Arsenal's Worst XI of the Premier League Era

Charlie MelmanCorrespondent IIOctober 8, 2012

Arsenal's Worst XI of the Premier League Era

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    For all of Arsenal's success during the Premier League era, some really bad players have passed through Highbury and the Emirates.

    Thankfully, they have been few and far between. Yet, every once in a while, there comes a player who we all can tell is destined to join the infamous ranks of the worst transfer disasters in Arsenal history.

    With the influx of money in football over the past 20 years, most of those mistakes have been made during the Premier League era. When questionable scouting and extra cash converge, you get some pretty awful signings.

    Want to know which poor souls would field the worst possible Arsenal team of the past two decades? Read on.

Goalkeeper: Richard Wright

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    I was tempted to put Manuel Almunia between the sticks, but Richard Wright's tenure at Arsenal had even less highlights and he was a worse use of transfer funds.

    Everyone believed that, when Wright arrived as a hugely promising 23-year-old from Ipswich Town in 2001 (for the healthy price of £6 million), he would be David Seaman's natural successor.

    But problems started to arise when he lost his spot to the mighty Stuart Taylor after Seaman picked up an injury and gave Wright an opportunity to prove himself.

    Arsene Wenger was so unimpressed with the man he had splashed the cash on only months before that he took the opportunity to offload Wright to Everton at the end of the goalkeeper's first season in North London.

    Fast forward a decade, and Wright somehow has a gig as the backup to the backup at Manchester City, despite barely making any appearances for Sheffield, Ipswich and Preston North End in the previous two years.

Right Back: Oleg Luzhny

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    Luzhny was one of those players who just never quite fit in at Arsenal, but stuck around for a few years as a role-player.

    Simply put, he didn't have the pace or energy to hang with Premier League players. Even when Lee Dixon was nearing the end of his playing career, Luzhny had less energy on the right flank, and could not get a place on the team when the legend was out, either.

    Instead, Lauren deservedly won the starting job, and Luzhny was left to toil in the pit of mediocrity that is the League Cup.

Center-Back: Mikael Silvestre

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    From almost the day he arrived from Manchester United at the gates of the Emirates Stadium, Mikael Silvestre was a disaster.

    Slow, cumbersome and well past his prime, the Frenchman was quite a liability in defence, and bad things just seemed to happen when he was on the pitch.

    Silvestre's positional sense was abysmal, and every time he was forced to get involved in defensive play, Arsenal fans would cringe at the thought of attackers exploiting the defender's many weaknesses.

    One of many that Wenger held onto for far too long, Silvestre was only released on a free transfer after numerous hideous displays.

Center-Back: Sebastien Squillaci

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    In the summer of 2010, Arsene Wenger finally did sign a defender. Some thought, rather reasonably, that an experienced French international could give Arsneal's beleaguered back line some help, but what ensued at the back can only be described as a defensive debacle.

    Acquired from Monaco for a measly few million pounds, Sebastien Squillaci was supposed to bring experience, leadership and, believe it or not, physicality to the Arsenal defence.

    It’s pretty safe to say that Arsenal got none of those things.

    Instead, goals just seemed to flow in whenever the Frenchman was on the pitch and, though he technically remains a part of the first-team squad, the manager has completely lost faith in the man he trusted with the captain's armband on one occasion.

Left Back: Armand Traore

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    I could have gone with Pascal Cygan, who played a fair amount of left back for Arsenal, in this spot but I think that as a specialty player Armand Traore's performances were much worse.

    Let us remind ourselves that, first and foremost, a left back is a defender. When you have no ability to defend, this is not the position for you.

    As one of Arsene Wenger's failed winger-to-defender converts, Traore lacks any defensive ability whatsoever. He couldn't learn the necessary skills after an unproductive year on loan with Juventus, and he therefore failed to win a spot in Wenger's lineup after the departure of Gael Clichy.

    A transfer to QPR at the start of last season has not breathed any new life into Traore, either, and few Arsenal fans miss the gum-chomping Senegalese.

Central Midfielder: Amaury Bischoff

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    Amaury Bischoff is just one of those players who can't buy any luck.

    A litany of injuries during his younger days at Werder Bremen severely hindered his development, and Arsene Wenger knew that he was taking a gamble when he signed Bischoff on a free transfer in 2008.

    Things did not change at Arsenal. Bischoff neither stayed healthy nor developed into an Arsenal-caliber player during his single season at the club, and spent the next couple years of his career making sporadic appearances for Portuguese sides Academica and Aves.

Central Midfielder: Alberto Mendez

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    If you can remember Alberto Mendez, please accept my virtual pat on the back from thousands of miles away as a reward.

    Arguably Arsene Wenger's least explainable signing, Mendez arrived in 1997 from 1. SC Feucht in the German fifth division, and, unsurprisingly, looked like a random player plucked from the German fifth division.

    After five seasons, four league appearances and three loan spells away from Arsenal, Mendez was finally offloaded to Racing Ferrol in 2002, before bouncing around Germany's lower leagues and eventually retiring as a member of the juggernaut SpVgg Weiden.

Right Midfielder: Jermaine Pennant

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    Pennant was one of those classic, unfortunate cases of how a vastly over-hyped young player, especially an English one, can lose his way and ultimately fail to find success with the club that initially signed him.

    Plucked at just 15 years old amid much fanfare, the young attacker was touted as a future England star. But behavioral problems beset the youngster during his progression through the ranks at Arsenal, and he ended up making only a handful of appearances for Arsenal.

    Oddly, his three goals scored for the club were all netted in the same match, which was his full debut against Southampton on May 7, 2003. That would, unfortunately, be the high point of his Arsenal career.

Left Midfielder: David Grondin

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    One of those thoroughly anonymous players to come through Highbury during Arsene Wenger's earlier years, few noticed or cared when Grondin left for Dunfermline Athletic in 2003.

    A single Premier League appearance is hardly a decent return on investment, but, thankfully, Wenger did not put too much money into this failed project.

    Grondin arrived as one of those many youngsters with a ton of potential, but, like many before and after him, could not manage to fulfill it, and quickly descended into mediocrity when he was deemed not to be good enough to cut it at the highest level.

Striker: Chris Kiwomya

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    I'll give Chris Kiwomya a bit of a break in that it is tough to break into the starting lineup when Dennis Bergkamp and Ian Wright are ahead of you, but that does not detract from the fact that he was not at all a good player during his time at Highbury.

    Arriving as one of George Graham's final signings before his acrimonious departure in 1995, he did not cost Arsenal very much at £1.25 million, but a return of three league goals in three years is pretty poor by any standard.

    After Arsene Wenger finally cut him loose in 1998, Kiwomya joined QPR on a free transfer and had better luck with the Hoops before eventually moving to AaB Fodbold and then Grimsby Town.

Striker: Francis Jeffers

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    What an unmitigated disaster Francis Jeffers’ time was at Arsenal.

    The Englishman was signed for over eight million pounds from Everton in 2001 to be the “fox in the box” that Arsenal needed—despite the fact that the Gunners already had Sylvain Wiltord and some guy named Henry.

    He eventually accumulated only a handful of appearances and was completely frozen out of the first-team picture at Arsenal, before finally being offloaded to Charlton at a several million pound loss.

    These sorts of massive miscalculations in player evaluations are extremely atypical for Arsene Wenger and his staff. Indeed, the Jeffers case is often cited as the reason why Wenger is reluctant to spend money on young English talent.