11th March – Didier Drogba

Chelsea have been regulars in the knockout stages of the Champions League for a long time and owe a lot of this to striker Didier Drogba and he will forever go down as one of their greatest ever players.

Hitting over 100 Premier League goals and being the club’s fourth highest goalscorer of all time just shows his worth but now at the age of 37 he is still causing problems and will have a say on how Chelsea do. With the League Cup already in the bag, they are still looking for Premier League and European glory.

Drogba began his career in France with Le Mans but he didn’t get off to a great start, struggling with injuries. But in 1999 he was part of the first team and impressed with seven goals, however in the following season the injuries returned and he lost his place in the team. But in his final season he scored five times in 21 games and was signed by Ligue 1 side Guingamp halfway through the campaign. He made a vital contribution in keeping the team in the top division and would then lead the club to their highest ever finish by hitting 17 goals in 34 games.

Drogba Guingamp

After just one full season he moved again joining Marseille. This would be a great move as he scored a lot of goals, with 19 in the league and 11 in Europe. But this would be his only season at the club as he joined Chelsea for £24 million. In his first season he did well, scoring 16 with his most important coming in the final of the League Cup but also adding 10 in the league as the club won the title. Chelsea would go on to retain the title with Drogba again scoring 16 in all competitions.

Drogba Marseille

In the 2006-07 season he scored 33 goals, including two in the League Cup final against Arsenal and also the winner in the FA Cup final against Manchester United. The League Cup became his favourite competition as he would go on to score in his third final, unfortunately they would lose this time to Tottenham Hotspur. Another final that year did not go so well for Drogba as he was sent off in the final of the Champions League against Manchester United who would go on to win on penalties.

The following season didn’t start great for him as he had to wait until late December for his first Premier League goal. Under Scolari he struggled for game time but when Guus Hiddink took charge he returned to great goalscoring form and would once again score in the FA Cup final, helping his side to a 2-1 win. He started the 2009-10 season with 14 goals in the first 16 games. Despite going to the Africa Cup of Nations he still finished with 29 goals in just 32 games and Chelsea would go on to win the Premier League again and then a week later he would score in his sixth final.

2010-11 started well for Chelsea and Drogba but it didn’t last and was quite a disappointing campaign. But the next season was arguably his favourite for the club as he scored his 100th Premier League goal, moved up to fourth in the all time goalscoring list, scoring in yet another FA Cup final and winning the Champions League after scoring the 88th minute equaliser and the winning penalty.

Drogba Chelsea

On the 19th June 2012 Drogba joined Shanghai Shenhua but he would only last 11 games at the club, scoring eight times before joining Turkish side Galatasaray. He would go on to score five minutes into his debut and would help them to the title with five goals in 13 games. He would only spend one full season at the club and after 20 goals in 53 games he would make the return to Chelsea.

The final word can go to Jose Mourinho after his return. “It looks like he never left. He was an ever present even when he wasn’t here. Chelsea belonged to him even in the last two years when he was away. I think we need him. We need him as a player for our squad to be the way I like. So, as a player and person, Didier is someone we need to be strong.”


3rd March – Emmanuel Riviere

Emmanuel Riviere hasn’t quite showed the Newcastle United fans why he outscored James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao at Monaco but he certainly has talent.

At the age of 25 he has plenty of time to adapt to English football and the fans will be hoping that this season has just been adjusting to life in a new country. In their last game Newcastle played two upfront and although Riviere didn’t get a goal himself he certainly put himself about and cause Aston Villa some problems. He will need a good end to the season, at least in terms of performances if he does want to remain in the Premier League.

Riviere started his career at Saint Etienne and made his professional debut on the 3rd January 2009 against Bordeaux alongside current Swansea City striker Bafetimbi Gomis. He would have to wait until right at the end of the season to score his first goal, but on the 13th May he did grab one in the 4-2 win over Le Havre. Due to injuries the striker started the next campaign as the first choice striker but as players returned he was either shifted out wide or used from the bench. During the second half of the season he performed brilliantly and was one of the main reasons why the club avoided relegation. In February and March he played seven times and scored five goals and then later scored the only goal of the game against Boulogne to confirm Saint Etienne’s safety in the top flight.

