Arsenal have seen a number of top-class goalkeepers wear the famous jersey in north London over the years but there is one that stands tall over all the rest; David Seaman.
The Rotherham-born stopped joined Arsenal in 1990 from Queens Park Rangers, accumulating 405 league appearances for the Gunners before leaving to join Manchester City in 2003.
During his 13-year spell in north London, Seaman won three league titles, four FA Cup’s, one League Cup, two Community Shields and the UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup – standing as Arsenal’s first-choice stopper during a period of long success for the Gunners.
Seaman was a key part of the defence that Arsene Wenger inherited at Highbury in 1996, which also formed the basis of England’s national team as the stopper earned a total of 75 caps for the Three Lions.
He was an instant success at Arsenal after being signed by George Graham, remarkably conceding just 18 goals in 38 matches as the Gunners clinched the first division title in the 1990-91 season – paving the way for further glory in the years to come.
Seaman proved to be a warrior on the field and a menace to the opposition, saving three penalties in a shootout victory against Sampdoria in the 1993 UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup – before conceding a last-gasp goal in the final to Real Zaragoza, who scored from 40 yards.
Unfortunately, that memory is one of the first people come to when remembering Seaman and he is also tied to the fate of England’s World Cup fate in 2002 when Ronaldinho lobbed the experienced stopper – and a debate still rumbles on to this day as to whether the former Barcelona star meant it.
That is the life of a goalkeeper, as one mistake can prove costly, but Seaman always bounced back. His defensive record was remarkable, conceding just 17 goals in 1999 as Arsenal missed out on retaining the Premier League title by just a single point.
Evidence of his bouncebackability was shown in the 2002-03 season following the World Cup in South Korea and Japan, his last at Arsenal, Seaman shone throughout the campaign – getting the ball rolling by saving a Freddie Kanoute penalty in a 1-1 draw with West Ham at Upton Park.
The standout moment came in an FA Cup match against Sheffield United, where a stunning save to deny Paul Peschisolido from scoring with a header from six yards, in what appeared to be an open goal, led Manchester United legend Paul Schmeichel to claim it was the best save he has ever seen.
Perhaps the true value of Seaman was shown in the years after his departure. While Arsenal had an immediate successor in German Jens Lehmann, the campaigns that followed saw the Gunners struggle to identify a top-class candidate to star between the sticks.
Lehmann’s performances declined after a number of seasons, with Arsenal then bouncing between the likes of Manuel Almunia, Wojiciech Szczcesny, David Ospina and Petr Cech – which brings us right up to the modern day, where Arsenal still lack that star between the posts.
Fans will hope the recent signing of Bernd Leno from Bayer Leverkusen can fill the void left by the ghost of Seaman but it is going to be a huge ask.
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