top of page

Left Flank Legends: Arsenal's 10 Best Left-Backs of All Time

Updated: Feb 27

The Legends of the Left Flank: Arsenal's 10 Greatest Left-Backs of All Time

Arsenal Football Club, with its rich history and tradition, has been home to some of the finest talents in football. Among the various positions, the role of a left-back has often been underestimated and undervalued, but over decades, the Gunners have witnessed the rise of exceptional left-backs or left-wing-backs, who have left an indelible mark on the club's legacy.

Now, let's plunge into the history of Arsenal Football Club to explore the top 10 left-backs, who have graced the hallowed turf of Highbury and the Emirates Stadium, celebrating their unique talents and contributions to the club.

1. Ashley Cole (1999-2006) - The Invincible Left-Back

Ashley Cole, one of the most iconic left-backs in the history of Arsenal, emerged through the club's youth ranks to become an integral part of the "Invincibles" squad. Cole's remarkable pace, defensive prowess, and ability to contribute to attacking plays made him a standout performer. During his time at Arsenal, he secured two Premier League titles and two FA Cups, earning a reputation as one of the best left-backs in the world before he made a move to Chelsea.

2. Kenny Sansom (1980-1988): The England International

Kenny Sansom was a distinguished left-back who represented England with distinction. His technical ability, including excellent crossing and precise passing, set him apart. Sansom's contributions during his time at Arsenal helped the club secure numerous trophies and established him as a renowned left-back in English football. A key figure in Arsenal's 1987 League Cup triumph, he earned international acclaim with a record 86 caps for a full-back. Named in the PFA Team of the Year for eight consecutive seasons, Sansom's influence endured in English football.

3. Eddie Hapgood (1927-1944): The Pre-War Hero

Eddie Hapgood was a legendary left-back, who served Arsenal during the pre-World War II era. His leadership on the pitch, defensive resilience, and his knack for making crucial interceptions made him a stalwart in the Arsenal defence. Captain for both Arsenal and England, he played a pivotal role in the club's success with 393 League appearances, five titles, two FA Cups, and 30 international caps. Hapgood's influence extended beyond his playing days, as he became an ambassador for the club and the sport. Although his career was curtailed by World War II at the age of 30, Eddie Hapgood will forever be remembered as a complete footballer and a crucial figure in the dominant Arsenal team of the 1930s.

4. Nigel Winterburn (1987-2000): The Rock-Solid Defender

Nigel Winterburn, Arsenal's rock-solid left-back, was a linchpin during the successful George Graham era. Known for no-nonsense defending and precise tackling, he played a vital role in securing league titles and domestic cups over his 13-year tenure. Winterburn's enduring professionalism and commitment earned him a place in Arsenal history, departing at 36 with an impressive trophy haul, including three league titles, two FA Cups, a League Cup, and a European Cup Winners' Cup.

5. Viv Anderson (1984-1987): The Flamboyant Right-Back

Viv Anderson, a defensive maestro and one of the most exuberant full-backs in Arsenal's history, left an enduring mark during his tenure from 1984 to 1987. His dynamic playing style, blending the roles of a right-back and an inside player, secured his spot on the list of Arsenal's greats. Anderson quickly became a stalwart in the defensive line, showcasing tactical intelligence, solid tackling, and leadership qualities.

As a key contributor to Arsenal's defensive stability, he played a crucial role in campaigns, notably the 1987 League Cup Final victory over Liverpool. Despite his relatively short time at Arsenal, Anderson's impact was significant, earning him respect and appreciation from the Arsenal faithful. After leaving Arsenal, he continued his successful career, becoming Sir Alex Ferguson's first signing at Manchester United.

6. Bob McNab (1966-1975): The Attacking Full-Back

Bob McNab, the attacking full-back, transformed Arsenal's style with his dynamic runs and precise crosses. Joining from Huddersfield in 1966 for £50,000, he played a crucial role in Arsenal's FA Cup victory in 1971. McNab made over 350 appearances, scoring 10 goals, and was a key part of the Double-winning side in 1970/71. His international honors with England and consistent contributions made him a standout player. His legacy endures as one of Arsenal's iconic full-backs.

7. George Armstrong (1961-1977): The Versatile Winger-Turned-Left-Back

George Armstrong, affectionately known as 'Geordie,' transitioned from winger to left-back during his nearly two-decade career at Arsenal. His versatility, footballing intelligence, and precision in crossing played a vital role in the club's successes, including the 1971 league championship. With 621 appearances, Armstrong was a consistent performer and a key figure during the mid-70s slump. Despite standing at just five feet-six inches, his courage and grit were unmatched. After retiring as a player, he returned to Arsenal in 1990 as part of the coaching staff, contributing to the development of future talents.

8. Silvinho (1999-2001): The Brazilian Dynamo

Silvinho, a Brazilian left-back, brought a touch of samba flair to Arsenal's defence during his brief stint at the club. Challenging Nigel Winterburn, he eventually replaced him in the first team. His dribbling, pace, and goal-scoring ability left a lasting impact, making 80 appearances for Arsenal. He played a key role in the 1999/2000 campaign, contributing to a second-place finish. Memorable goals included a brilliant strike against Sheffield Wednesday. Ashley Cole's emergence led to his departure in 2001. Silvinho later featured for Barcelona and Manchester City before transitioning to coaching.

9. Mel Charles (1959-1962): The Aerial Dominator

Mel Charles, though not primarily a left-back, left an indelible mark at Arsenal from 1959 to 1962. Known for his aerial prowess, strong tackles, and tactical acumen, Charles made valuable defensive contributions. Hailing from Swansea and the brother of John Charles, he began his professional career at home, helping Wales reach the 1958 World Cup quarter-finals. According to, the Gunners secured Mel's services for £42,750 in 1959, and he scored 26 goals in 60 First Division games before a £28,500 transfer to Cardiff City in 1962. Post-Arsenal, Charles continued his football journey with Portmadoc, Port Vale, and Haverfordwest.

10. Gael Clichy (2003-2011): The Energetic Dynamo

Gael Clichy, a dynamic left-back, made a lasting impact on Arsenal with his energetic style and defensive skills. Joining the club in 2003, Clichy quickly became a vital component of the team's defence, known for his lightning-fast pace, tenacious tackling, and ability to contribute offensively from the left flank.

Playing a crucial role in Arsenal's notable campaigns, including the UEFA Champions League final in 2006 and the League Cup final in 2007, Clichy's consistency, reliability, and strong work ethic marked his eight-year tenure. He was the last member of the 'Invincibles' squad to bid farewell to Arsenal in 2011, leaving behind a legacy of speed, skill, and defensive resilience.


These left-backs have not only showcased their exceptional skills and defensive prowess but have also contributed to Arsenal's enduring legacy. Each of them hold a special place in the hearts of fans, and their names will forever be etched in the annals of the club's storied history.

As the debate continues over the greatest left-back to grace the Highbury or Emirates, there's no denying the impact these ten legends have had on Arsenal's journey through time. They've exemplified the values and traditions of the North London club, leaving a lasting legacy that continues to inspire the Arsenal faithful.

Follow Think Football Ideas across our social channels, on Facebook, X and Instagram.



bottom of page