Arsène Wenger originally recruited Emmanuel Petit while at Monaco, handing his fellow Frenchman his debut while he was still a teenager. For the most part he served the French outfit at the back but, when he arrived at Arsenal, Wenger saw a different path. In the early stages of his Highbury sojourn some felt Petit's transformation into a midfielder wasn't working. Those who showed patience were right to do so.
The left-footed Petit operated from a deep-lying position, equally adept at breaking up play as he was in conducting the style of Arsenal's attack. The back-to-front floater was his trademark, unlocking opposing defences with razor-sharp accuracy.
|Arsenal Career||1997 - 2000|
|Appearances||118 (114 starts, 4 as a sub)|
But the bedrock of Petit's game was his intellect and strength. His days as a defender ensured his positioning was impeccable and covering team-mates who had ventured forward came as second nature. He was abrasive in the tackle, fearsome in the air and a staunch worker on and off the ball.
By the time the title race entered the home straight in Petit's first season, the pony-tailed player was at the peak of his powers and in glorious tandem with Patrick Vieira. Arsenal surged towards glory with the Frenchman's impact and improvement celebrated with the Premier League Player of the Month award for April. The title and FA Cup duly followed.
His influence reached beyond the Club, too. In the summer of 1998 Petit played a significant role for the French national team in the World Cup. A superb tournament came to climax with two assists and a goal in the competition's showpiece in Paris.
Fans marvelled at the Arsenal No 17, confident that, at 28, he was in his prime. With the younger Vieira thriving alongside him the future looked bright at Highbury. It was, but Petit wasn't part of it. He left in 2000 for sunnier climbs in Barcelona before returning London, this time with Chelsea.