Robert Pires' top five Arsenal moments
With Robert Pires on Thursday, ESPN FC takes a look back at the best of the Frenchman in an Arsenal shirt.
Robert Pires will always be remembered as a club legend at Arsenal, having scored 84 goals in a six-year stint that included two Premier League titles and three FA Cups.
The elegant Frenchman, who officially announced his retirement on Thursday at the age of 42, created a long list of highlight moments and spectacular goals during his time at Arsenal before leaving for Villarreal in 2006. Here's a look at five of the best.
1. That goal against Aston Villa - March 2002
Pires helped lead Arsenal to the Premier League title in 2001-02, and his personal highlight was the audacious goal he scored away at Aston Villa. Running onto a long ball from Freddie Ljungberg, Pires first flicked the ball over defender George Boateng to go clear on goal and then sent a cheeky lob over Villa goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel into the net. That piece of brilliance had even Sky Sports commentator Andy Gray applauding on air.
2. Hat trick against Southampton - May 2003
Speaking of cheeky lobs, his long-distance effort to complete a hat trick against Southampton in the penultimate game of the 2002-03 season wasn't bad either.
In terms of importance, it won't go down as one of his most decisive: Arsenal were up 5-1 and the Gunners had already surrendered the title to Manchester United. But in terms of skill, it's right up there. When Southampton defender Paul Telfer couldn't clear a through-ball, Pires simply hit a first-time effort from about 30 yards that looped teasingly over the goalkeeper and into net.
3. Deciding the FA Cup final - May 2003
Arsenal were the clear favourites against Southampton in the 2003 FA Cup final, but needed Pires to put away their plucky opponents and secure a 1-0 victory to defend the title. After Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp linked up to find Ljungberg in the area, the Swede's shot was deflected by a defender and fell to Pires. The Frenchman calmly controlled the ball with one touch before slotting it into the net with his second.
4. Winner at Anfield kickstarts "Invincibles" season - October 2003
Pires was one of the driving forces behind Arsenal's unbeaten league season in 2003-04, and one of his biggest -- and most spectacular -- contributions came at Anfield. With Arsenal having won just one of their last five games, they initially trailed at Liverpool before drawing level through an own goal. And Pires then secured a crucial victory after collecting a pass well outside the area in the 67th minute, drifting in toward the centre of the pitch and curling a magnificent shot into the far corner.
5. Lifting the trophy after being injured - May 2002
The 2001-02 season was arguably Pires' finest, and one the Frenchman's defining moments came without even playing. He missed the final two months of the campaign with an injury, but still led the league in assists and was voted Player of the Year by the Football Writers Association. After Arsenal won the league title with a game to spare, the team gave Pires a special ovation during the trophy presentation at home on the last day of the season. Wearing his Arsenal shirt, Pires collected his winners' medal and raised the Premier League trophy while his teammates all bowed down in homage on the Highbury pitch -- leaving no doubt about the impact he'd had on the title-winning campaign.
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him @MattiasKaren.