With Thomas Vermaelen set to be another top signing by Arsene Wenger, following his 2 goals against Wigan yesterday and his general defensive reassurance he's brought to the Arsenal back 4 in their opening couple of game, here is my opinions on Arsene Wenger's Top 10 Arsenal signings over the years:
Juventus thought they'd done a good job after selling Thierry Henry for a loss of £500,000 when Arsene Wenger was willing to pay £10,000,000 in the summer of 1999 to reunite him with the pacey Frenchman he briefly played at Monaco in the early 90's. A flop on the left wing at Juventus, Wenger took a gamble on a player who hadn't quite lived up to his potential shown at Monaco. At Arsenal Henry transitioned into a striker and in no time became a regular goalscorer and Highbury hero. Henry scored 174 league goals in 8 seasons at Arsenal, ending as the Premier League top scorer on 4 occasions. A huge part of Arsenal's success during his time there, he helped them lift the Premier League trophy twice, FA Cup three times and reach the Champions League final for the first time in their history in 2006. His pace, skill and crisp finishing makes him one of Arsenal and the world's greatest ever players. Arsenal have not won a trophy since he left to join Barcelona in 2007.
An unknown sigining from AC Milan (£3,500,000) in September 1996, Patrick Vieira's physical presence helped him to become an integral part of the Arsenal squad during his 9 year stay. Tough in the tackle, Vieira endlessly broke up attacks from the opposition and helped start attacks of their own. A key part of their midfield, Wenger has yet to find a suitable replacement for the World Cup and European Championships winner. Taking over the captaincy following Tony Adams' retirement, Vieira won the Premier League on three occasions and the FA Cup four times.
After Marc Overmars was sold on to Barcelona for £25,000,000, Arsene Wenger spent £6,000,000 of that to replace him with Marseille winger Robert Pires. He didn't disappoint. Arsenal had landed a fantastic partnership on the wings with Freddie Ljungberg on the opposite side. His trickery, and exquisite passing ability helped Arsenal to much success in the new millennium. A two-time Premier League winner and three-time FA Cup winner, Pires wasn't popular with fans of other sides in the Premier League for his oft-simulation that came into the spotlight at the beginning of their unbeaten 2003/04 campaign in a game against Portsmouth where he made contact with Dejan Stefanovic and went down to earn a penalty that Arsenal scored their equaliser from. Regardless of that, you can't deny the talent Pires brought to the Premier League and will long live in the list of Arsenal legends.
Marc Overmars became of Arsene Wenger's revolution at Arsenal when he signed from Ajax in 1997 for £7,000,000. His pace and flair down the left wing made him one of Arsenal's best goal threats during his three year stay, scoring 25 league goals from the wing during that time. He was then sold on to Barcelona for £25,000,000 in the first summer of the new millennium. Overmars was already well-known before Wenger signed him after success at Ajax and a regular in the Dutch national team. A crucial part of their first Premier League title and double-winning 1997/98 season.
Part of the current creative Arsenal midfield, Cesc Fabregas became a regular of the Arsenal midfield at just aged 17. He soon became a star with his fantastic creativity in midfield despite Arsenal fans trying to compare him to the player he replaced – Patrick Vieira. A completely different player, despite not scoring too many, he is always involved in their goals. He has only won 1 FA Cup, this being his sixth season with the London side, and faces continual speculation linking him back to his youth team, Barcelona. A superb pickup by Wenger who would be guaranteed to make a huge profit for the Gunners should he move to Barcelona. He took over the Arsenal captaincy from William Gallas in November 2008.
One of the handful of great wingers Arsene Wenger has brought in during his tenure at Arsenal. Freddie Ljungberg signed as an unknown from Swedish side Halmstads in 1998. He made one of the quickest hits on his debut by scoring as a substitute in a 3-0 win over rivals Manchester United. He scored in half of his games during the 2001/02 campaign where he picked up his first of two Premier League titles. He also scored in the FA Cup final that year to seal the double. He has 3 FA Cup winners medals and scored in two finals. He and Robert Pires were a delight on the wings for Arsenal at the start of the new millennium. He was sold on to West Ham in 2007 for the same price Arsenal paid for him 9 years before (£3,000,000) when his legs started to go.
7. Kolo Toure
Signed in 2002 for a nominal fee from a club in his home country Ivory Coast, Kolo Toure was originally a utility man, playing in midfield and at right back before Wenger made a master stroke by partnering him with Sol Campbell in the centre of the Arsenal defence. During his 7 years at Arsenal, Toure became an unknown to one of the best defenders in the world before moving to Manchester City for £16,000,000 this summer. Quick, powerful and an assured tackle, Toure was the better part of their often criticised defence in his final couple of seasons. He lifted the Premier League trophy once, and the FA Cup twice.
Often criticised for his play acting and a few critical mistakes, Jens Lehmann arrived at Arsenal aged 33 replacing David Seaman in 2003. He made an immediate impact as a big part of their unbeaten title winning season in 2003/04. Inconsistencies the following season saw him dropped on a number of occasions but he got the starting job back after that and became the number 1 keeper for Germany in World Cup 2006. That came after his sending off early in Arsenal's Champions League final, despite playing outstanding in the run up to the final that included a run of 853 minutes without conceding a goal. Errors at the start of the 2007/08 season followed by an injury lead to him being dropped to the bench before moving to Stuttgart at the end of the season. Lehmann had his moments but was a great keeper for Arsenal during his 5 year stay.
Although only at Arsenal for 2 full seasons, he makes this top 10 list for the impact he made during his short spell as a teenager, and then being sold on for £23,000,000 to Real Madrid after being signed for £500,000. A part of Arsenal's double-winning season in 1998, Anelka's pace and finishing made him a constant threat to the opposition before moving to Madrid and making numerous other transfers throguhout his career that has seen him play for Liverpool, Manchester City, Bolton and currently Chelsea in the Premier League.
Without being disrespectful to other players shortlisted to make the top 10, Andrey Arshavin makes it at number 10 for me for his immediate impact in his early days. Wenger was criticised, mainly by Manchester United fans for spending £15,000,000 on a 27 year old, who made his name during last summers European Championships. He made a good impact against Blackburn in one of his first games, and then shut critics up by scoring 4 goals in a 4-4 draw at Liverpool in April that assisted Manchester United to the title last season. His creativity, flair and early goalscoring record will help him to become one of Wenger's best ever signings.
Honourable mentions go to Emmanuel Petit and Sol Campbell who were close to making the list.
Wenger has also had his bad signings, many to name but a few that come to mind include Kaba Diawara, Igor Stepanovs, Francis Jeffers, Richard Wright and Pascal Cygan! You can add many more to that list, but Wenger has proven himself to be one of the best in the transfer market with the resources he has been given. One of my favourite Premier League managers, he's brought success, excitement and controversy with him, and bundles of talent to Arsenal.
Labels: andrei arshavin, arsenal, arsene wenger, cesc fabregas