The Greatest Arsenal Defender Ever: Mr Arsenal

 Tony Adams: 1983-2002

Tony played in 669 games over a 19 year period.

Born in Romford, London, Tony grew up in Dagenham before signing for Arsenal as a schoolboy in 1980. He made his Arsenal first team debut in November 1983 just four weeks after his 17th birthday and became a regular player in the 1985–86 season, winning the Football League Cup Final, his first major trophy, in 1987.

Alongside Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn and Steve Bould, he was part of the “famous back four” that lined up in Arsenal’s defence – they became renowned for the use of their well-disciplined offside trap. On 1 January 1988, he became Arsenal captain at the age of 21 and remained as such until his retirement 14 years later.

Their, strong and disciplined defence was  a major a factor in Arsenal winning the League Cup in 1986–87 followed by two First Division championship titles; the first in 1988–89 and the second in 1990–91 after losing only one game all season. In 1992–93 he became captain of the first English side to win the League Cup and FA Cup double, and he lifted the European Cup Winners’ Cup the following year.

All along Tony had a ghost in his closet, namely his battle with alcoholism, which started in the mid-1980s and became increasingly worse; reportedly he was often being involved in fights in nightclubs. On 6 May 1990, he crashed his car and when  breathalysed his blood alcohol level was found to be more than four times the legal drink-drive limit, in December of that year, he was found guilty and he was imprisoned for four months. Unfortunately his alcoholism continued and he was involved in further alcohol-related incidents. In September of 1996, he went public admitting that he was an alcoholic and was receiving treatment. Since his recovery he has become one of the most high-profile recovering alcoholics in the UK and his battle with alcohol is detailed in his autobiography, “Addicted”.

The arrival of Arsène Wenger as Arsenal manager in October 1996 has also played a significant part in his recovery as Wenger reformed the club’s dietary practices and the players’ lifestyles. Wenger showed his faith in Tony by sticking by him and keeping him as the club’s captain, the improvements in the regime probably helped to extend his career by several years. Arsene’s trust was rewarded with Tony captaining the club to two Premiership and FA Cup Doubles, in 1997–98 and 2001–02. He is the only player in English football history to have captained a title-winning team in three different decades.

In August 2002, just before the start of the 2002–03 season, he announced his retirement from professional football after a career spanning almost 20 years in which he played 669 matches for Arsenal making him second on the all time appearance list, he is also the most successful captain in the club’s history.

He made his debut for England against Spain in 1987, and played in Euro 88, scoring one of England’s two goals. He was the first player to represent England who had been born after the 1966 World Cup win. In total he appeared 66 times for England.

Nicknamed “Mr Arsenal”, he was honoured by Arsenal with a testimonial game against Celtic in May 2002 with many Arsenal legends playing, including Ian Wright, John Lukic and Adams’s fellow back four stalwarts, Dixon, Winterburn and Bould. The game finished 1–1 with Lee Dixon, in his final appearance for the Gunners, getting their goal.

In 2004, Tony was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in recognition of his impact on the English game. A statue of Adams was placed outside Emirates Stadium in celebration of the club’s 125th anniversary on 9 December, 2011. He has also been honoured with the MBE for his contribution to football.

By GN5

20 thoughts on “The Greatest Arsenal Defender Ever: Mr Arsenal

  • GN5, super post about one of my favourite Gunners ever. TA06 just had it all and was then lucky that Arsene arrived to give him another lease of life. Well Arsene was just as lucky to have TA at his disposal so he did not have to worry too much about the team’s defending; and without that defence who knows how long Arsene would have lasted at Arsenal?

    Adams was a clear winner and leader and his reign as captain of 14 years says it all.

  • Captain at age 21? Demonstrating leadership at that age is incredibly rare. This was all before I started following football, but I think maybe I’d pick up a lot of relevant and interesting Arsenal history from reading his book. Thanks GN5.

