Arsene Wenger's Top 10 Arsenal Signings
With Sebastien Squillaci about to complete his move to the Arsenal ranks this week, he is about to joins the illustrious list of Wenger's buys—players who undeniably left their mark in North London and changed the face of the Premiership.
Francis Jeffers, Oleg Luzhny, Philippe Senderos and Pascal Cygan are just some of the names not included.
10. Emmanuel Petit
Signed: 1997 for £2.5m (Monaco)
Sold: 2000 for £7m (Barcelona)
Emmanuel Petit was one of the earliest Wenger purchases, and one of the most succesful.
Petit's hard combative edge was balanced out by his smooth, flowing hairstyle; he really was a total footballer.
Le Professor's decision to create a defensive midfielder from this centre-back immediately paid dividends, with Arsenal winning the double in his debut season. Three further years cemented his place as a fan favourite that not even a career at Chelsea could destroy.
A case of deja vu occured in 2000 when he was sold to Barcelona, though Petit revealed Barca coach Llorenç Serra Ferrer didn't even know which position he played in.
He arguably reached the pinnacle of his career in 1998, when he guest starred in the Christmas special of cult British police show The Bill and won 1,700,000 francs on a Monte Carlo slot machine.
Oh yeah, and he won the World Cup, complete with one assist and one goal in the final.
Trophies: Premier League (1997/98), FA Cup (1997/98), FA Charity Shield (1997/98, 1998/99).
9. Sol Campbell
Signed: 2001 on a free (Tottenham); 2010 on a free (Unattached)
Sold: 2005 on a free (Portsmouth); 2010 on a free (Newcastle)
It's kind of ironic that all the furor regarding William Gallas' decision to join Tottenham for a free was casually dismissed by Harry Redknapp as "it's not like we've signed Tony Adams."
What he should have been refering to was when Arsene shrewdly signed Sol Campbell because the then Tottenham captain was widely regarded as the best English centre back in the league and was on course to becoming a Spurs legend.
The man he was replacing? Tony Adams.
Campbell went on to become on of the greatest defenders in Arsenal history, forming a formidable partnership with Kolo Toure during the Invincibles season and winning five major trophies.
He also joins Teddy Sheringham, Steve McManaman, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, as one of five Englishmen to have scored in the Champions League Final, and is a part of best defensive run of any team in the history of the competition, with Arsenal failing to concede in 10 consecutive matches for a total of 995 minutes.
Trophies: Premier League (2001/02, 2003/04), FA Cup (2001/02, 2002/03, 2004/05), FA Community Shield (2002/03, 2004/05).
8. Freddy Ljungberg
Signed: 1998 for £3m (Halmstad BK)
Sold: 2007 for free (West Ham)
Right winger, left winger, support striker, underwear model—Freddy Ljungberg was another total footballer. Wenger's awesomeness was confirmed when he signed the Swede after seeing him on TV, proving he might be a maverick in the transfer market, but he gets results damnit! His meager £3m transfer fee was a Swedish record.
Ljungberg was soon a key squad member whose stamina, technique, dribbling, goalscoring, pace and underwear modeling lifted Arsenal into becoming one of the foremost European sides, playing in the 2006 Champions league final.
The Swede was a member of the Invincibles squad and endeared himself to the fans by dyeing a distinctive red streak into his jet black hair.
The fans reciprocated their love for Scandinavian with the following Viking death-chant:
"We love you Freddie, because you've got red hair, we love you Freddie because you're everywhere, we love you Freddie, you're Arsenal through and through."
Trophies: Premier League (2001/02, 2003/04), FA Cup (2001/02, 2002/03, 2004/05) Charity Shield (1999/00) Sexiest Man in the World (1998)
7. Marc Overmars
Signed: 1997 for £5m (Ajax)
Sold: 2000 for £25m (Barcelona)
Overmars has played for Europe's most elite sides: Ajax, Arsenal, Barcelona and Team Jaap Staam. A resume like that simply does not lie–Overmars was quality.
The Dutch left winger was brought in during Wenger's first full season, alongside Petit. Indeed ,it was the acquisition of the defensive midfielder that allowed Overmars the freedom to rampage forward.
His dribbling and pace was a sign of what was to come, with Overmars often allowing Arsenal to counterattack at great speed, earning him the nickname of roadrunner. Wenger's system worked a treat, and it was that year Arsenal won the double.
Again, in what was a sign of what was to come, Barcelona signed Overmars in 2000, alongside Petit. Only Wenger managed to earn a tidy £25m, making Overmars the most expensive Dutch player of all time, Arsenal a very rich club, and Wenger a genius at making profits on players.
It is reported Tony Adams spent this money on booze before Wenger had the chance to sign Figo.
Trophies: Premier League (1997/98), FA Cup (1997/98), FA Charity Shield (1998/99)
6 Robin Van Persie
Signed: 2004 for £2.75m (Feyenoord)
Q: Who's the cat that won't cop out when there's danger all about?
But Van Persie isn't far behind; Robin has been a key squad player for about five years now, and although only 27 is one of the most experienced and stabilising influences on the team.
His class is apparent for anyone to see, scoring all sorts of impossible goals and setting up all sorts of scoring chances. This is going to the a purely subjective speculation of a down-on-his-luck gooner, but I really do believe had Van Persie remained injury free, Arsenal would have won the Premiership last season.
When Van Persie was sold to Arsenal in 2004, his status as a prospect was well known and Feyernoord were not willing to part for the then left winger for anything less than £5m. But Wenger's patient haggling skills brought them down to about half that price, which proved to be a bargain since Inter, Juventus, Milan and Real Madrid do not flatter when they come knocking.
