Power Ranking Arsenal's Greatest Strikers from Drake to Macdonald to Henry

James McNicholasFeatured ColumnistOctober 8, 2013

Power Ranking Arsenal's Greatest Strikers from Drake to Macdonald to Henry

0 of 10

    Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    Arsenal have been blessed with some great strikers.

    Arsenal supporters love a goalscorer. There is a degree of nominative determinism at play. It's ultimately unsurprising that fans of "The Gunners" are obsessed by firepower.

    Over the next 10 slides we count down the sharpest shooters in Arsenal's history, looking at players from the 1920s right up to the present day.

10. Malcolm Macdonald, 1976-79

1 of 10

    When Arsenal signed Malcolm Macdonald from Newcastle in August 1976, the excitement was comparable to the euphoria unleashed by Mesut Ozil's recent arrival in North London.

    Macdonald had been English football's top goalscorer for five consecutive seasons prior to joining Arsenal.

    Macdonald, affectionately known as "Supermac", had everything you'd want from a centre-forward. He was quick and strong with a cannon of a boot. He was particularly capable at scoring with his head, as he demonstrated during his first season at Arsenal, scoring a looped header against his former club Newcastle.

    Macdonald's first campaign at Highbury ended with an impressive tally of 29 goals. His second began in similarly effective fashion. However, as the season wore on, knee problems began to dog Macdonald's game.

    At the start of this third season with Arsenal, Macdonald was unfortunately forced to retire from the game at just 29: Ironically, the same number of goals he managed in his first season with Gunners.

    Macdonald finished his Arsenal career with 57 goals in 108 appearances. If it weren't for his knee injury, it would have been many many more.

9. Frank Stapleton, 1974-1981

2 of 10

    Frank Stapleton is one of two forwards in this list who have the notable distinction of having played for both Manchester United and Arsenal.

    Stapleton's story is a complex one. As a schoolboy, he was turned down by United, joining Arsenal instead as an apprentice. He made his debut in 1975, and went on to form a lethal partnership with Malcolm Macdonald.

    In the 1976-77 season, the pair plundered 46 goals between them.

    Stapleton played in three successive FA Cup finals for Arsenal between 1978 and 1980. In the middle of those finals he scored a vital goal in the victory over, of all teams, Manchester United.

    The topsy-turvy affair with the team from Old Trafford didn't end there.

    After precisely 300 Arsenal appearances and 108 goals, Stapleton left the Gunners in an acrimonious move to United. However, a century of Arsenal strikes ensures his place in this list.

8. Alan Smith, 1987-95

3 of 10

    This season, Arsenal fans are enjoying the superb hold-up play of Frenchman Olivier Giroud. Older Gooners might liken Giroud's displays to those of Alan Smith: the proto-type modern target man.

    Smith arrived at Arsenal from Leicester, identified by George Graham as the man to bring shape to Arsenal's attack. Like Giroud, his first season was mixed. He suffered something of a goal drought in the early stages and briefly found himself dropped in favour of a young Niall Quinn.

    However, Smith's performances took off in his second campaign. In the opening fixture of 1998/99 season, Smith scored a hat-trick against Wimbledon, setting the tone for a tremendous year for Arsenal.

    Smith is remembered most fondly for his contribution to the final day of that campaign, nodding home Arsenal's first goal in 2-0 win that allowed them to clinch the league title at Anfield. 

    That goal also handed Smith the Golden Boot. 

    Smith's final goal for Arsenal was arguably his best: a stunning volley to seal the 1994 Cup Winners' Cup Final.

    Arsenal fans will hope Giroud can go on to emulate Smith's achievements as well as his playing style.

7. John Radford, 1964-76

4 of 10

    John Radford's style of play wasn't pretty. Nevertheless, it was pretty effective.

    In a 12-year Arsenal career, Radford bagged an impressive 175 goals for the Gunners. To put that in perspective, only Cliff Bastin, Ian Wright and Thierry Henry have scored more goals in red and white.

    However, Radford's game was about far more than goals. He was famous for his selfless team play and fantastic work ethic. He was a key component in Arsenal's superb teams of the early 1970s, showing a willingness to make runs to benefit others.

    The 1971 FA Cup Final is a classic example of Radford's collective spirit.

    Eddie Kelly and Charlie George grabbed the goals and the glory, but Radford provided both assists.

    Radford was both a goalscorer and a grafter and will never be forgotten by the Arsenal faithful.

6. Ted Drake, 1934-45

5 of 10

    Andrey Arshavin and Julio Baptista were both feted for their four-goal hauls against Liverpool.

    For Ted Drake, such a feat would be small-fry. He once completed the incredible achievement of scoring all seven goals in Arsenal's 7-1 thrashing of Aston Villa. After the game, he lamented that he ought to have eight: the referee ruled out one contentious effort for not quite crossing the line.

    Such feats were commonplace for the prolific Drake, who managed to score 42 league goals in Arsenal's title-winning season of 1934/35.

