Pen pictures of the Arsenal players likely to feature in the FA Cup final against Chelsea on May 4:
Richard Wright, age 24. After his six-million-pound ($8.69-million) move from Ipswich Town last summer, has been forced to take a back seat to David Seaman – except in the FA Cup where he has played every game. The situation has led to him dropping out of the England reckoning but he remains one of the best young keepers in the country.
David Seaman, 38. Now completing his 12th season with Arsenal after signing from Queens Park Rangers in 1990, England’s number one underwent shoulder surgery that kept him out of much of the early part of the season but he has been near to his best since returning in February.
Ashley Cole, 21. Edging back to fitness having missed six weeks with a knee injury. Has enjoyed a great season, particularly going forward, and until his recent injury problems was a guaranteed starter at left back for England.
Lee Dixon, 38. Did not play until January because of a knee injury but in last few months has proved as reliable as ever when called upon by Arsene Wenger. Played in the FA Cup victories of 1993 and 1998, as well as last year’s defeat to Liverpool, and his experience could see him on the bench against Chelsea.
Tony Adams, 35. Has timed his comeback from a foot injury to perfection after barely playing until March – arriving amid a defensive injury crisis to inject his own special brand of motivation for the league and Cup run-in. The club’s most successful skipper, winning eight major honours including the FA Cup in 1993 and 1998.
Martin Keown, 35. Another ageing defender who defies the years with remarkably consistent, dogged and brave performances. Broke a leg in January but returned to action in April and slotted straight back into the groove as just the sort of annoying defender that forwards dislike facing.
Sol Campbell, 27. After a shaky start to his Arsenal career following his controversial move from neighbours Tottenham Hotspur, he has settled down to again prove to be one of the league’s most dominant centre backs. Solid in the air, strong on the ball and in the tackle with distribution that is improving by the month. Suffered a hamstring injury in the semifinal against Middlesbrough.
Oleg Luzhny, 33. Ukrainian international who has played more than he might have expected due to the injury crisis. Not as combative as the England trio but more comfortable on the ball and a player who can build attacks from the back.
Igor Stepanovs, 26. The Latvian has won back the fans who wrote him off after a nightmare display against Manchester United last season with a series of competent displays. But is likely to feature only if Wenger suffers another injury crisis.
Lauren, 25. Cameroon international who joined the club in May 2000 for seven million pounds and has proved a versatile and able player. A regular at right back throughout the season – apart from when he went missing after helping his country to the African Nations Cup title in January. More of a wing-back than a defender.
Sylvain Wiltord, 27. A revelation this season and all Arsenal fans will hope that he can recover from his thigh strain in time to play a part in the final. Generally playing on the left, he is fast, direct and has an eye for the killer pass that has made him an important link in Arsenal’s attack and allowed him to force his way into the French national side.
Freddie Ljungberg, 25. Fifteen goals from midfield underline the dynamic Swede’s immense contribution this season. A selfless runner with a determination to get himself into the box, he has scored goals when the team really needed them. Hugely important to Arsenal’s chances and all the more so in the absence of injured Robert Pires. Put Arsenal ahead in last year’s final when he was probably the side’s best player.
Ray Parlour, 29. Now in his 11th season at his only club and though possibly not matching last year, the muscular player is a vital counterweight to some of his more delicate team mates. Wenger says he should go to the World Cup but Sven-Goran Eriksson has overlooked his solid but unspectacular qualities. Voted Man of the Match when Arsenal beat Newcastle in the 1998 Cup final.
Patrick Vieira, 25. The heart of the Arsenal midfield and one of the best in his position in the world. Untold Arsenal goals begin with Vieira dispossessing the opposition and slipping a neat pass to a team mate. Despite endless transfer speculation he says he wants to stay and help to make the club great. Has curbed his disciplinary problems though opponents still work on igniting his short fuse.
Gilles Grimandi, 31. Wenger’s favourite substitute, often called up to defend a lead or add a bit of determination to the midfield or defence. After being sent off four times during his first four seasons he has cleaned up his act and after two bookings in the first three games has an unblemished record since.
Edu, 23. Rapidly-improving left-side Brazilian midfielder who has forced himself into contention after missing first few months with a broken foot.
Dennis Bergkamp, 32. After spending the first half of the season disgruntled on the bench, has become a first-choice starter at just the right time. Still has the sublime skill and delicate touch that mark him as a special player who can unlock the tightest of defences. Though the goals – 13 so far – are harder to come by these days he has had a hand in creating many more for those around him. Will be particularly keen to play in the final – though has no chance of lasting 90 minutes – after missing the 1998 win through injury after being named Footballer of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year and playing only the last few minutes in last season’s loss to Liverpool.
Nwankwo Kanu, 25. The Nigerian national captain already seems to have been around for ever, having won the Champions League with Ajax seven years ago and then later recovering from a life-threatening heart ailment. Like Bergkamp, can do incredible things with the ball, leaving defenders – and sometimes team mates – going totally the wrong way. Has been below his best this season, usually starting on the bench in the last few months and another substitute’s appearance is likely to be the extent of his involvement.
Thierry Henry, 24. A little out of sorts in March and April but still a red-hot striker with the temperament to finish under fire. Searing pace and willingness to get in position again and again ensure he will always get chances and 30 goals this season – following 22 last year – show that he will convert many of them. However, he had a day to forget in last year’s final, missing three good chances, and will want to make amends.
(C) Reuters Limited 2002.
Source: REUTERS NEWS SERVICE