Arsenal supporter questioning Wenger’s knowledge and religion in his cultured compatriot.

Pires – regardless of his questionable facial hair and wiry body – proved to be manufactured from sterner stuff, nonetheless, and following a season of adaptation started to play his half in arguably the Premier League’s most aesthetically pleasing facet.

That second marketing campaign noticed Pires star to be named because the FWA Footballer of the Yr and Arsenal’s Participant of the Season because the north London facet accomplished a home double, the winger ending because the Premier League’s main help supplier regardless of struggling a torn cruciate ligament in March.

His season was awash with moments of magic as he sparkled in swashbuckling model down Arsenal’s left-flank, forming a telepathic understanding with compatriot Thierry Henry as he drifted inside in trademark shuffling model.

Pires was the prototype for the inverted winger which has turn into the norm within the fashionable recreation, chopping and drifting inside to weave his approach by defences like a scorching knife by butter. The spotlight of his season was this audacious double lob in opposition to Aston Villa, embarrassing George Boateng with one flick earlier than executing a chip of perfection over the hulking presence of Peter Schmeichel.

You get the impression that Schmeichel – broadly thought to be the best Premier League goalkeeper of all-time and a ferocious aggressive spirit – could not have been greatest happy by this impudent effort from Arsenal’s French fancy-dan.

Pires had arrived in English soccer however his progress was stalled by a prolonged absence on the sidelines, finally recovering to return to first-team motion in November of the next marketing campaign.

Fears the harm could have long-lasting results on a participant shortly changing into a followers’ favorite have been short-lived, nonetheless, Pires scoring 16 objectives in all competitions together with 14 in simply 21 Premier League begins.

That haul included an outstanding hat-trick in opposition to Southampton within the penultimate recreation of the season, Pires and Jermaine Pennant changing into the primary teammates to attain a hat-trick in the identical Premier League fixture throughout a 6-1 thrashing of the Saints at Highbury.

Pires’ third of the afternoon ranks extremely amongst his biggest Gunners objectives, a ridiculous effort which characterised the self-confidence oozing by Arsenal’s quantity seven, a purpose wrapped superbly in audacity and vanity to say the match ball in sensational model.

Arsenal had blown a big result in hand the title to Manchester United in a disappointing marketing campaign for the champions, however solace was discovered within the type of a second successive FA Cup, Pires scoring the winner in opposition to Southampton at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.

The Frenchman’s return from harm had returned the silky contact of sophistication to Wenger’s attacking unit and the membership have been primed for an additional tilt on the title in 2003/04, that aforementioned Premier League victory over Southampton starting the best run of kind in English soccer historical past.

It proved to be a season that can perpetually stay within the reminiscence of Premier League followers, Arsenal producing a mode of soccer by no means earlier than witnessed with their French connection main the cost in assault.

The Cole-Pires-Henry inter-play down the Gunners’ left flank devastated opponent after opponent because the north London facet racked up an enormous unbeaten sequence, regardless of early season visits to high 4 rivals in Manchester United and Liverpool.

It was throughout that aforementioned go to to Merseyside that Pires produced a spectacular early season effort, Steve Finnan’s invitation for the winger to chop inside ending in punishing penalties because the star whipped a scrumptious effort into the highest nook.

Arsenal’s momentum was rising with Pires and Henry on the coronary heart of a surprising season, the duo dovetailing like few partnerships the league has witnessed, interchanging positions and dragging defenders into unchartered territory.

Henry’s scintillating velocity was completely complemented by the category and craft of Pires, the latter’s floating free-role a nightmarish proposition for opposition sides.

By early April, Wenger’s formidable outfit have been nonetheless unbeaten and shortly closing in on a legendary unbeaten season, the place the go to of Leeds would see Arsenal deal with their supporters to champagne soccer at Highbury.




The guests have been blown away in an exhilarating show from the Gunners, Henry scoring 4 instances in a 5-0 thrashing of the struggling facet. It was Pires who scored the opener, nonetheless, with a purpose that was Arsenal at their free-flowing greatest.

Fantastic one-touch soccer involving Gilberto Silva, Sylvain Wiltord and Dennis Bergkamp leads to the latter releasing Pires with a perfectly-weighted threaded cross, that distinctive working model seeing the Frenchman gallop forwards in anticipation.

With out breaking stride, Pires bends a trademark curling effort into the far nook, capping a transfer which symbolised the swagger and elegance of Arsene Wenger’s all-conquering Arsenal.

Pires scored the next week throughout a 2-2 draw at north London rivals Tottenham – an opponent he repeatedly saved his greatest shows for to additional cement his legendary standing – to seal the Premier League title, Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ perpetually immortalised following a staggering achievement of sophistication and consistency.

He spent an extra two seasons with the membership and added one other FA Cup to his assortment along with reaching the Champions League ultimate in 2006, however the spotlight of his six-year spell was undoubtedly the free-flowing soccer of that unbeaten season, Pires the architect of Arsene’s Arsenal, a participant dripping in method and pure means.

There was no finish to the international imports which have lit up the Premier League since its inception within the early nineties, however few performed within the magnificent method of Pires, a winger who performed in a mode forward of his time.

Nonchalant, impudent and sometimes breathtakingly sensible, the sight of a smirking Pires wheeling away in trademark finger-wagging celebration is amongst essentially the most iconic in Arsenal’s fashionable historical past.

Undoubtedly one of many most interesting gamers within the historical past of London’s most profitable facet and a participant deserving of his place amongst the Premier League’s biggest Golazo Merchants.

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The publish Golazo Merchants: Arsenal’s Gallic genius, Robert Pires first appeared on The Soccer Trustworthy. Supply – thefootballfaithful.com

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