Arsene Wenger has signed more than 100 players at a cost of over £400 million during his 18 seasons with the Premier League club. Here is a rundown of his 10 best signings.
10. Aaron Ramsey, £4.8 million from Cardiff, June 2008.
A lone representative from the current squad on this list. Wenger beat Sir Alex Ferguson to Ramsey’s signature. After a slow and injury-hit start, Ramsey is becoming a formidable all-round midfielder.
9. Robin van Persie, £2.75 million from Feyenoord, May 2004.
The only player on this list assured of a hostile welcome on his next visit to the Emirates, Van Persie was nonetheless a relentless goalscorer, netting 132 times in 277 games before joining Manchester United.
8. Marc Overmars, £6 million from Ajax, June 1997.
Overmars’s 1st season alone earns him legendary status. The Dutchman hit the winner at Old Trafford, a result that propelled Arsenal towards the title and then scored in the FA Cup final.
7. Fredrik Ljungberg, £3 million from Halmstads, 1998.
A master of perfectly-timed runs into the box and beneficiary of Dennis Bergkamp‘s assists, the Swede peaked in spring 2002, when a run of 7 goals in 8 games powered Arsenal to their 2nd double in 4 years.
6. Nicolas Anelka, £500,000 from Paris Saint-Germain, February 1997.
Arsenal never quite saw the best of Anelka, but a £22 million profit in 2 years and a key role in the 1997/1998 Double-winning side make him a worthy inclusion in the top 10.
5. Robert Pires, £6 million from Marseille, July 2000.
Wenger’s 3rd Musketeer alongside Vieira and Henry, Pires blossomed after an indifferent 1st season to win the Football Writers’ Player of the Year award in 2002. He scored 84 goals in 6 seasons.
4. Cesc Fabregas, £500,000 from Barcelona, September 2003.
Barcelona fans claim Arsenal stole Fabregas from the Catalan giants. Fabregas matured into one of the world’s best midfielders before returning to the Camp Nou for £35 million in 2011. Welcome home Fabregas.
3. Sol Campbell, free transfer from Tottenham, July 2001.
Campbell was a revered pillar in the Tottenham backline and his dominant displays had made him an England regular. So Wenger’s ability to pinch their arch rivals’ greatest asset for free was arguably his greatest transfer feat. Campbell, whose contract had run down, made the shock announcement that he was joining Spurs’ loathed rivals at a news conference. Some journalists had arrived expecting Wenger to announce a deal for goalkeeper Wright only to be greeted by Campbell. The defender won the double in his first season at Arsenal and then helped the Invincibles win the title in 2004 at Spurs, whose supporters labelled him ‘Judas’ for making the move. He was a central figure in Arsenal’s run to the final of the 2005/2006 Champions League but suffered personal problems during the campaign. He left the stadium at half-time of a league match against West Ham United after asking to be substituted but returned weeks later to score for Arsenal in their first Champions League final which they lost 2-1 to Barcelona.
2. Thierry Henry, £10.5 million from Juventus, August 1999.
8 games had gone by without Henry scoring with fans questioning his arrival before the young Frenchman came off the bench to replace Nwankwo Kanu and notch a curling right-footed winner from 25 metres at Southampton, the 1st of 228 goals he would score for Arsenal. Many of those goals came from Henry pulling away to the left of the pitch and using his searing pace to get in behind defences as his talents and animated personality on the field helped endear him to fans upset at the loss of Nicolas Anelka. Henry was at his prime during the Invincibles campaign, where he had risen to become the team’s penalty taker and set-piece specialist. He was routinely Premier League top scorer and considered one of the best strikers in the world. He assumed the captaincy upon Vieira’s departure, but could not add to his 2 League titles and 3 FA Cups as Arsenal lost the Champions League final in 2006 to Barcelona, the club he joined a year later. He returned to Arsenal for a brief cameo in January 2012 on loan from New York Red Bulls, scoring a last minute winner against Sunderland in his final Premier League appearance, adding to his elevated status at the club.
1. Patrick Vieira, £3.5 million from AC Milan, August 1996.
Wenger only joined the club in September 1996 but he had already begun recruiting players and his first set the tone for a decade of success. On August 14, Vieira joined Arsenal, along with compatriot Remi Garde, to zero fanfare with little known about the gangly, young Frenchman born in Senegal and who had barely featured for Milan in his one season in Italy. However, he quickly demonstrated his powerful, box-to-box abilities and he flourished in the centre of the midfield before reaching new heights with the arrival of compatriot Emmanuel Petit the following season. A creative midfielder who could score goals as well as break up play, he succeeded Tony Adams as the club’s captain and skippered ‘The Invincibles’ side to the Premier League title by going undefeated in the 2003-2004 season. Having been linked with numerous clubs, he eventually left Arsenal after 9 years, 406 appearances, 33 goals, 3 league titles and 4 FA Cups. His final act was to score the winning penalty in the 2005 FA Cup shootout victory over Manchester United, Arsenal’s last trophy.