Here we are 11 years since Dennis Bergkamp last touched the Emirates grass, and yet some of us still remember moments he created with the clarity of yesterday. Enough has been said and written about his overall qualities as a footballer. Doubts about them were never had, only superlative statements. He could do it all – score goals, make assists, keep the ball, head it and lead.
In a way this article does injustice to Bergkamp, for I am about to venture into a small chunk of his football artistry: his ability to assist for goals. For the purpose of he ranking, I have taken into consideration the difficulty of execution, vision and the amount of work the receiver has to do after the pass. Having to choose from 116 quality assists in total, believe me, It wasn't an easy job.
Here they are:
10. Bergkamp assists for Vieira against Chelsea
Here is an example of Bergkamp’s ability to spot a weakness in oppositional defences. It all started with a one-two in the centre of the park, with Vieira dashing for goal. Pires ran diagonally taking the centre back with him and ensuring there is hole into which Vieira to fall in. With the Dutch maestro on the ball, guess where it ended up next.
9. Bergkamp - for Vieira against Leicester City
Another great link-up between the two Arsenal behemoths. The attack had fallen asleep with the ball in Bergkamps's feet when one little run by Vieira in among a host of players was enough set things in motion. The result was this.
8. Bergkamp - for Henry
Who said Bergkamp could split defences with ground passes only. In this instance he ignores the build-up of the attack and kills the game with a perfect lobbed ball to Henry, who, let’s be honest, rarely gets it wrong. You don’t need endless tiki-taka when you have Bergkamp on your side.
7. Bergkamp - for Henry against Celta Vigo
Bergkamp demonstrated something extraordinary in Round Two of the Champions League against Celta Vigo at Highbury.
What is often labeled ‘chemistry’ is the player's ability to spot or predict the movement and the position of his partner without actual communication.
Arsenal beat Celta 2-0 courtesy of two goals by Henry, the first one of which, Henry later described: “I was just hoping Dennis could see me. I did not want to shout because I knew I was through. But he saw me and found the pass. Few players could have done that.”
6. Bergkamp - for Overmars against Newcastle
The rule is simple. For the passer: pass the ball into the free space. For the one making the run: run into the free space. Here is another instance of that happening with Bergkamp brilliantly releasing Marc Overmars. The move is at the 1:44 mark.
5. Bergkamp - for Vieira
And yet another demonstration of vision by the Iceman: Vieira initiated a run down the left, Bergkamp had already spotted him before he received the ball. Then, one-touch lob to leave Vieira absolutely free in a one-on-one position with the keeper. The move is at the 1:36 mark.
4. Bergkamp - for Ashley Cole against Aston Villa
It’s rare when an assist eclipses a quality strike. It was on a night in early February in 2005 when Bergkamp, in the twilight of his career, received a lobbed ball on the left. His mind had already worked out what was going to happen as the ball flew towards him.
3. Bergkamp - for Henry again
A little two-touch pirouette and a gentle flick with the outside of the foot to release Henry behind the defense with enough time for the French striker to slow down and casually shoot. These are the benefits strikers got from a Bergkamp pass – shishas-and-pillows giggles behind the defense but on-side.
2. Assist for Tony Adams against Tottenham Hostpur
It was Bergkamp’s first season with Arsenal. They year is 1996, the month – November. The venue: Highbury.
If Bergkamp’s elegant first touch near the goal-line releasing Tony Adams for the second goal stood out for its skill, wait until you see his goal minutes later, but that’s another story…
1. Assist for Freddy Ljuingberg against Juventus
The Italian’s deadly striking force in David Trezaguet and Alessandro Del Pierro was kept quiet on the night. On the other end, Bergkamp kept the ball near the edge of the box and made the heads of two poor Juventus souls spin and then released Ljuigberg with a brilliant outside-footed pass.