Book Review: The Official Arsenal Dream Team

Last updated : 06 November 2003 By Brian Dawes
Every Gooner's dream team may of course vary from season to season as new superstars replace the past players in both the hearts and minds of the fans. The persuasive arguments of fellow supporters may also change the choice of line-up for any fan as indeed might this book. Should you go with the popular choice or stick to your personal favourites? The choice is yours.

At some clubs a dream team would pick itself, for Arsenal however there has never been an obvious first XI because we are fortunate in being able to choose star players from about eight different decades. Even when the Club was not winning trophies, the sixties being one such rare decade, there were nearly always individual players in our squads who starred so it's always been possible to find favourite players even though they may have played in a less than stupendous team. Arsenal greats such as Joe Baker and George Eastham spring to mind as being cases in point, both of whom feature as contenders in this volume. I suspect also because we have such an illustrious history even new fans become rapidly aware of the past crowd favourites who are part of our rich heritage and books such as this certainly help in that respect.

How you pick a team doesn't really matter to my mind, whether you should balance your midfield, select for sentimental reasons or just choose a team to slaughter Tottenham's all time XI (which would be based almost entirely on a 42 year old team I suspect) it doesn't matter. The pleasure is probably in the agony of choice between favourites from different eras.

This book is a result of votes cast by Gooners following advertisements that appeared in the Club's magazine, matchday programme and also on the official website. The fans were asked to choose players using a 4-4-2 formation and also vote for a favourite manager, goal and game. I have to say I'd forgotten that I'd voted until I saw my name as part of a long list of voters near the back of the book. So if you voted, you will it seems, have your name listed in print. Incentive enough I suspect to peruse a copy in your local bookstore.

In case you don't want to know the winning choice for the Arsenal Dream Team chosen I won't spoil it by telling you here, other than to say that neither Eddie McGoldrick nor Jeff Blockley were contenders. Well alright then, I'll just tell you, as if you hadn't already guessed, that Tony Adams and Patrick Vieira picked up the most votes. So they both feature as first team choices in their respective positions and subsequently have a few pages of biography each which are then followed by biographical pages on the runners up and other contenders who came close in that respective position. The chapters follow the shirt numbers. So we start off with the number one shirt which in alphabetical order features Jennings, Kelsey, Lukic, Seaman and Wilson. And we end with the eleven shirt which, once again in alphabetical order, features Bastin, Limpar, Merson, Overmars and Pires.

This format works well and is both illuminating and informative not least of all because the text has a great deal of input from numerous ex-Arsenal players, many of whom actually feature as contenders themselves. Their own personal choices for an all time XI are shown and their comments about fellow players litter the text with insightful observations. It's interesting to see why fellow pros rate particular players and quite how they regard them as being better
than the rest.

Because Arsenal fans are of course highly knowledgeable and voted accordingly a number of players featured are from bygone eras and the 1971 side in particular is well represented. Quite a few pre 1980's players were chosen and if a dream team was chosen by fans back in the 80's I suspect their choice wouldn't have varied much from many of the players featured in this book. These include all the players from the following line-up which would be quite a worthy pre 1980 team I think: Jack Kelsey, Pat Rice, Frank McLintock, Herbie Roberts, Bob McNab, George Armstrong, George Eastham, Alex James, Cliff Bastin,Joe Baker & Ted Drake.

Many more recent players of course feature throughout and with our current and very recent choice of stars that's hardly surprising. The book, which is well illustrated with colour photos throughout, may or may not change your mind about your own choices for an Arsenal Dream Team but it will almost certainly make you consider alternative options to your current pick. My team however will always find room for Geordie Armstrong, Frank McLintock and Jack Kelsey to play alongside Adams and Vieira no matter how many more years I get to follow the Club. One thing this title did bring home to me was just how incredibly lucky I've been to see so many great players during my time as a supporter.

The Official Arsenal Dream Team
Alan Ward & Dave Smith
Published by Hamlyn
Price £12.99

You should be able to find this title in or order from any decent bookstore. If they don't stock it then quote the following reference number ISBN 0 600 60834 4

Your favourite online bookstore will no doubt also oblige. If you're off to Highbury in the near future try the Club shops who should be stocking it as its an official publication.