One of Arsene Wenger’s greatest talents has been to spot talent and get players with high potential and turn them into world class players...
Arsene Wenger has had a long and successful career at Arsenal and despite a barren spell when it comes to trophies in recent seasons has been well regarded by the media and fans alike. One of Arsene Wenger’s greatest talents has been to spot talent and get players with high potential and turn them into world class players. Here I will look at some of Le Boss’ most successful purchases from his tenure in charge of Arsenal and try to rank them. This is no easy task when you consider the number of world class players he has bought to the club. My list is based on ability first and foremost but I have factored transfer fees paid, selling on fees and commercial value to the club as other factors. Another important point is that Wenger compiled a team that went an entire season unbeaten. To have done this would have required exemplary recruitment which only highlights the difficulty in compiling such a list. So without further ado, here is my top 10 Arsene Wenger purchases…
You can also check out Wenger's 10 worst signings.
Patrick Vieria In: £3.5m Out: £13.5m
I know, I hear what you are saying, even though I am not there. I hear you loud and clear; “How the hell is Vieria not in your list?”
Well to be honest, the main reason is it is a bit of a grey area. Patrick Vieria was signed in August of 1996 whilst Wenger was only appointed the manager of Arsenal at the end of September in the same year. Although it is clear that Wenger had some influence in the transfer and it was certainly a recommendation, it is difficult to give him full credit as he was not even in the job in the first place. So for this reason I have refrained from adding him. I shall leave you to speculate as to where he may have been if he had been included.
Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy and Emmanuel Adebayor AKA the Cash Cow
I will not go into detail with each transfer but only will say that as well as getting good quality players for relatively small amounts, Arsene Wenger was able to sell them on and make lots of profit. In fact around £30m at a very low estimate.
The Top Ten:
10: Kolo Toure – In: 150k Out: 16m
Kolo Toure had a fantastic career as an Arsenal player, though on his debut he played as a right midfielder he was a utility player that didn’t seem to have any real position. This changed over time and he became a fantastic defender and forged a superb partnership with Sol Campbell. Was very successful and was at the heart of the defence in the Invincible’s season. Though he fell out with future partner William Gallas which eventually saw him leave the club, he was sold for a huge profit and at a time when he became surplus to requirements. This is a great example of how Wenger sold on a player when the time was right as his career after Arsenal has improved.
9: Emmanuel Petit – In: 2.5m Out: 5m
Emmanuel Petit was one of Wenger’s first signings and he immediately played an important part in securing Arsenal’s first league title for nearly 10 years. He was instrumental in the centre of the park and at the time I felt he was just as important for Arsenal as Patrick Vieria. He provided the platform to which Viera could surge forward and Arsenal’s new found pace could exploit teams with tremendous pace and incision. Without the solid foundation Petit along with the defence provided it would have been impossible for Arsenal to be successful in the league run of 1997/1998. He was also sold on for a profit of 100% despite being in his thirties when he left. Whilst it was seen as a major blow for Arsenal, his life after Arsenal proved that Arsene Wenger had in fact moved him on at the right time and for great profit. Another Wenger master class.
8: Sol Campbell – Free Transfer (First time)
Big Sol, perhaps the most controversial of all of Arsene Wenger’s buy’s, was at the time one of the top defenders in world football. He was bought from arch nemesis and neighbour, Tottenham for a free transfer and he had an immediate impact. He formed a fantastic partnership with Kolo Toure and was at the heart of the side that remained unbeaten for an entire season. He was able to fit into the team immediately and went on to win two league titles, three FA cups and two charity shields. He also won some individual honours during his time at Arsenal as he was in the PFA team of the year three times and both the FIFA and UEFA equivalent’s one time each. Include the fact that this was a free transfer and Arsenal managed to get their biggest rival’s player for free this was a great bit of business for the manager.
7: Fredrik Ljunberg – In: £3m Out: £3m
Fredrik Ljunberg is a perfect example of Arsene Wenger’s brilliance in the transfer market. He was bought for a small fee, was relatively unknown by the entire country but was able to make an almost immediate impact. He was very quick out of the blocks and had a knack to be in the right place at the right time to score goals of which he scored 71 from just over 300 appearances. Not bad for a midfielder. Add that many of them were scored against Manchester United at the height of the rivalry, then it is no wonder that he is held in such high regard from Arsenal fans. He helped Arsenal to 5 major trophies 2 of which were the Premier League titles all of which equal him being a fantastic signing.
