Football

Arsenal: GMS tribute to Robert Pires

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A very happy 40th birthday to Robert Pires. You were a wonderful player with a fabulous beard, and will go down in English football legend as a member of Arsenal's all-conquering Invincibles.

Pires was recruited by Arsene Wenger from Marseille in the summer of 2000 to replace Marc Overmars, who had been sold to Barcelona, and even those most optimistic surely did not imagine the France international could be more influential than the departed Dutchman.

The midfielder was a Premier League winner in his second season with Arsenal, during which he scored nine times and set up a further 15 goals, and was awarded the FWA Footballer of the Year.

This accolade came despite Pires missing the final two months of the campaign through injury, but was a reward he undoubtedly deserved for the pivotal part he had played during that season's title race.

During in 2001-02 also came arguably his most iconic goal for Arsenal as he lobbed Peter Schmeichel at Villa Park. It was voted as the 33rd greatest goal in the club's illustrious history.

2002 also saw an FA Cup final triumph, and another followed a year later, with Pires the match-winner for Arsenal on this occasion, albeit in far less spectacular circumstances he had become accustomed to.

The league title was Arsenal's again in 2003-04, as they went the entire season without registering a defeat, and Pires found the net 19 times in all competitions - his most prolific campaign for the club.

Arsenal's run was inevitably ended during the following season, losing in game number 50, but they ended 2004-05 with the FA Cup - a fifth major trophy for Pires, and the most recent piece of silverware for the club.

His final season with the Gunners almost ended in the ultimate prize, but it was a Champions League final to forget both personally and as a team.

After goalkeeper Jens Lehmann was sent off on 18 minutes, Pires was sacrificed by his manager, meaning he had to watch his team succumb to defeat from the bench.

It was to be his last game for Arsenal, and he joined Spanish side Villarreal on a free transfer that summer. Two years later, Pires was chosen as the sixth best player in the history of Arsenal.

To celebrate Pires reaching the advanced age of 40, GMS picks out some of his finest goals...

vs Aston Villa

vs Southampton

vs Liverpool

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Arsenal

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