As Arsene Wenger completes his 20th Anniversary managing the Gunners on October 1 we take a look at some of his best as well as worst signings during the Frenchman’s tenure. The Frenchman is very well known for his knack to to find diamonds in the rough. During his time at Arsenal , Wenger has handed over 200 players (that’s right) their debut but sad to say not all of them have impressed equally.
So who do fans regard as Wenger’s best signings? And who have been his worst?
Here they are, Arsene Wenger’s top five signings and five signings they could’ve done without. Let’s take a look.
Thierry Henry – 10.5 million pounds from Juventus (1999)
Who else could’ve topped this list? Arsenal’s greatest player ever. One of the best the premier league has ever seen. A talisman immortalised outside the Emirates. Of the three legends that you see everytime you enter the Emirates , the Frenchman is the only one signed by Wenger.
A survey of tens of thousands of fans by the club confirmed Henry as the popular choice to be named the club’s best ever player.
Henry scored a whopping 226 goals for the club in just 369 appearances. We can talk about statistics all day but it won’t do justice that thunderous volley against Manchester United, or that mind-boggling run against Spurs followed by the celebratory pose which gives goosebumps still.
There’s no end to what Henry has done for Arsenal, be it him taking on the whole Real Madrid team at once or that hat-trick against Liverpool which saved the Gunners unbeaten row when they had just about given up.
In a career filled with warm memories, one of his fondest is his strike against Leeds in 2012 in the FA cup – that was his first upon returning to North London and his first as a self-professed Arsenal ‘fan’.
Patrick Vieira – 3.5 million pounds from AC Milan (1996)
Technically signed before the Frenchman officially
took over as manager – the honour of his first official signing goes to Nicholas Anelka – Patrick Vieira was nonetheless a Wenger signing through and through.
Known for bossing his team-mates from the center of the park as well coupling the elegance in his play with his cunning mind and fearsomeness(Roy Keane must know better) , he went on to captain the famous Invincibles.
His rivalry with Roy Keane , at the peak of tensions between Arsenal and Manchester United, Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson, is one of the defining images of the Premier League at it’s very best.
The Frenchman had a hot head, often getting into bad challenges or fights which often resulted into the Frenchman getting sent off. His disciplinary record was really quite atrocious.
But he was so good the rest of the time that it more than made up for the games when Arsenal had to carry on with ten.
His nine-year spell at Arsenal saw him win 3 Premier Leagues and 4 FA Cups and not to mention a World Cup and a European Championship with France.
His last game for the Gunners was the 2005 FA Cup final(which the Gunners won), hence ending his Arsenal career on a high.
Sol Campbell- free from Spurs (2001)
One of the most bitter transfers in the Premier league saw Sol Campbell move to Arsenal from their arch-rivals Spurs for free. Campbell made over 250 appearance for the Spurs in his career there spanning nearly a decade and captained them to League Cup victory in 1999.
But at Arsenal he would become a true legend.
With the Gunners he won 2 Premier League titles and 3 FA cups including the double in 2004.
He contributed to a run of 10 Champions League clean sheets over 995 long and painstaking minutes en-route to the final which is by far closest the club has come to achieving any football club’s most coveted prize
Campbell’s greatest achievement by far would be pairing up with Ivorian international Kolo Tore following his arrival in 2002. Such solid and great was the partnership that they helped Arsenal win the league unbeaten in 2004 and forever becoming Arsenal legends.
But while Campbell is considered a legend in one half of North London, the other half has nothing but bitterness for the defender who along with Arsenal won the title at White Hart Lane. Ouch.
Gilberto Silva – 4.5 million pounds from Athletico Mineiro (2002)
Gilberto Silva can very well be called as one of the most under-rated Arsene Wenger signings. Though excluded often from the list of the leagues greatest ever midfielders, he along with Claude Makalele helped redefine the role and overall play-method of a defensive midfielder during the Premier League’s most grand years.
Nicknamed as the “Invisible Wall” his contribution to not only to the game but most importantly defensively helped ease out the pressure on the Gunner’s defence and helped the likes of Vieira to get forward with the ball which would most of the time result in goals.
His career at Arsenal ended in what some may call as ‘unpleasant’. Having served the Gunners for 6 long years one would’ve expected a decent send off at the least if not a contract extension. But the Brazilian was stripped of his captain’s armband which was handed to Gallas as a part of a poor attempt by Wenger in rebuilding the Invincibles squad. Rumours about Silva not knowing about this decision beforehand made it look even worse.
Fast forward to 2008. Silva left Arsenal for the sunny shores of Athens and a fresh challenge at Panathanaikos.
Cesc Fabregas – free from Barcelona (2003)
Another world-class signing by Wenger, Fabregas hit the ground ru
nning at Arsenal at the young age of just 16 years and 177 days making him the youngest Arsenal player first-team player. Sadly he was not awarded the winner’s medal in the 2003-04 season when Arsenal won the league unbeaten as he did not feature in any of the league games. He did become their youngest goal-scorer that season when he scored against Wolverhampton in a 5-1 win for the Gunners.
The Spaniard’s meteoric rise in the club’s ranks was largely facilitated by their injury prone midfield and the likes of Vieira and Gilberto Silva were now being deemed surplus by Wenger due to the performances being put in by the teenager. The 2-0 win against Juventus saw the Frenchman being humbled by the young Spaniard a number of times, which altogether proved that the future of Arsenal’s midfield was in good hands.
The 2005 FA Cup remains the only trophy Fabregas could lay his hands on during his time at Arsenal which ultimately led to a thing most Arsenal fans would call as ‘inevitable’. A transfer. The transfer saw Fabregas move back to Barcelona where he won a huge chunk of his major trophies during his three year spell at Camp Nou. But in 2014 the Premier League came calling once again but this time it was Chelsea who landed his signature. Not many Arsenal fans have forgiven Fabregas for this move especially how he engineered a move away from Arsenal.
The major contribution by the Spaniard to Arsenal at that time was the switch from pace and power for which the Invincibles were known to the tiki taka that he had learned during his time at Barcelona’s La Masia academy.
All in all Fabregas was one of Wenger’s gems who at time carried the most mediocre teams of Wenger’s reign allowing them to punch significantly above their weight and come within touching distance of the sun on so many occasions.