Riviere SE

In the summer Riviere signed a new three year contract but only stayed for one more season as he produced more good performances and scored some valuable goals for the club once more convinced Toulouse to sign him. He only spent one and a half seasons with his new club and didn’t quite score the amount of goals he would have hoped. In total he scored 10 times in 47 games and somewhat surprisingly on the 30th January 2013 he joined Ligue 2 Monaco. He would go on to score on his debut against Arles in a 2-0 win and helped the club gain promotion to Ligue 1.

Riviere Toulouse

Back in the top flight he started off brilliantly, scoring on the opening day against Bordeaux and then in the next match against Montpellier he scored his first ever hatrick. He continued his good form by scoring the winning goal against Marseille on the 1st September. However, he could not continue his goalscoring form and ended the campaign with 13 goals.

Emmanuel Riviere celebrates scoring for Monaco in their victory over Montpellier

On the 16th July 2014 Riviere joined Newcastle United and made his debut on the opening day against Manchester City. He would go on to score his only goals to date in the League Cup win over Crystal Palace.

The final word can go to teammate Mike Williamson. “I do think the work from Manu goes unnoticed. For me, he’s a great outlet, he puts his body on the line and gets other people goals, hopefully he can get some himself. Up front it was good to see the presence, that work rate, that doggedness.”

8th November – Morgan Schneiderlin

Southampton have been fantastic this season and have certainly been one of the surprise packages of the season, especially as they were considered relegation favourites by many after losing so many important players in the summer but hanging on to Morgan Schneiderlin has arguably been their best bit of business.

The midfielder has played a crucial role in getting the club back to where they belong and has now even pushed them on to the next level which has meant that he has been linked with moves away. It looked as though he was going to leave during the summer but nobody can doubt his commitment to the club every time he steps onto the pitch. With the club in second place they will have realistic ambitions of qualifying for Europe and that will definitely convince the Frenchman to stay at the club.
Schneiderlin Saints
The 25 year old started his career at Strasbourg and would sign his first contract with the club in 2005 and go on to make his debut in the B-team later in the year. After 37 league games and five goals for the second string he was promoted to the first team but after just five appearances over two seasons he would be sold after the club were relegated from Ligue 1 at the end of the 2007-08 season.
Schneiderlin Strasbourg
On the 27th June 2008 Schneiderlin signed for Southampton and made his debut on the 9th August 2008 in a 2-1 defeat against Cardiff City. His first season ended badly as the club were relegated from the Championship but the Frenchman decided to stay with the club and help them gain promotion from League One. He would go on to score his first goal for the club in a 5-1 win over Bristol Rovers on the 13th April 2010 in a 5-1 win. Despite only playing 27 league games during the 2010-11 season he proved what a good player he was as the team clinched promotion back to the Championship.

During the summer he was rewarded with a new contract and Southampton gained back to back promotions and returned to the Premier League with Schneiderlin scoring goals against Burnley and Nottingham Forest. After promotion to the top flight like a lot of players, he kept his spot in the side and was in fantastic form in the early part of the season, scoring against Manchester United and Swansea City. He would then go on to captain the side on the 16th January 2013 in a thrilling comeback against Chelsea and then would soon after score his third Premier League goal against Wigan Athletic to rescue his side a point.
Schneiderlin Soton
Once again he was rewarded with a new contract and was quickly becoming known as one of the best holding midfielders in the country. At the end of the season he was credited with the most tackles, interceptions and the highest work rate in the league and was named the Players’ Player and Fans’ Player of the Year awards at Southampton. Last season he was equally impressive but this year he has gone on to another level and has already scored three goals, two against West Ham and another superb effort against Newcastle United.

