Arsenal: Charting Gunners' Transfer Spending Year-by-Year Under Arsene Wenger
There have been so many words devoted to Arsene Wenger's light spending record at Arsenal in print, in the digital universe and through pundits' mouths that it is pointless to attempt to summarize them here.
Essentially, many observers criticize Wenger for not getting out the checkbook in recent years, which has coincided with a slow dip in form and the absence of any major trophy since 2005.
With summer—and therefore transfer season—upon us once again, it's worth taking a look back through the archives and seeing all the players that Wenger has splashed the cash on during his long reign as Arsenal's manager.
Be advised that many fees are unofficial, as Arsenal does not usually release the exact amounts that they pay for players. These are simply based on what the greatest consensus is.
Total spent: £20,250,000
Key players: Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit, Marc Overmars, Remi Garde, Nicolas Anelka and Gilles Grimandi.
Arsene Wenger's first transfer season was arguably his best ever. In addition to a few spare parts and such serviceable Premier League footballers as Matthew Upson, who is still playing, and Luis Boa Morte, Arsenal picked up some of the defining players of the new era.
Vieira and Petit formed the best midfield partnership in England, while Marc Overmars would use his blazing speed to become a sensational left winger until he left in 2000. The former two men only cost £6,000,000 together.
And the £500,000 spent on Nicolas Anelka would yield a massive profit just a couple years later, after the Frenchman was sold to Real Madrid for a princely sum following very promising displays.
Total spent: £800,000
Key players: None
After a flurry of activity during his first season, Wenger barely made any moves during his second summer in charge.
Arsenal only discarded spare parts, so only David Grondin and Christopher Wreh (pictured) came in. Neither made anything particularly noteworthy of themselves at the club.
Total spent: £13,800,000
Key players: Nwankwo Kanu, Jermaine Pennant and Freddie Ljungberg
Arsenal dove back into the transfer market during the summer of 1998, and Arsene Wenger once again used his keen eye for talent to bring in a couple players who would be crucial to the success of his best sides.
However, there were also some funds that were misappropriated, in retrospect. Kaba Diawara was not worth a penny of the £2,500,000 that was spent on him, and Oleg Luzhny never became much more than a squad player.
The fact that £2,000,000 was shelled out for a 16-year-old Jermaine Pennant reveals just how much potential was either wasted or not actually there.
Kanu and Ljungberg made this summer a relative success, though.
Total spent: £22,850,000
Key players: Thierry Henry, Lauren and Sylvinho
Arsenal actually spent a remarkable amount of money in this transfer window, and almost half was used to acquire one player.
In hindsight, most would agree that the funds were well-used.
As we know, Henry would go on to cement his status as the best player to ever wear the red and white of Arsenal. Sylvinho established himself as a solid left-back until Ashley Cole took over, and Lauren was a stalwart on the opposite flank.
Interestingly, the Gunners are only one starting right-back removed from Lauren, who was purchased 14 years ago. Bacary Sagna assumed his role in 2006.
Total spent: £35,000,000
Key players: Robert Pires, Sylvain Wiltord and Edu
A new millennium and tons of cash for Arsene Wenger to spend.
Indeed, Arsenal paid more money in transfer fees in 2000 than during all but four other years in the Wenger era. For the most part, the money was well-spent.
Pires is the pick of the bunch, and epitomized Arsenal's swashbuckling style for the next six years. Wiltord probably did not justify his fee, but was a key player during his time at Highbury. Edu was a very solid defensive midfielder.
Unbelievably, the Gunners spent £8,000,000 on Francis Jeffers, a colossal bust and the infamous "fox in the box." Pires only required £6,000,000.
These moves were mostly financed by Marc Overmars' lucrative £25,000,000 move to Barcelona.
Total spent: £15,250,000
Key players: Sol Campbell and Kolo Toure
This was a summer of unbelievable bargains for Arsene Wenger. In what is perhaps the greatest financial coup in the history of football, Arsenal picked up the two impregnable center-backs that would lead them to an undefeated season for a total of £150,000.