6: Nicolas Anelka In: £500k Out: £22.5m
Though not at Arsenal for very long or even at his peak years, Arsene Wenger found his first young star in Nicolas Anelka. Bought for £500k and just a teen, it was widely expected that this would be one for the future and especially with the then all time record score and Arsenal legend that Anelka would not get anywhere near the team. This theory was thrown out of the window as Anelka took the Premier League by storm. He suited Arsenal’s new attacking style and was very successful in his short spell. He managed to score 23 goals in 50 league appearances, which is quite staggering for anyone let alone a teenager new to the Premier League. What makes this transfer so great is the massive returns on the player. He was sold after winning his first Premier League winners medal for a mammoth £22.5m to Real Madrid. Although this was hard to take for many Arsenal fans it essentially funded the purchases of Henry, Sylvinho and Lauren which represented fantastic business again by Wenger.
5: Marc Overmars In: £7m Out: £25m
Marc Overmars arrived from Ajax after already winning 3 league titles in a relatively short career. This was soon added to as Overmars was an immediate success for Arsenal and managed to win the double in just his first season. He continued Arsene Wenger’s evolution of the club adding his blistering pace and sublime finishing to an already accomplished side. He may have not lasted long but given his incredible scoring record, particularly in big games, he remains a fan favourite to this day. Couple this with the fact that he essentially made the club well over 200% profit from his transfer, it is a great signing by any stretch. To make things even sweeter for the Arsenal faithful his transfer facilitated the moves for Robert Pires, Sylvain Wiltord and the reliable Lauren. Overall a fantastic signing with good business that followed.
4: Cesc Fabregas – In: £500k Out: £35m(ish)
Well here we have an incredible talent that Arsene Wenger hand picked at the age of 16. Upon signing him he helped nurture the lad who eventually blossomed into a world class talent. Fabregas was a technically gifted player, one whose ability is not seen very often. This was recognised by all and as a result he was in a protracted and very painful (for Arsenal fans at least) transfer saga to return to the team he came from. Aside from having great technical ability, Fabregas worked very hard for the team and had one of the best footballing brains I have witnessed. He broke countless records for the Arsenal in no small part due to the faith exhibited in him by Arsene Wenger. He became Arsenal's youngest ever first team player, aged 16 years and 177 days when he played in a league cup tie against Rotheram, he shortly after became the youngest goalscorer in Arsenal's history in a later round of the League Cup, scoring in a 5–1 victory against Wolverhampton Wonderers. The following season he capitalised on an injury to Vieria and managed to become Arsenal’s youngest ever League scorer in a match against Blackburn. Although he only won 1 major trophy in Arsenal colours his contribution to the club cannot be underestimated. He was one of Arsene Wenger’s Greatest signings.
So here we are into the business end of the top ten… So without further ado here is my top three.
3: Robert Pires – In: £6m Out: Free
Bought for just £6m from the profits of the Marc Overmars sale, it is fair to say that the Frenchman more than provided value for money. He was a phenomenal success and in a team with greats such as Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieria and Igor Stephanov, he more than held his own. In fact it can be argued that he was for large parts of his career one of Arsenal’s best players. He scored 84 goals in his time for Arsenal with 19 being his best return for a single season; not bad for a midfielder eh? He won two league titles, three FA cups and countless individual honours in his time at Arsenal. The highlight individually of course, was being recognised as the best player in the land by the Football writers in 2001/02.
2: Robin Van Persie In: £2.5m
Now this might be a little controversial. Note at the start of the piece I had declared that ability was the single most important factor in deciding my rankings and whilst there are some supremely talented individuals here, Robin Van Persie is hands down one of the best players I have ever seen. Now I know he has been injured, hasn’t won much and all the rest of it but I have not seen many players that have such undoubted ability as this guy. Watching him live is such a joy, a pleasure I have not felt since watching the great Dennis Bergkamp. He is a truly amazing player with bags of talent but please do not think he is on this list due to current form alone. He has had undoubted ability since he joined the club and with some of the most unbelievable goals known to man to come from this man it is difficult for me to place many people higher than him. A particular highlight was his goal against Charlton. The fact he is now being compared to Ronaldo and Messi is testament to how good he really is and has been all this time. This is his longest period without injury and has cemented his place as a real talent. One can only imagine what could have been for Arsenal had he been fit these past few years.
1: Thierry Henry In: £11m Out: £16m
There was never really any doubt, was there? Arsenal’s record scorer and most celebrated talent, Thierry Henry is widely celebrated as the best Premier League player of all time. He scored at an incredible rate but it was his all round game that was really outstanding. He like many before him won two league titles and three FA cups and was instrumental in all of the successes. To highlight his importance as an individual just consider that in his time with Arsenal he was the French Player of the Year 5 times, Football Writers’ Player of the Year 3 times, in the PFA team of the year 6 times in a row, won the Premier League Golden Boot 4 times, won the European Golden Boot 2 times and was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame to name just a few. In 369 appearances for Arsenal he scored a record breaking 226 goals along with a phenomenal 92 assists. Thierry Henry is undoubtedly Arsene Wenger’s best signing to date!