The final word can go to Southampton manager Ronald Koeman. “Him staying has been the best part of the window for us. He’s a fantastic player and an important player for the team. That gives the rest of the lads confidence and ambition. His behaviour has been professional and the one answer he gave was on the pitch, and that’s always the best answer that you can give.”

22nd October – Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger probably thought he was not going to have much to celebrate on his birthday as his side trailed 1-0 against Anderlecht but two late goals secured his side the win.

The 65 year old has done a lot for the English game and will always be a legend at Arsenal but up until last season he had been coming under pressure for not delivering a trophy for a long time. However, he has never changed his style and although that has caused frustration from some supporters he has always done the right thing for the club.

Wenger didn’t become a professional until the age of 28 at Strasbourg but even then he wasn’t really considered a player as he did a lot of work managing the youth teams and reserves, restricting him to just 11 league appearances in three years. After he moved on to be assistant manager at AS Cannes in 1983 before becoming manager at Ligue 1 side Nancy a year later. After a good first season where the club finished 12th he struggled and the club were relegated at the end of the 1986-87 season. A few months later he would join Monaco.
Wenger Stras
In his first season he helped them win the title but after this he would become known as a nearly man, leading the club to runners up positions in the league and also in the Coupe De France and the European Cup Winners’ Cup. After a poor start to the 1994-95 season, Wenger was sacked on the 17th September with Monaco in 17th place. In January 1995 he made the move to Japan and became manager of Nagoya Grampus Eight. He had a successful spell at the club, winning the Emperor’s Cup and being named the J-League Manager of the Year. In August 1996 Arsenal sacked Bruce Rioch and Wenger took over winning his first match away to Blackburn Rovers. Arsenal went on to finish third in the league.
Sport. Football. pic: July 1987. England internationals Mark Hateley, left, and Glenn Hoddle with the Monaco Coach Arsene Wenger, the players recent signings for Monaco.
The following campaign everyone knew Arsene Wenger as he led the club to the Premier League and FA Cup double after being 12 points behind league leaders Manchester United at one point. The following seasons were difficult as he again became a nearly man, finishing second in the table and reaching the FA Cup and UEFA Cup final but could not land another trophy. In the 2001-02 season Wenger won the FA Cup and Premier League double for the second time, securing the title at Old Trafford. It looked as though they were going to retain the title when they went eight points clear but lost out on the title. However, they did lift the FA Cup again after beating Southampton.
Wenger Arsenal
The 2003-04 season will forever be in history after his side won the title by going the whole season unbeaten. This run lasted 49 matches but was ended by Manchester United on the 24th October 2004. They could not recover and ended the season in second place but won the FA Cup. This would be his last trophy for a long time as he just could not compete in the league and this was largely down to Wenger falling into the same trap. He would sell a top quality player and replace them with a player that had a lot of potential, unfortunately when they reached their full potential they were then sold. Defeats in the Champions League final and two in the League Cup were tough to take, however they still managed to finish in the top four every season. On the 22nd March 2014 he took charge of his 1000th match as Arsenal manager but they lost 6-0 against Chelsea. They recovered from this and on the 17th May they finally won a trophy after beating Hull City in the final of the FA Cup, making Wenger a five time winner.

The final word can go to long time rival Alex Ferguson. “Over the years we enjoyed some fantastic battles. I always enjoy watching Arsene’s sides. Perhaps the biggest compliment I could give Arsene is that I could never be anything other than competitive with my rival for 17 years.”

30th September – Olivier Giroud

Olivier Giroud definitely splits opinion but there is no doubting that when he comes back from injury he will be a big player for Arsenal and could make the difference before the end of the season.

When he does come back he will have to make sure that he hits the back of the net on a regular basis and before he broke his left tibia, he had already scored two goals this season. For all of his critics his goal ratio is not actually that bad and he is very good at bringing the best out of players around him and Aaron Ramsey in particular looks a better player with Giroud in the side.

