Date:Monday February 7 2011
Of 787 players in the Arsenal player database just sixteen have membership of the exclusive 100 club, players to have scored 100 goals or more in the clubs colours. Six of them were pre-war legends but each decade since has had its centurion heroes; Lishman and Herd in the 50's, Joe Baker in the 60's, Radford and Stapleton in the 70's while Alan Smith bridged the late 80's and early 90's as Ian Wright, Wright, Wright rewrote the record books in the 1990s until Thierry Henry rewrote them again so indelibly in the last decade. Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp were centurion heroes of the Wenger era with Thierry in a class of his own in the scoring stakes as the only double centurion in the clubs history.
Joining this illustrious list depends on the knack to find the net consistently of course but also to some degree longevity. You need to stick around long enough to get there as the unfortunate Paul Merson might reflect having failed to complete his application form stuck on 99. Scoring rates can vary and its difficult to measure the achievements of pre-war players with those of the modern game as it can now include a number of substitute appearances which distort the numbers but it is clear that nobody has yet matched the feats of Ted Drake who scored at an average of a goal every 1.3 games, or 0.76 of a goal a game, in reaching 139 goals in 184 games.
Others have had unremarkable records in terms of scoring rates but have got there through persistence and loyalty. Had he stuck around for another 4 or 5 games Merson could have rivalled John Radford, hero of the 1971 double winning side as the most painstaking collector of goals in our list of centurions. Raddy took 15 seasons to accumulate his tally of 149 goals in 481 appearances despite being the clubs youngest ever hat-trick hero having scored three in a game against Wolves, back in 1965 while still a couple of months short of his 18th birthday. Wenger wasn't the only Arsenal manager keen to give youth its chance it seems. Dennis Bergkamp might seem a slower scorer than Radford taking 423 games to reach 120 goals but while Raddy's total appearances only included 6 as a sub Dennis's 345 starts and 78 sub appearances just about gets him there a tad quicker.
So where is the next century coming from? Who of our present crop could add their name to the pantheon of centurion legends? Smart money would have to be on Robin van Persie whose brace at the weekend against Newcastle leaves him just 17 short of the finishing line with 83 goals to date. At his current rate he'd needed 31 starts to get there. Assuming he`s still with us next season and with less certainty that he remains uninjured he should get there before the year ends. On the longevity principle, Cesc, the clubs youngest ever goal scorer, with 57 goals while still under 23, has time on his side but I think we all know that he's unlikely to complete the extrapolated 220 plus appearances, which could take him 5 full seasons or more remaining at the club, to get there.
One man who could though is the oft maligned Dane, Nicklas Bendtner. His tally of 42 goals to date has come in 142 appearances but crucially 75 of those have been as a substitute. His half century can't be too far off with a scoring rate based on starts which is up there with Robin's. It might take him 3 or 4 seasons more to get to a century of goals but still just 22, an age at which Henry's goal scoring feats for us had still to get underway and van Persie's had only just started, he seems a certainty to add his name to the roll of honour if he stays with the club. Maybe with even more certainty and even quicker if he can learn to use his left foot as well as Robin has taught himself to use his right. Walcott is a year younger than Nicklas though he has more appearances, 162, and more starts than the Dane to collect his 29 goals but 11 of those have come in just 15 starts this season. Still Bendtner's tally is worthy of recognition and maybe we should be less dismissive of him than some are inclined to be.
Football is a transient profession now, more so than at any time before as contract law doesn't encourage loyalty from either club or player. Maybe more than any other factor that is why we were able to create more centurions in a decade and a half before the second world war than at any other time.
Date:Monday February 7 2011
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