Arsenal’s History-Making Starting Eleven – Who Were They?

By on December 19, 2023

Arsenal’s history in the UEFA Champions League has yet to yield the club that elusive title. But with another chance of making it happen in the 2023/24 season, the Gunners still have their eye on the big prize.

In September 2006 the Gunners went into a UEFA Champions League group stage fixture out on the road at German Bundesliga club Hamburger SV. The Gunners won 2-1, thanks to goals from Gilberto Silva and Tomáš Rosický.

Arsenal’s starting eleven in that fixture was the first in the Champions League to consist of eleven different nationalities. While the focus shifts to the Gunners EPL odds until the spring return of the UEFA Champions League action, we look back at that 2006 side.

Jens Lehmann (Germany)

While he never won the Champions League, Lehman recorded a record eight consecutive clean sheets in the competition. Lehman was a Champions League Runner-up, a World Cup runner-up and a European Championship runner-up. But the keeper was part of the ‘Invincibles” Premier League title-winning side in the 2003-04 campaign.

Emmanuel Eboue (Ivory Coast)

Emmanuel Eboue spent the bulk of his career at Arsenal. The former Ivory Coast international made his league debut during the 2005-06 season but had collected an FA Cup medal the season before with the Gunners. The right-back went to Galatasaray at the end of his career.

Johan Djourou (Switzerland)

Centre-back Johan Djourou spent around a decade with Arsenal but only made 86 appearances during that time. He was, however, a seasoned international player for Switzerland. Just as he was ready to step into Kolo Toure’s big shoes at Arsenal, he got badly injured. Djourou retired at the age of 34, never having won a major title.

Justin Hoyte (England)

Justin Hoyte came through Arsenal’s youth ranks. He never really made an impact at the club, but was there in this piece of history. Hoyte would end up playing most of his career for Middlesbrough and retired in 2019.

William Gallas (France)

A two-time Premier League winner (with Chelsea) and 2006 World Cup runner-up with France, Gallas was one of the best defenders of his generation. His pace and ability to read the game was fantastic. Gallas retired in 2014, three years after he had hung up his international boots.

Tomáš Rosický (Czech Republic)

Tomáš Rosický joined the Gunners from Bundesliga Borussia Dortmund in 2006, with whom he won the German title. He was a major talent, who spent a decade with the Gunners but couldn’t replicate the league title success in England. The former Czech Footballer of the Year did, however, win the FA Cup with Arsenal.

Gilberto Silva (Brazil)

The towering midfielder made the game look easy. He joined Arsenal in 2002 and became an important figure. Like Lehman, Silva was an Arsenal ‘Invincible’. The Brazilian also lifted the FA Cup a couple of times. The pinnacle of his incredible career though was in winning the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

Cesc Fàbregas (Spain)

Fàbregas is one of the great midfielder players of all time. With the Gunners, the Spain International won the FA Cup in 2005 and was a Champions League runner-up the following season.

Fàbregas would win league titles in Spain with Barcelona and back in England with Chelsea. The maestro, one of the best passers in the game, was also part of Spain’s remarkable period of power, winning two European Championships and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Alexander Hleb (Belarus)

Often something of an unsung hero at Arsenal. Hleb was a hard-working midfielder but found it hard to cement a first-team place with the club. He joined Arsenal in 2005 and left in 2008 to join Barcelona.

The Belarusian showed glimpses of his talent, but typically not for consistent periods. Still, he achieved what many on this list didn’t – Hleb won the UEFA Champions League with Barcelona in 2009.

Emmanuel Adebayor (Togo)

Forward Emmanuel Adebayor found his way to Arsenal from French Ligue 1 side Monaco in 2006. His most prolific scoring season in the Premier League was in 2007-08 with 24 goals in 36 appearances. He had many good seasons, but major silverware eluded him.

Robin van Persie (Netherlands)

Netherlands forward Robin van Persie was a legend in front of goal and a technically brilliant striker who was prolific. That is a rare combination in the modern game. Van Persie joined Arsenal in 2004 and had eight seasons with them.

His last one in 2011-12 saw him score 30 goals in 38 EPL appearances. With only an FA Cup medal for his work at Arsenal, Van Persie then upset Arsenal fans by moving to Manchester United where he fulfilled the dream of winning the Premier League.