The 28 year old started his career in France with Grenoble and after eight years in the youth team he signed his first professional contract at the age of 21. His performances for the reserve team were remarkable as he scored 15 goals in 15 games and in March 2006 he was called up to the first team and made his debut on the 27th March against Gueugnon. Despite being around the first team he had to wait until the 26th February 2007 to score his first goal and it turned out to be vital as it was an injury time winner against Le Havre.

In the following season to ensure he got more game time he joined Istres on loan for the entire 2007-08 campaign. He performed very well for the club and scored 14 goals during the season but on his return to Grenoble he was deemed not good enough by recently appointed manager Mehmed Bazdarevic and on the 28th May 2008 he joined Tours.
Giroud Tours
Despite a few injuries in his first season at the club he scored another 14 goals in 27 games but unfortunately Tours failed to gain promotion to Ligue 1. In the 2009-10 season he was made the main striker at the club and this obviously gave the striker a lot of confidence and in the first half of the season he scored 16 goals which convinced Montpellier to sign him on the 26th January 2010. But as part of the agreement he was loaned back to Tours for the rest of the season and he ended his time with the club with 36 goals in 67 games and was named as the Ligue 2 Player of the Year at the end of his final season.

Giroud’s first season was up and down with Montpellier, with some goal scoring droughts that lasted nearly two months but he did end the campaign as their top scorer and helped them reach the final of the Coupe de la Ligue final, which was their first major final since 1994. But both the club and the striker would go onto better things in the following season with Montpellier winning the title and Giroud finishing as the league’s top scorer with 21 goals and also provided nine assists.
Foot  :   L1 - Montpellier - Reprise de l entrainement
His form led to him being linked with moves away and after 39 goals in 85 games he joined Arsenal on the 26th June 2012. He took a short while to settle in England and had to wait until the 6th October to score his first league goal for the club in a 3-1 win over West Ham. In total he played 47 times during the 2012-13 season, scoring 17 goals and assisting a further 11 which was a promising start for a striker coming into a new league.
Giroud Arsenal
Arsenal and Giroud started last season brightly but they could not keep their form going in the league, however they did still manage to win the FA Cup. It was always going to be tough for Giroud to last the whole season as he was Arsenal’s only striker for the majority of the season and he had to play a lot of games but his 22 goals in 51 games was still a very good return.

The final word can go to Arsene Wenger. “He has a very good physical presence and is exceptional in the air, with a great work effort. He has proved that he is capable of performing at the top level with club and country.”

22nd September – Emmanuel Petit

Emmanuel Petit may be more famous for his footballing ability but did you know he was also an actor and starred in a Christmas episode of The Bill?

It may have only been a one off but it is definitely something not many players can claim and adds to his interesting life off the pitch. He also won £17,000 on a fruit machine and kindly gave it all away to charity and after his career had ended he then shaved off his hair for charity in July 2011. He may have been kind off the pitch but when he got on it there were few that could compete with his power and his determination to win.

Petit started his career at the small French side ES Arques-la-Bataille before being spotted by Arsene Wenger. The manager subsequently signed the 18 year old for Monaco in 1988 and he made his debut soon after, featuring in the club’s run to the 1989 French Cup final, which he also played a part in. Petit had a lot of success for Monaco and after becoming a regular in the midfield he helped them win the French Cup in 1991 and reach the European Cup Winners’ Cup final in the following season.
Petit Monaco
In the 1996-97 season he became the club captain and led them to the Ligue 1 title but after 292 games and five goals it was time for him to leave and try his hand in a different league. Petit was reunited with Wenger after Arsenal paid £2.5 million for the midfielder in June 1997. Him and fellow countryman Patrick Vieira formed one of the best central midfield partnerships ever seen in the Premier League and over the next three years they went on to dominate the middle of the pitch. With these two in the side they were a team to be feared and it was unsurprising that at the end of the Petit’s first season at the club Arsenal won the double.
Petit Arsenal
He made 118 appearances for the club and scored 11 goals before signing for Barcelona in the summer of 2000 for £7 million. The midfielder struggled in Spain, largely because he was played out of position and had a lot of niggling injuries that stopped him from reaching top form. In the Frenchman’s autobiography he claims that the Barcelona coach at the time, Llorenc Serra Ferrer, did not even know where he played when he first signed for the club.

