George asked if anybody wanted to write about their favourite player via twitter so I jumped at the chance, it was a little strange really because I had the very same conversation with an old friend the day before so it kinda felt like fate.
I became a fully fledged Gooner during the George Graham days, I didn’t pay much attention to football in my younger school years, preferring to make Sonic the hedgehog jump across a screen rather than play football in the street. There was something clearly very wrong with me. In the very early 90s I had changed, I caught the Arsenal bug.
I missed the 1989 triumph, Arsenal were the team I ‘supported’ but I didn’t pay any attention to any of the games or indeed results. I remember standing outside my friends doorstep with him when his dad ran down the stairs screaming with joy. ‘Arsenal have beaten Liverpool to win the league’ my friend said to me shrugging his shoulders, in truth we didn’t quite get what all the fuss was about. A couple of years later I had got it, I understood loud and clear.
Season 1990/91 was my first proper season as a Gooner and I had grown incredibly fond of our attacking players and you have to remember that this was before the day that George Graham was infected with flooding the midfield with destroyers syndrome.
David Rocastle and Paul Merson were two players who I immediately took to and my hero Ian Wright came a season later. Ian Wright was the bubbly charismatic match winner that most Gooners my age looked up to, I was no different but there was another player who fascinated me even more, a player that had something special about him when in possession of the ball. It was the original super Swede, Anders Limpar bought from Italian side Cremonese for about £1.2m if I remember correctly. He had hit the ground running and added additional flair to Graham’s Arsenal team.
Wright may have been my hero but Limpar was my idol.
What caught my attention was his incredible ability to use both feet, I had never seen anything like it before and it was thanks to him that I had practiced my right foot so much in my youth. Santi Cazorla has only this season replaced Anders as the most two footed player I’ve ever seen.
Anders had a great burst of pace over the first few yards and he used this to zip away from opponents, he was able to not only shoot or cross with both feet but had the perfect weight of pass to slice through defence’s. Ian Wright used to benefit from this on a regular basis, so much so that he had scored four goals against Everton in one game at Highbury, all his goals were laid on a plate by super Anders Limpar.
His most memorable goal for Arsenal was against Liverpool at Highbury who were the equivalent of the Manchester United of today. Anders drove at the Liverpool midfield from inside his own half, from just inside their half Anders adjusted his feet had a glance at Mike Hooper in the Liverpool goal and fizzed a stunning chip over his head and into the Liverpool net.
In Limpar’s first season at Arsenal he had tasted domestic success, Anders had scored 11 league goals from 32 starts which helped Arsenal win the league title. We had lost only one game that season which is quite amazing and even more so when you consider that not too much was made of that. That was my first title as a supporting Gooner which I guess helped secure Anders as my first footballing love. I bought the end of season review on VHS (youngsters should ask their parents) and watched it so many times that I learnt pretty much all of the commentary. In those days we didn’t have Sky Sports or streams so those videos meant the world to me, I got to watch Limpar ripping through defence’s up and down the land, including his hat trick against Coventry City on the final day of that title winning season.
In the following season, Anders had suffered a knee injury whilst playing for Sweden, so he only managed 23 starts and a further 6 from the bench. It all went pretty much downhill for Anders after that. George Graham had ditched his attack minded philosophy and instead turned more and more defensive in approach. Anders Limpar and his flair was ditched for more industrious players so the Swede was soon to be marginalised. The following season saw Limpar only manage 12 league starts, coming on from the bench in a further 11 games. George Graham had already inexplicably sold David Rocastle to Leeds during that pre season so it was little surprise when he sold Anders Limpar to Everton the following season. Replacing the talented winger with no other than Eddie McGoldrick. If this is a little before your time then the best explanation I can give you is that it is like Arsene Wenger selling Santi Cazorla and replacing him with Scott Parker. Sorry, Scotty Parker.
It pained me watching Limpar lifting the Everton side, I remember one ridiculous outside of the left foot (weaker foot) pass with backspin into the path of Duncan Ferguson. I cried into my pillow that night. Everton won the FA Cup in 1995, beating Manchester United in the final and Anders played a big part in that victory.
Anders is seen as somewhat of a cult hero amongst Gooners and in truth it should have been so much more than that. Unfortunately for him, he came to Arsenal in the wrong era. When Arsene arrived in 1996 I still had hopes that he would take him back even if his powers had started to wane. The pair had crossed paths during one testimonial, I cannot remember which player but I have ever since wondered what could have happened if a younger model was around the club when Arsene Wenger had a close look at the players left to him.
What would have been the result of an Anders given the freedom of the pitch to express himself offensively. What could he have been like with other players on his wavelength? Technical footballers like Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira. I think he would have been a special player for many years and not just the full debut season but that is life. I am sure Pedantic George may have similar feelings about a certain Russian meerkat.
A few years after Anders left Arsenal, I bought a new home shirt and wanted to get a name and number on the back. Even though he had left the club, he was the only choice for me and I got Limpar 11 sprawled over the back. I still have that shirt today and still feel rather proud of myself for doing that. Well I did until the bugger recently told a reporter that he supported Everton over us now. How to break my heart.
If Arsene looked after him you can be sure that he would have something completely different to say today.
Anders wasn’t Arsenal’s best ever player, not by a long way but he remains my favourite player and will always be my first love.