Arsenal Transfers: 5 Biggest Hits and Misses of the Wenger Reign

James McNicholas@@jamesmcnicholasFeatured ColumnistJuly 18, 2013

Arsenal Transfers: 5 Biggest Hits and Misses of the Wenger Reign

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    The transfer window is upon us, and Arsenal fans everywhere are hoping that Arsene Wenger can land another stellar signing.

    There is reason for Gunners supporters to be confident: Wenger has made some outstanding signings. He has snared bargains, discovered rough diamonds and rejuvenated dwindling careers.

    However, his transfer record is far from perfect. Among the successes there have also been flops, failures and farces.

    Over the next 10 slides, we count down Arsene Wenger's top five transfer hits and misses.

Hit No. 5: Kolo Toure

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    Kolo Toure was in many ways a typical Arsene Wenger signing. In the course of his Arsenal career, Wenger transformed the Ivorian from an unknown utility player to a well-regarded centre-back.

    His arrival was unheralded. After a brief trial, Toure signed for Arsenal in February 2002 for just £150,000.

    After initially appearing as a winger or full-back, Wenger eventually groomed Toure as a centre-half alongside Sol Campbell. Toure was a key component in Arsenal's Invincible XI.

    When Toure eventually left the Gunners, Arsenal received a reported £15 million fee for his services.

Hit No. 4: Nicolas Anelka

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    Like Kolo Toure, the transfer of Nicolas Anelka also enabled Arsenal to turn an enormous profit.

    Anelka joined the Gunners for a nominal fee in February 1997, aged just 17. By 1998, he had replaced Ian Wright as the team's attacking spearhead and fired Arsenal to a league and cup double.

    Unfortunately, the story then turns sour. Anelka agitated for a move to Real Madrid and eventually switched to La Liga for a fee of more than £20 million.

    The Gunners reinvested the money in a state-of-the-art training ground and another young French forward named Thierry Henry.

    The rest, as they say, is history. 

Hit No. 3: Cesc Fabregas

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    Arsene Wenger's eye for a player is second to none.

    He pounced to sign a 15-year-old Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona after watching him dominate Spanish youth football alongside another diminutive teenager called Lionel Messi.

    Fabregas showed courage to leave his Catalan roots behind to come to England. However, Wenger also showed courage to plunge Fabregas into the first team at just 16.

    Fabregas flourished and became an iconic captain for Arsenal. Although he is now plying his trade back in Barcelona, Arsenal fans hold out hope that he may one day return to London.

Hit No. 2: Patrick Vieira

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    Patrick Vieira was the signing who defined an era.

    He was languishing in the Milan reserves when Wenger insisted that Arsenal bring him to London.

    Vieira's impact was almost immediate. He transformed Arsenal's team with his lung-bursting runs and telescopic tackling. By the time Tony Adams retired in 2002, Vieira had emerged as his natural heir as skipper.

    Vieira left Arsenal in 2005 having won three Premier League titles and four FA Cups. Fittingly, his last kick in a Gunners shirt was the winning penalty against Manchester United in the 2005 FA Cup Final.

Hit No. 1: Thierry Henry

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    Thierry Henry was recently voted as Arsenal's greatest ever player. It goes without saying that he is also Arsene Wenger's greatest ever signing.

    Henry surpassed Cliff Bastin to become Arsenal's highest ever league goalscorer. He overtook Ian Wright as the club's highest goalscorer in all competitions. He left for foreign pastures and returned in 2012 as a legend.

    Henry is now cast in bronze outside the stadium. His enshrinement ensures he will never be forgotten.

Miss No. 5: Andrey Arshavin

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    Andrey Arshavin is not a bad footballer. As an Arsenal signing, however, he was a terrible disappointment.

    Arshavin is still the most expensive signing Arsene Wenger has ever made, brought in for a club record fee of £15 million. Unfortunately, despite an encouraging first six months, the Russian wizard never fulfilled his undoubted potential.

    Arsene Wenger is not entirely to blame: The Russian had problems with form and motivation. However, perhaps more extensive scouting might have uncovered some of Arshavin's underlying problems.

Miss No. 4: Sebastien Squillaci

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    If Arsene Wenger identified Sebastien Squillaci as the answer to Arsenal's defensive problems, he was certainly asking the wrong question.

    Squillaci lacked the pace, athleticism and psychological fortitude to flourish in the Premier League.

    In his final season at the club, Squillaci made just one appearance. That came in a dead-rubber Champions League tie.

Miss No. 3: Park Chu-Young

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    If you blinked you might have missed Park Chu-Young's Arsenal career.

    After arriving on the eve of the 2011 transfer deadline, Park disappeared into the reserve team. Arsene Wenger seemed reluctant to use a player whose signing he had overseen, and eventually loaned the South Korean striker to Celta Vigo.

    Park is still technically an Arsenal player, although it is surely only a matter of time until he is moved on at a loss.

Miss No. 2: Francis Jeffers

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    When Francis Jeffers signed for Arsenal, he was hailed as "The Fox in the Box": a poacher to complement the style and flair of Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp et al.

    Destiny had other ideas.

    Jeffers' Arsenal career was plagued by injury and ill-fortune. Rather symbolically, his final kick as an Arsenal player was an ill-advised swipe at Phil Neville that resulted in an ignominious red card. 

Miss No. 1: Andre Santos

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    Andre Santos will go down in infamy as Arsene Wenger's worst ever signing.

    Not only was he a defensive liability, but he also incurred the wrath of the fans with his controversial half-time embrace with the villainous Robin van Persie.

    Like Park, Santos is still on Arsenal's books. He remains a painful reminder of Arsene Wenger's occasional capacity for error.