The deal of the transfer window was Campbell, who switched from Tottenham to Arsenal during the prime of his career on a free transfer. A young Kolo Toure was lapped up from ASEC Mimosas for the aforementioned £150,000.
Most of the balance is made up by fees paid for Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Richard Wright. The former was average, and the latter worthless.
Total spent: £6,600,000
Key players: Gilberto Silva and Pascal Cygan
Cygan is only mentioned in this brief list of key players because he was the only man bought during the 2002-03 season, other than Gilberto, who made something of himself at Arsenal.
Overall, however, the Gunners had a very quiet summer.
Richard Wright was let go only a year after he was purchased for a little more than half of his original fee. But Gilberto, who became a bastion of consistency and grit in Arsenal's midfield, was a crucial acquisition.
Total spent: £20,500,000
Key players: Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, Jose Antonio Reyes, Gael Clichy, Johan Djourou, Jens Lehmann and Philippe Senderos
Where to begin?
Fabregas was obviously a coup—perhaps the greatest of Wenger's reign—after coming over from Barcelona as a schoolboy for a nominal fee. Van Persie only cost a couple million pounds after petulant displays at Feyenoord, while Clichy only necessitated a quarter of a million pounds.
Johan Djourou, Arsenal's current longest-serving player, was free, and replacing David Seaman with Jens Lehmann only cost a couple million pounds.
By far, the biggest financial outlay was on the January acquisition of Jose Antonio Reyes, who initially turned in some scintillating performances but could never fully justify the £13,000,000 that was spent on him.
Total spent: £4,500,000
Key players: Emmanuel Eboue, Mathieu Flamini and Manuel Almunia
After their Invincibles season, Arsenal were very quiet in the transfer market, but every signing established himself as an important player for the club.
Eboue and Flamini each cost £1,000,000. The former showed significant early promise before becoming the inept and reluctant pariah that Andre Santos now is.
Flamini forged an excellent midfield partnership with Cesc Fabregas, but administrative ineptitude allowed him to go to AC Milan on a free transfer.
Almunia had his good moments, but his time at Arsenal will forever be pocked by the tragicomedy of errors that he has never been able to escape.
Total spent: £36,900,000
Key players: Theo Walcott, Abou Diaby, Aleksandr Hleb, Tomas Rosicky, Emmanuel Adebayor, Nicklas Bendtner and Vito Mannone
Here we can see the old guard beginning to leave and the Arsenal of the present beginning to take shape.
Patrick Vieira was sold to Juventus and Robert Pires left on free, making room for the likes of Diaby and Rosicky.
An initial fee of over £9,000,000 was shelled out for Theo Walcott before he reached the age of majority, and the initially sensational Adebayor was snapped up for a couple million pounds less.
Interestingly, Hleb's transfer fee of over £11,000,000 was the largest of the bunch. Even more inexplicably, he would be sold for a profit to Barcelona a few years later.
Total spent: £6,400,000
Key players: Alex Song, Lukasz Fabianski, Denilson and William Gallas
Only once have Arsenal turned a larger profit than they did this summer. Thierry Henry's hefty fee was the strongest piston that powered the Gunners into the black, but Arsene Wenger's acquisition of young talents instead of established stars certainly helped.
William Gallas cost nothing because he arrived in a swap deal that saw Ashley Cole move to Stamford Bridge.
Arsenal would later turn a sizable profit on Alex Song, while Lukasz Fabianski and Denilson have endured various periods of form at the club. Can you believe that Denilson is still technically an Arsenal player?
Total spent: £17,700,000
Key players: Bacary Sagna, Eduardo
Arsene Wenger oversaw another summer of rebuilding at the Emirates, bringing in a smattering of young players (and Lassana Diarra) who never quite panned out at the club.
Eduardo, who was such an excellent striker and goal-poacher before his leg was shattered, was the most expensive purchase at £7,500,000.
But Sagna has been an absolute rock at right back for several years, and, if he departs the club this summer, should be wholeheartedly thanked for being a model of consistency in regularly inconsistent Arsenal sides.
