Five of the Best Kanu Goals for Arsenal

Kanu celebrating scoring for Arsenal

1. Middlesbrough, Premier League, 24 April 1999

Arsenal went into the spring of 1999 in excellent form, with high hopes of retaining the title. On the back of a 5-1 home win against Wimbledon, the Gunners made it eleven goals in two games, with a 6-1 thrashing of Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium taking them top of the table.

Kanu had joined Arsenal just two months earlier, as back up to Dennis Bergkamp and Nicolas Anelka. He settled quickly and on just his third Premier League start, scored two and assisted another as the Gunners destroyed Boro with a dominant display that the BBC called "a mesmerising performance of championship-winning quality".

The Nigerian scored his first, and Arsenal’s third - a neat finish from an Anelka cross just before half-time - but it was his second that took the breath away, when he met Lee Dixon’s cross with a superbly improvised back heeled flick into the far corner.

There was still time for Kanu to set up another goal for Anelka, but despite the overall quality of the six goals scored, Kanu’s impudent finish stood out.

2. Tottenham, Premier League, 5 May 1999

Manchester United won their famous treble in 1999 but Arsenal pushed them close domestically. The Gunners were narrowly beaten in the FA Cup semi-final by United and took an exciting Premier League title race to the very last day of the season.

Arsenal’s victory at White Hart Lane, on the same evening that United were held to a 2-2 draw at Liverpool, put the Gunners top and favourites to retain their Premier League crown. Emmanuel Petit and Nicolas Anelka put a dominant Arsenal 2-0 up, only for Darren Anderton to pull one back with a free-kick that David Seaman should probably have saved.

With Spurs pushing for an unlikely point, Arsene Wenger sent on Kanu for Dennis Bergkamp. Kanu - already a cult hero with the Arsenal fans - sealed his status with a fantastic, individual goal. Patrick Vieira chipped a long pass into his path and Kanu, on the edge of the area, backed into Luke Young, flicked the ball over the befuddled defender’s head, and fired the ball past Ian Walker.

Related article: Five of the best Premier League goals against Spurs

3. Preston North End, League Cup, 12 October 1999

Although Nicolas Anelka left for Real Madrid in the summer of 1999, the signings of Thierry Henry and Davor Suker meant there was still plenty of competition for places in the forward positions.

Kanu continued getting plenty of game time though and started the season as Arsene Wenger’s preferred partner for Dennis Bergkamp. Preston North End came to Highbury in the fourth round of the League Cup for a match which was almost completely forgettable, bar another moment of magic from Kanu. Only 15,239 spectators turned up for this one - a pretty dire attendance, even by League Cup standards. They were treated to a very Kanu goal though. Henry released Kanu on the left and with time and space to pick a spot either side of the keeper, the striker of course did neither. First he dribbled it past the goalie. Then faced with a retreating defender, Kanu’s dummy didn’t just put him on his backside, but into a spectacular loss of balance which made it look as if he’d been picked off by a sniper.

The final act was to smash the ball into the roof of the net, rather than roll it in. It was all so beautiful and all so Kanu.

4. Chelsea, Premier League, 23 October 1999

Kanu’s best performance for Arsenal and one, of the Premier League's iconic moments looked unlikely with 15 minutes left of what looked like a routine home win for Chelsea.

Trailing 2-0, Kanu dragged Arsenal back into the match with two neat finishes, then scored a stunning winner. After blocking a clearance, the Nigerian, virtually on the touchline, dribbled past the onrushing Ed de Goey and finished from a seemingly impossible angle.

Building on a promising start to his Arsenal career, this seemed like the start of something very special, but Kanu would go another four months before scoring again. His Arsenal career would become defined by a smattering of these magical moments, rather than the week in, week out consistency provided by contemporaries like Bergkamp and Henry.

See also: Every Arsenal Premier League hat-trick ranked

5. Deportivo La Coruna, UEFA Cup, 2 March 2000

Kanu might not have been the most consistent performer, but he had moments of sublime skill, ingenuity and imagination that most players wouldn't even be able to think of, let alone execute.

Arsenal faced Deportivo in the UEFA Cup, qualifying via a disappointing third place finish in their Champions League group. Arsenal's Champions League home matches had been played at Wembley, where they struggled, but the UEFA Cup saw Arsenal back at Highbury and their fantastic home form helped propel them to the final. Deportivo were top of La Liga and looked like they would be difficult opponents, but a high octane performance and some great finishing saw the Gunners to a convincing 5-1 victory.

A defensive mix up saw the ball fall to Kanu about 30 yards out. He nodded it forward with a cushioned header and was one on one with the goalkeeper, who seemed slow to close the oncoming striker down. It's tempting to say the keeper was sold a dummy, but there was no discernable movement, no swivel of the hips, no dip of the shoulder, no foot rolled over the ball. Kanu simply let the ball keep rolling, fooling the keeper by doing nothing. Sometimes less really is more. The perplexed keeper dived out of the way allowing Kanu to stroll past him and side-foot into an empty net. The most imaginative goals provoke natural and unscripted responses from match commentators; in this case, Martin Tyler and Andy Gray gasped and chuckled along with most of the Highbury crowd at this stroke of minimalist genius.