Arsenal football Club unveiled a Dennis Bergkamp statue at the weekend, an ideal one befitting the title “Master of the first touch”. Days after, the Dutch master has chosen his best 10 of the 120 goals scored in his 10 years as a red and white army. Here are his most cherished Arsenal goals:
1. v Leicester City – August 27, 1997, Filbert Street
The third goal in the hat-trick. The only thing that took away from my hat-trick that day was that we only managed to get a draw. But my third goal that night is my favourite for Arsenal. For the goal itself, I had it in my mind what I wanted to happen, and it worked out exactly. When the ball came over from [David] Platty, I had in my mind to control it, luckily the ball stayed in the air, so I flicked it round the defender and then finished, and that was the idea. It all just came together – the movement and the control.
2. v Newcastle United – March 2, 2002, St James’ Park
This goal was more about instinct. As soon as the ball came to me I decided that I wanted to go round the defender. The ball came on one side, and just before it came to me, I decided to flick it one way past the defender. I was already turning the other way, so I just thought that was the way to go. As I said, it was more about instinct though – thought about and executed in the same moment.
3. v Tottenham – November 24, 1996, Highbury
This goal has to be in my top three. The goal itself was quite good, the movement, controlling the ball away from the defender and then hammering it in. But for me what made it was the moment, the emotion of scoring against Spurs at Highbury. I said to my wife afterwards that those conditions were perfect for me. A little bit of rain, a wet pitch, and it was against Spurs. It was the first time I really realised how big it was to score against them. I scored in my first away game against Spurs, but it didn’t have the same feeling as scoring that night at Highbury. It was so important for the fans and it was a great feeling.
4. v Bolton Wanderers – May 5, 1996, Highbury
It was the last game of my first season and we needed to win to get into Europe. To be honest I can’t remember how exactly the goal went in, I know it was from the edge of the area, but I have chosen it at No 4 because of how important it was. I would call it payback time. Arsenal had put that confidence in me when they bought me so it was good to pay it back. I felt I had had a good season, but for me personally I wanted to get the team in Europe and my goal helped do it.
5. v Southampton – September 23, 1995, Highbury
My first ever goal for Arsenal. It was a volley from a Glenn Helder cross and again I chose this goal for the importance as well. To be honest I really didn’t appreciate how much attention there was on me to get that first goal. Of course people have spoken to me about it since, and I know there was a lot written in the papers. Things like who would score first, me or Chris Armstrong, who had just signed for Spurs. So it was good to get that goal and from then on I really started.
6. v Sunderland – January 15, 1997, Roker Park
I like the celebration after this goal too. I received the ball outside the area, and then beat my man with a little move. I don’t know what you would call it but I have seen Zidane do it a few times since. I had it under my feet, rolled it past the defender, then curled it into the top corner. Then I ran off with my hand over my mouth as if to say ‘what a goal’. It was probably a bit arrogant but we enjoyed it at the time! I remember Stephen Hughes and Nigel Winterburn celebrated with me, and people asked me why we celebrated like that, but that was the reason – because it was a good goal!
7. v Southampton – September 23, 1995, Highbury
My second goal of the game, and the second of my Arsenal career. I think it was due to the relief of scoring that first goal that it gave me the freedom to try this. It was quite a long way out, I thought why not have a go? And luckily it worked out. I don’t think it was a goal I would have attempted if I hadn’t already scored that day. My confidence was up to shoot from that distance.
8. v Bayer Leverkusen – February 27, 2002, Highbury
I enjoyed this goal, the chip. I had scored a lot of goals like that in Holland, but for some reason in my Arsenal career I had only done it a few times. In Holland it had almost become my trademark, I was famous for it. As soon as I went one-on-one with the keeper I would feint to hammer it, but in the end just lift it over the keeper by chipping it. I scored plenty of those for Ajax, but only three or four for Arsenal, so that was quite nice.
9. v Queens Park Rangers – March 2, 1996, Loftus Road
I believe I have never hit a ball that hard before or since. Honestly, I smashed it! It was a cross from the right by Lee Dixon and I just caught it perfectly. It was one of those moments when you run into it, your feet are perfect, you don’t have to break stride and then bang! It’s the same with a golf shot every now and then. It went so hard and I remember we laughed about it afterwards in the changing room because it had been hit so hard.
There was also that one against Southampton at the Dell when I smashed it in after shrugging off a defender a couple of years later, but I think I’ll put this one in.
10. v West Bromwich Albion – April 15, 2006, Highbury
My last ever goal for Arsenal as it turned out, and on ‘Dennis Bergkamp Day’ too! It was nice to give everyone a little reminder that I could curl the ball into the net beyond the keeper. I scored a few like that in the 1997/98 season, I remember against Barnsley that year especially I scored one from the edge of the area, just wide of the keeper. So it was nice to do that again on that day.