After a miserable season, he returned to England and joined Chelsea. He was a first team regular to begin with but Chelsea had a disappointing season and although they reached the FA Cup final it was still seen as a failure. The following season things got a lot better as Petit and Frank Lampard had a fantastic understanding and drove the team forward to a fourth place finish and Champions League qualification.
Petit Chelsea
A knee injury ruined the rest of his career and despite having offers from other clubs he decided to retire on the 20th January 2005.

The final word can go to Arsene Wenger. “I know Manu well enough – because I gave him his start. He was fantastic. I feel his home is at Arsenal Football Club. We were lucky at Arsenal to have Petit at the peak of his career. He was a tremendous player.”

10th September – Laurent Koscielny

Laurent Koscielny has arguably been one of the most improved players in the Premier League over the last few years and has become a vital player for Arsenal.

The centre back is one of the first names on the team sheet and when he is not in the side Arsenal look weaker at the back. If Arsenal are going to challenge for the title and get far in the Champions League then the French international has to stay fit and on form otherwise they will struggle to make as much of an impact, especially against the bigger teams.

Koscielny began his career at French side Guingamp and made his debut in 2004, at the time he was seen as a right back and this is where he played most of his games. Over the next three years he played 46 times before joining Tours FC in 2007.
Koscielny Guingamp
His move was partially motivated by the fact that he saw himself as a centre back and wanted to be played in that position. His positioning and aerial ability improved a lot while at the club and he had a fantastic 2008-09 season, making 34 appearances in the French Ligue 2 and was named in the division’s best 11. He also scored five times throughout the campaign.
Koscielny Tours
After 67 league games he joined newly promoted to Ligue 1 FC Lorient on the 16th June 2009. He quickly became a fan favourite and in his first season he played 35 times and scored three goals, helping them to a seventh place finish. Despite only being there for one season he was being heavily linked with a move away from the club and they agreed a deal with Arsenal on the 7th July 2010.

He did not get off to the best start as he was sent off on his Premier League debut against Liverpool but when he returned he looked more composed and scored his first goal against Bolton Wanderers on the 11th September 2010. A few days later he made his Champions League debut in a 6-0 win over Braga. He was sent off for the second time in his short Arsenal career against Newcastle United in a 1-0 loss. His season was definitely up and down as he went from producing a man of the match performance against Barcelona to making a mistake in the final minute of the League Cup final which cost them the game against Birmingham City.

The 2011-12 season also started off badly as he was part of the team that got destroyed by Manchester United at Old Trafford 8-2 and then scored an own goal in a 4-3 defeat to Blackburn Rovers. But by the end of the season he had turned his form around and was voted the club’s fourth most important player and was rewarded with a new contract. The following season he remained very consistent and came runner up in the Player of the Year vote.
Soccer - Emirates Cup 2010 - Arsenal v AC Milan - Emirates Stadium
Arsenal started the 2013-14 terribly and Koscielny had an awful start as he gave away a penalty and was sent off on the opening day defeat against Aston Villa. However, at the midpoint of the season Arsenal were top of the table and alongside Per Mertesacker, Koscielny was part of the joint best defensive record. They unfortunately could not keep their place at the top of the table but they did manage to win the FA Cup, with the defender scoring the equaliser against Hull City at Wembley.

Koscielny already has one goal to his name this season as he scored in the opening day win over Crystal Palace.

The final word can go to Arsene Wenger. “We identified him as a very strong centre half. He has shown he is mentally strong, he’s a fighter and a very strong competitor. Koscielny is a great addition to our squad.”