With Arsene Wenger under fire right now, we thought it’d be a good time to take a look back at his greatest Arsenal signings.
He’s not always been known for his outstanding signings, but the Frenchman has played some absolute blinders in the transfer market in the past.
Thierry Henry – £10.5m from Juventus (1999)
The man requires no introduction. He is possibly the best ever striker to have played in the Premier League and the club’s all-time top scorer. Of the three bronze statues outside the Emirates, Henry is the only one to have been signed by Wenger. Fair play, Arsene.
Henry scored a farcical 226 goals in 369 games for the club. He was so good, Wenger even signed him twice, bringing him back to the club in 2012. No prizes for guessing what happened when he came off the bench in a stalemate against Leeds…
Patrick Vieira – £3.5m from AC Milan (1996)
Another France legend makes the cut. And how could we not include Vieira? The midfielder was a juggernaut in the middle, but he had the touch and technique to elevate him to the echelon above enforcer. His leadership made him a sensational club captain and partnering him with Gilberto Silva was a masterstroke from Wenger.
While Robert Pires, Thierry Henry and Co ran riot in the Invincibles season, Vieira kept things ticking over. One of the best midfielders we’ve seen play in this country.
Sol Campbell – free from Tottenham (2001)
Sol Campbell managed to make himself the most hated man in Tottenham’s history when he made the decision to leave the club for their fiercest rivals. Not only were Spurs fans seeing a player swap White Hart Lane for Highbury, it was also arguably their biggest star.
Campbell was the best defender (except for, maybe, Ashley Cole) in an outstanding defence. He also played his best years at Arsenal, and Wenger didn’t have to spend a penny on him. Arsenal fans will also rank this signing highly because of the hurt it inflicted on Spurs fans.
Cesc Fabregas – free from Barcelona (2003)
So it’s hardly palatable for Arsenal fans to see Fabregas plying his trade at Chelsea, but Wenger’s talent-spotters unearthed a gem when they brought the young Spaniard to North London.
At 16, Fabregas’s rise coincided with the decline of Patrick Vieira’s role at the club. As a teenager, Fabregas was frighteningly good, helping Arsenal to the Champions League final in 2006.
A metronome in Arsenal’s midfield who Wenger helped develop into one of the league’s best at the time. During the barren trophy spell after the move to the Emirates, Fabregas was the shining light until he returned to Barcelona.
Alexis Sanchez – £35m from Barcelona (2014)
OK, so this one’s not only pricey, but it’s also a very recent signing. But Sanchez is one of two signings – along with Mesut Ozil – that hailed the return of Arsenal as a major threat in the transfer market. But after years of reluctance to spend big, Wenger first coughed up on Ozil, then brought in the all-action Chilean.
Ozil may be among the best No 10s in the top flight, but Sanchez looks like a class apart. Every time he gets the ball, he looks like he could create something. He’s got an eye for a goal himself too.
But like Wenger himself, it’s all a bit unclear as to whether Sanchez will be anywhere near the Emirates next season. Watch this space.
Mesut Ozil – £42.4m from Real Madrid (2013)
As mentioned above, Ozil represented more than just a big-money signing, he was a colossal statement of intent from Wenger and the club. Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t happy to see the man who loves to put the ball on a platter for his team-mates leave the Bernabeu, and it looked like something of a coup when Wenger brought in the Germany playmaker.
And he’s passed his way into the fans’ hearts with some incredible performances. Ozil gives you goals. Well, he gives his team-mates goals. Last season he topped the assist charts with 19 – just one short of the record set by Henry – and has continued his fine form.
Like Sanchez, he’ll be a club legend in years to come if he stays in North London.