  • Tony Adams was a true Arsenal great; Mr. Arsenal, for sure. Never knew he got to become captain so young. A testament to his sterling leadership qualities; pity, he hasn’t been able to replicate that as a Coach, but I like his frankness when on punditry duties. Also not afraid to admit it if he was wrong.

    Hopefully, he can lead a fulfilled life, from here and be brought into the club hierarchy some day, in some capacity.

    Thanks for sharing this, GN5.

  • Being captain at 21 is indeed remarkable. There are some similar success stories (including Vieira 18 for Cannes, de Ligt 19 for Ajax, Torres 19 for Atletico Madrid, Jonas 18 for Nottingham, Rice 21 for West Ham, etc.), but indeed show universal acceptance and leadership qualities. And Tony tops it with an exceptionally rare loyalty of staying a one-club man in his long playing career.

    Without challenging Adams’s merits as a player a bit, he had great skills to alienate practically everybody at the club in the past decade. He insulted – including but not limited to – Wenger, Edu, Bellerin, Leno, Emery, Arteta, Kroenke, etc. I don’t see him coming back to the club, especially with his abysmal track record as a coach, and his hurtful stance as a pundit.

  • Morning all,

    Here are the competition results for the International week:-

    1st: Kev and JWL with 4/6 plus 2 bonus points.
    2nd: PB and GN5 with 3/6
    3rd: Total with 2/6
    Season to date results:-
    1st: Kev with 31 points
    2nd: Gooneris with 28 points
    3rd: PB with 27.33 points
    4th: GN5 with 26 points
    5th: JWL with 23.33 points
    6th: Total with 21 points
    7th: LEGALL with 18.33 points

  • Mr. Arsenal made an incredible contribution to Arsenal and his passion, steel and energy was seemingly endless. I could fill several pages with images of him during games that demonstrate just how much he inspired those around him – he was not just “one of the boys” he was the “boy”
    He started off life at Arsenal by cleaning the senior players boots and ended up as the long time captain and a bronze statue outside the ground in his honour, plus an MBE.

    We need more Mr Arsenal’s.

  • PB,
    I agree that his post Arsenal years have not been his best – but I do enjoy listening to him as a pundit.

  • My selections for the games the weekend of November 21st & 22nd.

    Tottenham v Manchester City
    Manchester United v WBA
    Leeds v Arsenal
    Liverpool v Leicester
    Fulham v Everton
    Aletico Madrid v Barcelona

  • My predictions for this weekend’s game’s.

    Tottenham v Manchester City – H
    Manchester United v WBA – H
    Leeds v Arsenal – A
    Liverpool v Leicester – A
    Fulham v Everton – A
    Aletico Madrid v Barcelona – H

  • Tottenham v Manchester City – A
    Manchester United v WBA – H
    Leeds v Arsenal – A
    Liverpool v Leicester – D
    Fulham v Everton – D
    Atletico Madrid v Barcelona – D

  • Aaaaarrgh! That’s not good news for Arsenal, GN5; just when Elneny was turning into a fan’s favourite. Hopefully, we should cope without him for the games he would miss, but I can imagine the coach wanting the competition he brings to the side. Well, it could have been worse. It could have been a long term injury (see Napoli’s Victor Osimhen).

  • Tottenham vs Man City… H
    Man Utd vs West Brom.. H
    Leeds vs Arsenal………. D
    Liverpool vs Leicester.. D
    Fulham vs Everton…… A
    Atletico vs Barcelona… H

  • Thanks for the competition update, GN5! Kev is speeding away! 😉

    My predictions:

    Tottenham v Manchester City – Away
    Manchester United v WBA – Away
    Leeds v Arsenal – Away
    Liverpool v Leicester – Away
    Fulham v Everton – Away
    Aletico Madrid v Barcelona – Away


  • Not literally I ain’t Total, maybe next month when hopefully the restrictions come down again.

    Referring to J above, Adams also captained the team and won the league in three different decades, that has to be some kind of record?

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