It was at Old Trafford at the tale end of the 2002 Premier League Season, with Arsenal facing Man Utd in what was literally the title decider.
A United win gives them a chance to successfully defend their title, Arsenal on the other hand needed to win to seal the domestic double.
Wiltord, who was often shunted to the right midfield role, was given a rare start upfront due to Henry’s injury. Wiltord made the most use the chance he was given and scored the goal that won Arsenal the Premier League title at Old Trafford. That goal alone inscribed Wiltord’s name, in gold, in the Arsenal folklore.
But that does not paint the picture of how Wiltord’s Arsenal career panned out.
Signing for a club record fee of £11m from Bordeaux after Euro 2000, the general perception was that he never hit the height he was capable of with us.
Wiltord was signed as a central striker, however he could not break the celestial combination of Henry and Denis Bergkamp. Consequently he was played on the right side of midfield.
Wenger’s decision to play him as an RMF soon looked a master stroke when Wiltord delivered 15 goals in his début season. At that time, things could only get better for him. His knack for being in the right position at the right time was underpinned by his impressive positional awareness. Indeed things got better for the Frenchman. 17 goals including an hat-trick at Highbury against West Ham, and the title winning goal at Old Trafford meant that he was on course to justifying the massive amount spent in acquiring him.
As the pair of King Henry and Bergkamp grew stronger, the chances of Wiltord breaking into the starting line-up dwindled.
The emergence of Bobby and Freddie didn’t help either.
The next two seasons of his Arsenal career was plagued with niggling injuries and dragging contract talks. Even when Wiltord was fit, he was reduced to playing inferior roles, either as a sub or as a starter in the cup games. Yet, he managed 18 goals for the club.
During the 2003 summer transfer window, Wiltord revealed to the press that there had been no breakthrough in contract talks with the club. Certainly to put potential buyers on alert. In response, Wenger responded that he’d be staying praising his mental strength in the process.
Wiltord felt he deserved more than a year extension to contract, Wenger wouldn’t offer more for a bit part player. A compromise was not reached. Wiltord left for his home-town club Lyon after his deal expired.