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11 Best Arsenal Centre-Backs of All-Time.

Updated: Jun 1

11 Best Arsenal Centre-Backs of All-Time.
11 Best Arsenal Centre-Backs of All-Time.

Arsenal Football Club boasts a rich tradition of exceptional centre-backs, spanning from the pioneering era of Herbert Chapman's innovative tactics through George Graham's disciplined reign to Arsène Wenger's transformative tenure. These heroes have been the bedrock of Arsenal's defensive identity, standing tall in adversity and leading by example.

Join us as we journey back to rank the greatest Arsenal centre-backs of all time, celebrating their dedication, skill, and enduring impact on the iconic red and white jersey. While deserving names may not grace this list, their influence on Arsenal's defensive heritage remains in football history.

Here Are The Greatest Central Defenders in Arsenal History

11. Leslie Compton

At number 11 on our list of the best Arsenal centre-backs is Leslie Compton, who dedicated 22 years to the club. As one of Arsenal's longest-serving players, Compton debuted for England at 38, the oldest British player to do so. His Arsenal journey began in April 1932 against Aston Villa, but it wasn't until after World War II that he cemented his place in the team.

From 1946, he anchored Arsenal's defence, contributing to League and FA Cup victories. Though scoring only six goals, his crucial strike in the 1950 FA Cup Semi-Final against Chelsea was legendary. Beyond football, Leslie was an accomplished cricketer, scoring over 5,000 runs for Middlesex. After retiring in 1953, he continued to work as a coach and scout for Arsenal.

10. Kolo Toure

Kolo Toure stands as one of Arsene Wenger's most astute signings. Arriving from ASEC Mimosas for a mere £150,000, Toure transitioned from midfield to defence, becoming a linchpin in the Gunners' backline. He was instrumental in the historic unbeaten 2003/04 season, leaving a lasting legacy of defensive excellence at the club. Toure's achievement of scoring the winning goal in Arsenal's Champions League semi-final first-leg victory against Villarreal at Highbury, along with his record-setting 10 consecutive clean sheets in European competition, established him as one of Arsenal's greatest central defenders of all time.

9. Martin Keown

Once overshadowed, Keown emerged as a defensive pillar for Arsenal. From his rugged beginnings, he evolved into a robust force in the heart of the defence. Initially praised for his finesse, he adapted his game to complement the likes of Tony Adams, becoming indispensable to George Graham's setup. With Arsène Wenger, Keown continued to excel, showcasing his tactical acumen and determination. Despite facing setbacks, his pivotal role in Arsenal's successes until his final season, capping off a career as one of the club's defensive legends.

8. Herbie Roberts

Herbie Roberts made a savvy decision when he joined Arsenal from Oswestry Town for £200 in December 1926. Before his football career, Roberts worked as a gunsmith, and his seamless transition to football resulted in 335 starts for Arsenal spanning 11 years. A linchpin of Herbert Chapman’s formidable side in the early 1930s, Roberts, who served as a Lieutenant in the Royal Fusiliers during World War II, helped secure Division One titles in 1931, 1933, 1934, and 1935.

He missed the 1930 FA Cup final due to injury but was crucial in Arsenal's 1936 FA Cup victory over Sheffield United. Unfortunately, his career was curtailed by a severe knee injury in 1937, leading to his retirement in 1938. His legacy as a central defender remains permanent in Arsenal’s rich history.

7. Ray Daniel

Ray Daniel, a formidable presence in Arsenal's defence, earns his place as one of the club's top centre-backs. Joining Arsenal in 1949, Daniel swiftly established himself as a mainstay in the team. Known for his solid tackling and tactical awareness, his decisive role in the club's success during the 1952-53 season, in which they clinched the league title and he scored 5 goals, went unnoticed.

Daniel's leadership qualities and ability to organise the backline contributed to Arsenal's fortitude on the pitch. His loyalty and defensive prowess left an everlasting mark on Arsenal's history, cementing his record as one of the finest centre-backs to don the famous red-and-white jersey.

6. Steve Bould

Steve Bould, an England international central defender, played a vital role in Arsenal's 1997/98 'double' success. His journey from Stoke City to Highbury for £390,000 in 1988 showcased his defensive prowess. Bould's contributions extended beyond his impressive defensive skills; he helped secure league titles in 1988/89 and 1990/91, FA Cup and League Cup triumphs in 1993, and the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1994. With over 10 years of coaching experience in Arsenal's academy, Bould's transition to the first-team staff as Arsene Wenger's assistant manager in 2012 marked a fitting culmination to his illustrious career.

5. Alf Baker

Alf Baker joined Arsenal in May 1919 and became a mainstay at Highbury for 12 years, making 351 appearances and scoring 26 goals. His debut marked Arsenal's first top-flight game at Highbury, and he played in the club's first FA Cup Final in 1927. Known for his versatility, Baker filled various positions, including emergency goalkeeper, and captained the team in 1924/25. After retiring, he continued to serve Arsenal as a scout, solidifying his status as one of the club's greatest central defenders.

4. Bill Seddon

Bill Seddon, a steadfast and influential figure in Arsenal's early history, captained the London Combination team to an unprecedented five consecutive championships. After joining from Gillingham in December 1924, Bill made his league debut in April 1926 in a narrow defeat against Sunderland.

Though his first-team appearances were limited over eight years, Seddon was redoubtable in the reserves, amassing over 200 appearances. His commitment and leadership on and off the pitch culminated in a transfer to Grimsby Town in March 1932. According to, Seddon's commitment extended beyond football, serving in the Army in West Africa during World War II, embodying the spirit of an Arsenal great.

3. Sol Campbell

Sol Campbell, the iconic central defender, rose through the ranks at White Hart Lane before making a bold move to Arsenal. His debut season with the Gunners was nothing short of spectacular, securing the FA Cup and Premier League title. Known for his imposing presence, Campbell became the backbone of Arsenal's defence during the 'Invincibles' era.

Despite facing challenges, including suspension and personal struggles, Campbell's resilience and leadership never wavered. His unforgettable header in the 2006 Champions League Final is a standout moment in Arsenal's history. Campbell's devotion to the club, even in his return in 2010, cemented his status as a legend among Arsenal's greatest defenders.

2. Peter Simpson

Peter Simpson, a stalwart of Arsenal's legendary 1971 Double side, remains one of the club's unsung heroes. Starting from his modest beginnings as ground staff to forging a formidable defensive duo with Frank McLintock, Simpson showcased unmatched dedication and skill. His 477 appearances for Arsenal and pivotal role in their 1970s triumphs solidify his place among the club's greatest centre-backs of all-time.

1. Tony Adams

Tony Adams, ranked number 1 on our list, epitomised the essence of Arsenal Football Club. His fourteen-year tenure as captain, totalling 669 appearances and securing 10 major trophies, including league titles spanning three decades, underscores his unparalleled commitment and skill.

As the cornerstone of Arsenal's defence, Adams transcended his role as a mere player; he emerged as a leader, strategist, and symbol of determination. Alongside reliables like Steve Bould, Adams mastered the defensive arts, forming the backbone of the iconic Back Four with precision. Revered by managers and fans alike, his legacy as 'Mr. Arsenal' stands as proof of the lasting impact on the club's history.

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