Arsenal have missed out on some big players down the years. Arsene Wenger is renowned for his eagle eye for talent, but that doesn’t mean he always lands his targets. Back in March, he admitted to SkySports that only a work permit issue prevented Arsenal from landing Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure.
Asked if he regretted failing to sign the Ivorian as a youngster, Wenger responded:
It's up at the top. But let's not forget that Yaya Toure had an agreement with us and it's not because we did not want to sign him that he went to Ukraine.
We had to wait for his passport in Belgium. We have made mistakes [with transfers], but this was not a mistake.
He preferred to go to Metalurh Donetsk because he could go there without a passport.
Toure is not alone in having escaped Wenger’s clutches. The current World Player of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo, was also an Arsenal target. Speaking in an ITV4 documentary, via the Mirror (h/t ESPN), Wenger revealed:
He was very close to coming here. He has a number nine shirt with Ronaldo on the back from Arsenal Football Club.
What happened was that Carlos Queiroz went to Manchester United and they snapped him away from us because he knew him from Sporting.
That's what life is about. You give your best but sometimes you might find that people are stronger than you. That can happen as well.
Yes, I wanted to take him.
I had his agent at my home but again the barrier was financial and Chelsea made an effort that I couldn't make.
He can be one of the players who grows into the [Lionel] Messi, [Cristiano] Ronaldo stature if he continues to develop well.
Arsenal fans’ frustration at missing out on Hazard will be compounded by the fact they recruited his haphazard Lille teammate, Gervinho, instead.
What would Hazard’s role be in the current Arsenal XI? At Chelsea, Hazard tends to play from the left-hand side. He could fill a similar role at Arsenal, darting inwards from that flank to link play with Mesut Ozil.
In games when Arsenal needed to keep possession, Santi Cazorla could be deployed on the right-hand side. A trio of Hazard, Ozil and Cazorla would bewitch any opposition defence.
Alternatively, Cazorla could miss out, with Theo Walcott coming in on the right flank. His directness would make for a neat contrast to the intricacy of Hazard and Ozil.
At Chelsea, Hazard has suffered without a reliable centre-forward ahead of him. At Arsenal, he would doubtless find Olivier Giroud a useful pivot to play off.
Arsene Wenger has a rich history of helping attacking talent to flourish. One suspects that if Eden Hazard were an Arsenal player, he might already be pushing even closer to the Ronaldo and Messi level that Wenger believes he could one day reach.