Total spent: £36,550,000
Key players: Andrey Arshavin, Aaron Ramsey, Samir Nasri and Mikael Silvestre.
Other than the acquisitions of the young Ramsey and Nasri, Arsenal had a very quiet summer.
But those were two very significant signings.
Ramsey is developing into an excellently combative young midfielder, though not the direct replacement for Cesc Fabregas that some expected him to be.
Nasri was a good player, for sure. But he let a five-month purple patch get to his head, and Arsenal were given no choice but to sell him in 2011. It happened to be the right one, as well.
During the very last seconds of the January transfer window, the Gunners acquired a little Russian named Andrey Arshavin for £15,000,000, and he would shred the Premier League to pieces during his first few months at the club.
Unfortunately, Arshavin has become an abject failure. Listless performances have pushed him to the utter periphery, and few Arsenal fans will miss him when his contract expires in a few weeks.
Total spent: £10,000,000
Key players: Thomas Vermaelen
Arsenal have never profited more from a single season's transfer activity than during the 2009-10 campaign.
Only three moves were of much significance that year, and two involved Manchester City: Emmanuel Adebayor's toxic move and Kolo Toure's unfortunate switch.
The sole player the Gunners brought in was Thomas Vermaelen, who, despite his recent defensive mishaps, has been quite a success. Being promoted to captain within three years is no insignificant feat.
Arsenal came out of that summer £31,000,000 richer.
Total spent: £14,500,000
Key players: Laurent Koscielny, Sebastien Squillaci and Marouane Chamakh
At least one of those players worked out.
It was immediately apparent that Squillaci was a defensive disaster, and after some very promising early performances from Chamakh, the Moroccan has seemed allergic to goals for years.
Only Koscielny, with his sterling performances in defense during both this season and last, has saved that transfer window from being labeled a total failure.
Total spent: £54,150,000
Key players: Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho, Yossi Benayoun, Andre Santos and Carl Jenkinson.
This was the summer of the frantic deadline day spending spree, which ruined the health of Arsenal fans' hearts but left many supporters intoxicated with the euphoria of renewed hope.
The high-profile sales of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas still allowed the club to turn a hefty profit.
While there is little doubt that he will be worth every penny, the £12,000,000 initial fee that Arsenal paid for Oxlade-Chamberlain was more than those of established stars such as Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker or Gervinho.
Though some might dispute the effectiveness of the latter, that summer scramble appears to largely have worked out for Arsenal.
Total spent: £48,300,000
Key players: Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski and Nacho Monreal.
No unknown youngsters here.
During a summer that saw Arsenal lose its best player and talisman, Arsene Wenger went out and bought three highly-effective replacements who ably shouldered the load this past season.
Cazorla has been simply superb, and his omission from the Premier League Team of the Year is nothing short of an injustice. Giroud grew into himself after some early struggles, and only figures to improve in the future.
And Podolski worked his way to toward the top of Arsenal's goals and assists leaders, despite battling a troublesome ankle that prevented him from playing more than a few full games all season.
Monreal's experience and defensive nous has been a welcome addition to the defense, especially with Kieran Gibbs' fitness problems. More competition can only be a good thing.
So, what have we learned?
First, Arsene Wenger is not exactly the austere penny-pincher that he is often made out to be in the media.
While he did significantly reduce his spending from 2008 to 2011, it would be ignorant to overlook the fact that Arsenal have shelled out over £100,000,000 on new players in the last two years alone.
Second, Wenger has always been willing to splash the cash on a player whom he deems to be special.
Whether it was the anomalous £10,500,000 expenditure on Thierry Henry all those years ago, or £15,000,000 in January 2009 for Andrey Arshavin, meaningful sums of money have been spent on one man.
Wenger's transfer policy does appear to be changing, though. He seems to be moving toward more expensive experience, rather than attempting to exploit raw potential. That should give Arsenal fans a lot of hope for what this summer has in store.