The Athletic is paying tribute to the 50 best individual performances in the Premier League’s history, as chosen by our writers, to commemorate the league’s 30th anniversary. Oliver Kay’s introduction to our Golden Games series (together with the criteria for selection) may be found here, along with a complete list of all the articles as they appear. It is difficult to choose 50 out of 309,949 possibilities. You won’t necessarily agree with their decisions or the sequence. They failed to.
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It’s not meant to be a comprehensive list. It’s a little amusing, but hopefully amusing that you’ll like. The Highbury Screamer, anyone? At Highbury, she had a reputation for shrieking in fright just as her opponent was ready to fire. Her alarm cry became a staple of broadcasts at the old stadium, so it must have been the perfect pitch for television microphones to pick up.
On April 9, 2004, the Highbury Screamer went full Edvard Munch, which added to the sense of approaching danger. Arsenal’s entire universe was exploding when Michael Owen drew back his foot to put Liverpool ahead shortly before halftime. A horrible week has just passed. Arsenal was aiming for a triple seven days ago. But a string of missteps put them in big peril. They suffered a heartbreaking elimination from the Champions League at the hands of Chelsea, lost the Football World Cup semifinal to Manchester United, and trailed Liverpool in the Premier League.
Their winning streak and confidence were at an all-time low. At halftime, a palpable apprehension pervaded the changing area. Thierry Henry says, I felt like the stadium stopped breathing. In a week we lost everything. People were talking about the treble, and we were enjoying such a terrific Premier League season. Arsene Wenger was a study of the many motivational styles. He once claimed that setting goals for oneself are the source of intrinsic drive.
They feel the urge to exert themselves within. They have some internal anguish or unhappiness that they channel into drive. This drive for improvement stems from a desire to create goals for oneself and reflect on one’s actions. Then there are some with external motives. People who tell kids things like, you have to do this much in the game or if you do that, you will get a huge bonus to encourage them. And they’d carry it out.
At halftime, Wenger glanced around the locker room and was immediately aware of the need for a strong motivational boost. It was one of the emotionally toughest situations Patrick Vieira has ever encountered. The day’s replacement player, Martin Keown, was concerned about the state of inertia and pleaded for his teammates to rally, which he did.
They succeeded by conjuring their usual sense of humour and spirit, even though the situation called for all their might. Henry dipped in from the left side of the field to poke a pass across. After some assistance from Freddie Ljungberg, Robert Pires equalised with his customarily impeccable timing. Although everyone could feel the relief, tension persisted since no one thought the outcome was yet secure.
Henry went into overdrive to expel all of Arsenal’s anxiety and thoroughly reenergize the team. When he took up the ball level with the centre circle, he had 10 opponents standing between him and the goal. He accelerated, bobbed and danced between them at lightning speed, and at the peak of his virtuoso run, bent his stroke beyond Jerzy Dudek. This objective required incredible daring, determination, and skill. Henry took off singing his version of the Highbury Scream, which was upbeat, adrenaline-pumping, and probably a few octaves lower. The Highbury crowd descended into chaos.
For his squad, it was an exceptional strike at an extraordinary time. In the book Invincible, Henry himself referred to it as more than a goal since it catalysed for everyone to feel their dreams rekindled. I only ever felt a stadium start to breathe again then. I never experienced that emotion again. I’ve never seen a squad experience such tremors. We gave our hearts to our response.
Dennis Bergkamp assisted on Henry’s less-than-stellar third goal, but it was nonetheless crucial since it put Liverpool’s chances of winning the game both financially and psychologically beyond their reach. Henry was deemed to be unplayable in the second half by Gerard Houllier. A single performance tipped the scales in favour of his squad. For more to know about Liverpool Vs Arsenal Tickets Click here.
Sessegnon at Spurs is the other player, and he was likely the best performer during the weekend, according to Murphy. He appears to be a great physical specimen, and Conte undoubtedly played a role in this. But he looked powerful, eager, and confident. He’s always had the technical talent, lovely left foot, terrific technique, and he can dribble. People assume Perisic will come into the side ahead of him but Spurs have a lot of games and if he plays as he did at the weekend, nobody will be strolling in ahead of him, the Spurs player said.
The added pressure that comes with being the primary protagonist is not something that many gamers are comfortable with. The other players did occasionally have a propensity to assume that their major front men would perform when called upon, even in a squad as skilled across the board as Arsenal’s that season. Henry and Bergkamp exemplified what it takes to make a difference.
We were expecting someone to do something extraordinary, and it happened, Vieira continued. He was to carry out our request. He stood by our side. When you are in trouble, you anticipate that he or Dennis will act. Let’s return to Wenger’s discussion on intrinsic vs extrinsic drive. Henry felt pushed by both when he emerged from the tunnel and into the second half against Liverpool.
The desire to win the championship and go undefeated, together with the recognition that would follow such an accomplishment, was the external factor. However, the intrinsic motive reveals intriguing details about Henry’s character and shows how determined he was. He was motivated by a deep-seated resentment stemming from feeling mistreated in a match versus Liverpool that had taken place three years before.
When it came to games against Liverpool, the 2001 FA Cup final sowed a deep-seated and intensely personal feeling of purpose. Two late Owen goals shattered Arsenal’s supremacy that day, but what truly infuriated many was a key choice made early on. Henry would have scored to give Arsenal a two-goal advantage, but Stephane Henchoz blocked the effort. But Henchoz did not receive a red card, a penalty, or a goal.
That contest was a farce, Henry thought. I was in shock. How can you miss a game like this? I returned home. It was very difficult to handle. I thought to myself, I felt something unique, especially when I used to play against Liverpool. When it came to that FA Cup final, I used to ensure that they would suffer once again rather than us.
There you have it, then. Henry was not only a unique football player due to his amazing combination of abilities, bravery, and physical strength, but he was also exceptional due to his extremely exacting sense of drive and a desire to win that was motivated by his own emotions.
He was able to respond, carry the burden of expectation, and make a difference as a result, which made him the crucial player that he was. Arsenal’s Invincibles may not have existed at all if not for those traits at their lowest point against Liverpool.
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