Arsenal legend: The story of Dennis Bergkamp
The non-flying Dutchman is a legend in the red half of north London - here's why
Arguably the greatest Dutchman to ever play in the Premier League, Dennis Bergkamp has left a legacy worthy of a statue at Arsenal.
Many people even to this day think that it was legendary Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger who signed Bergkamp from the Italian giants, however it was his predecessor Bruce Rioch who paid £7.5 million for the Dutchman's services.
In his first season with the North London club, Bergkamp played in the second striker role behind Ian Wright who was still seen as Arsenal's main goal-scoring threat.
Even though Bergkamp achieved a lot of success during his tenure with his first club Ajax, his time with Inter Milan was very frustrating. Fortunately for the Dutchman the Gunners were his saving grace. Initially struggling to adapt to the English game, Bergkamp would end his first season with Arsenal scoring 11 goals, which helped the London club qualify for the UEFA Cup the following season.
The appointment of Arsene Wenger as Arsenal manager prior to the 1996/97 season would prove to be a major turning point in the career of Bergkamp and also the club as a whole.
Realising the potential and the natural talent of his forward, Wenger opted to build the Arsenal team around Bergkamp. Due to this the Dutchman had much more of an influence than in his first season and created 13 assists as the Gunners finished third in the league, the club's highest finish since the Premier League formed.
The following season, Bergkamp became the focal point of Arsenal's attack, scoring 22 goals as the club won their first Premier League title, finishing a point ahead of Manchester United at the top of the table. The London club also celebrated F.A. Cup success that season by defeating Newcastle 2-0 in the 1998 final. The 1997/98 season was also a special one for Bergkamp on a personal level as he won the PFA Players' Player of the Year award for his achievements that season.
In a season full of success, Bergkamp was selected in the FIFA World Cup All-Star team for the 1998 tournament as the Netherlands reached the semi-finals. After an effective World Cup, Bergkamp returned to Arsenal in similar fashion and scored 16 goals in the 1998/99 season but unfortunately the Gunners surrendered their league and cup titles and finished the season without any silverware.
The next two seasons were equally as disappointing for the Dutchman and his club. Arsenal reached the UEFA Cup final in 2000 only to lose to Turkish side Galatasaray on penalties. The following season, the Gunners reached the F.A. Cup final but lost to domestic rivals Liverpool by two goals to one.
Success however, finally came for Bergkamp and Arsenal. In May 2002, Arsenal defeated rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford in the penultimate game of the season to lift the Premier League title for a second time. The Gunners also won the F.A. Cup again, defeating Chelsea 2-0 in the final. Earlier that season, Bergkamp scored a memorable goal against Newcastle.
In January 2003, Bergkamp reached a milestone when he scored his 100th goal for Arsenal in an F.A. Cup tie against Oxford United. That year Bergkamp also won his third F.A. Cup medal as Arsenal defeated Southampton 1-0 in the final, thanks to a goal from Robert Pires. That summer Bergkamp signed a one year contract extension with his beloved London club and it paid dividends as Arsenal became the first Premier League side to remain unbeaten in a season and thus regained the title in 2004.
The Dutchman signed a further contract extension prior to the 2004/05 season. Despite playing in the second striker role behind the prolific Thierry Henry, Bergkamp scored eight goals and created 13 as Arsenal won the F.A. Cup in 2005, defeating arch rivals Manchester United on penalties.
The following season would prove to be Bergkamp's last before retiring from football. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was intent on winning the Champions League for a first time. Bergkamp was an unused substitute in the Champions League final against Barcelona. Unfortunately for Arsenal, Barcelona secured a 2-1 win over the North London club to lift the prestigious trophy.
Bergkamp's testimonial was held in July 2006. The game was played between Arsenal and Ajax at the Gunners new Emirates Stadium. The game included some of the greatest players, both past and present. Names such as Johan Cruyff, Marco Van Basten, Marc Overmars, Wright and Henry all took part in Bergkamp's last match. In 2013, it was announced that a statue of Dennis Bergkamp would be placed outside the Emirates Stadium to commemorate the success Arsenal achieved with the Dutchman in their team.
Bergkamp scored 120 goals in 423 appearances for Arsenal as well as providing over 100 assists for the club. He was also capped 79 times for his country the Netherlands, scoring 37 times. The legendary Dutchman is remembered for his technique and vision on the pitch and as stated previously, he is arguably the greatest Dutch Premier League player of all time.
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