    Drake was Arsenal's top scorer for five consecutive seasons, ending his time with the Gunners with a superb 136 goals from 182 games. Only the outbreak of the Second World War and Drake's enrolment with the Royal Air Force prevented him from plundering more.

5. Robin Van Persie, 2004-12

6 of 10

    This may be a controversial choice. However, when it comes to pure technical ability, few forwards in Arsenal's history can match Robin van Persie.

    Arsenal signed Van Persie form Feyenoord when he was aged just 20. The Dutchman arrived with a reputation as a difficult character having clashed with his coaches throughout his time in Holland. Van Persie's early performances for Arsenal did little to shift that perception. After he was sent off against Southampton in February 2005, The Telegraph's Clive White described him as "21 going on nine".

    While Van Persie's mental attitude improved, he was dogged by physical problems. A succession of serious injuries threatened not just his place at Arsenal but his entire career.

    However, when fit, the Dutchman was devastating. He saved his best form for his final season at Arsenal, scoring 30 Premier League goals to help Arsenal clinch a Champions League place.

    Unfortunately, Van Persie's relationship with the Arsenal fans soured when he elected to leave Arsenal and join Manchester United.

    All but the most churlish Arsenal fan would admit that part of the reason Van Persie's defection caused so much pain is that he is one of the best strikers the Arsenal fans have ever witnessed.

4. Cliff Bastin, 1929-47

7 of 10

    Cliff Bastin's Arsenal career spanned three decades. After signing as a 17-year-old, he went on to play almost 400 games for the club, scoring 178 goals along the way.

    It may surprise you to learn that Bastin was not a traditional centre-forward, but an 'outside left' in Herbert Chapman's all-conquering team of the 1930s.

    Much like Thierry Henry, he was an expert at cutting in from the flank to find the back of the net. At the time, this kind of free-flowing off-the-ball movement was a tactical innovation, and defences could find no answer to it.

    Perhaps the reason Bastin was so efficient in front of goal was connected to his poor hearing. Bastin became progressively more deaf as his career went on, so was unlikely to hear the shouts of team-mates asking for a simple square pass. No matter: his finishing was unparalleled.

    Bastin was Arsenal's record goalscorer until 1997, when he was superseded by Ian Wright. However, while his record he may be gone, his achievements make his memory immortal.

     

     

3. Dennis Bergkamp, 1995-2006

8 of 10

    It's easily forgotten that the player who most obviously personified the Arsene Wenger style at Arsenal was actually bought by Bruce Rioch. When Dennis Bergkamp arrived at Highbury in the summer of 1995, Arsenal football club was changed forever.

    Bergkamp might be the most talented footballer in Arsenal's rich history. He had everything: power, skill, vision and immaculate technique.

    He was not hugely prolific, scoring 121 goals in 423 Gunners games. It's a ratio that compares poorly with many of the marksmen on this list. However, a huge proportion of those 121 goals were works of art.

    Bergkamp will be remembered for his iconic pirouette against Newcastle, but that is one of countless beautiful goals.

    Bergkamp brought beauty to Highbury, and with it three Premier League titles.

    In the latter part of his career, Bergkamp's goals became less and less frequent. However, he adapted to become arguably the most intelligent creative forward of his time.

    In doing so, Bergkamp proved the old adage that class is permanent.

2. Ian Wright, 1991-98

9 of 10

    Ian Wright lived for goals.

    He just loved them. He adored the thrill of the ball hitting the net and the crowd exploding. He loved the theatre of it: His celebrations were infamously wild and varied.

    There was no type of goal he couldn't score. Wright had headers, tap-ins, lobs and long-range strikes in his repertoire. No defence was safe.

    Perhaps his goal gluttony was a consequence of his late start. Wright's professional career began at 22 with Crystal Palace. In 1991, however, he stepped up to the top level by moving to Arsenal.

    It was a match made in heaven.

    Wright managed a hat-trick on his league debut for the club, and that set the tone for a career generously peppered with goals. In 1997, he surpassed Cliff Bastin to become the club's highest ever goalscorer.

    Wright scored so many goals that even the most dedicated fan could not be expected to remember them all. His vivacious character and electric playing style, however, remain unforgettable.

1. Thierry Henry, 1999-2012

10 of 10

    It's only fitting that Arsenal's highest ever goalscorer sits atop this list as the greatest striker in the club's history.

    Thierry Henry has earned the right to call himself the best.

    Watching Henry in his prime was one of sport's ultimate treats. He was a supreme athlete, able to accelerate away from any centre-half he faced. However, he was also an entertainer. Henry delighted in the aesthetic quality of goals as well as the sheer quantity.

    My, there was some quantity. When Henry left Arsenal for Barcelona in 2007, he had scored an amazing 226 goals for the Gunners, winning two league titles and three FA Cups along the way.

    Ever the showman, Henry even returned for an encore in January 2012, extending his record by a further two goals in the process.

    Henry's figure is cast in bronze and sits outside the Emirates Stadium. His figurative shadow, however, is destined over all Arsenal strikers of the present and future.

    Those who saw him play for the Gunners will consider themselves lucky. Arsenal may not see a forward of Henry's calibre ever again.