Van Persie is one of the best strikers in Europe, and the fact Arsenal refuse to let him go prove how important he is.
He is currently the greatest Arsenal number 10 since William Gallas.
Trophies: FA Cup (2004/05), Charity Shield (2005/06)
5. Robert Pires
Signed: 2000 for £6m (Marsellies)
Sold: 2006 for free (Villarreal)
When Robert Pires returned to the Emirates last season as a Villarreal player, the stands reverberated with the chants of "Super! Super Rob! Super Robert Pires!" probably more than those of any current Arsenal player.
Although Pires wasn't an unknown quantity before joining Arsenal—he was a full French international—he still took about a year to settle at Arsenal, and for a while it looked as though Pires may not settle at all. But during his second season he silenced all his critics with his performances, winning the Football Writer's Association best football player of the year (which is another way to say Badman) along the way.
Although Wenger let Pires leave on a free making a net £6m loss, his impact at Arsenal has been huge. His almost telepathic ability to link up with Henry and Vieira was at the heart of many classic Arsenal moves.
Wenger often refered to him during this time as one of the greatest left wingers in the world, and his claim as an Invincible might help substantiate this.
Trophies: Premier League (2001/02, 2003/04), FA Cup (2001/02, 2002/03, 2004/05), FA Community Shield (2002/03, 2004/05)
4 Nicolas Anelka
Signed: 1997 for £500,000 (Paris Saint Germain)
Sold: 1999 for £23m (Real Madrid)
Wenger's greatest trade financially was that of Nicolas Anelka, making a cool £22.5m on the forward after getting two years worth and two trophies out of the player.
Although he left Arsenal on a high, he failed to settle at subsequent clubs until joining Chelsea almost nine years later. His collected wanderings earned him a total career transfer fee of £90m.
The Anelka years not only show Wenger's ability financially, but also his gift as a teacher. It was at Arsenal that Anelka honed his skills of pace, fierce goalscoring ability, strength, heading, and sulking, most recently seen at the World Cup.
Trophies: Premier League (1997/98), FA Cup (1997/98)
3. Cesc Fabregas
Signed: 2003 for Free (Barcelona)
Sold: 201X (Barcelona)
It's a pity that Arsenal's youngest player, youngest goalscorer, and second-youngest captain has fallen victim to its oldest transfer story, but if and more probably when Fabregas leaves for Barcelona, he will depart as one of Arsenal's greatest players and the only one with his own TV show.
Although Xavi maintains Cesc left on a loan, I'm sure when Wenger signed the 16-year old he saw right past the slight frame, unibrow and acne to the great footballing and even greater media presence lurking underneath.
Either way, the young Catalan quickly matured. He outshone Patrick Vieira's Juventus in their 2006 Champions league meeting, providing one goal and one assist to knock out the Italians, and has arguably been the team's most crucial player for the past three years, even becoming captain.
A world-class, World Cup-winning midfielder, and maybe even the best playmaker around, Fabregas is the latest testament to Wenger's ability to spot real potential in youngsters, nurture it, and fulfill it (with a little help of course).
Trophies: FA Cup (2004/05), Community Shield (2004/05)
2. Thierry Henry
Signed: 1999 for £10.5m (Juventus)
Sold: 2007 for £16.5m (Barcelona)
Back at school, every so often whenever I plucked up enough confidence or stupidity to play with people in the actual football team I was brought down to earth with an almighty crash. And it was kind of depressing to have to accept that sheer gap in class between us.
I'm guessing this is what happened to Jaime Carragher every time he faced Henry.
The man is absolutely unplayable, and has a unique mixture of control, skill, pace and power.
Wenger was already aware of Thierry Henry's talent after coaching him at Monaco, although they quickly went their separate ways, Wenger to Arsenal and Henry to Juventus. However, in Henry's inability to settle, Le Professor saw an oppotunity which he quickly seized.
At Arsenal, Wenger converted Henry from a left winger to an out and out striker, and although he failed to score in his first eight games in this position the manager didn't meddle, and Henry finished his first season with a very respectable total of 26 goals. He would go on to win the Golden Boot four times and score a total of 226 goals at Arsenal, a club record.
Henry is probably our biggest casualty to Barcelona.
Trophies: Premier League (2001/02, 2003/04), FA Cup (2001/02, 2002/03, 2004/05), FA Community Shield (2002/03, 2004/05)
1 Mikaël Silvestre
Signed: 2008 for £800,000 (Manchester United)
Sold: 2010 for Free (Unattached)
Silvestre is perhaps the most important of Wenger's purchases because he reminds us of just how great everyone else is, a truly remarkable and selfless skill.
But for those still not convinced, please continue...
1 Patrick Vieira
Signed: 1996 for £3.5m (Milan)
Sold: 2005 for £16.5m (Juventus)
OK, the true No. 1
For all those that think Thierry Henry (or maybe Silvestre) deserved to be No. 1 on the list, I ask whether it's any coincidence that Arsenal have not won a major trophy since Vieira's departure?
The midfield powerhouse is actually the only player to have won as many major trophies at Arsenal as Wenger has.
His Arsenal story runs with the now familiar Wenger plot. An unknown but precocious talent, he was signed for a bargain fee and turned into one of the greatest players in the league before leaving for one of the traditional European giants, while Wenger made a tidy profit.
But to describe Vieira's Arsenal years in the space of a paragraph is really to do it a disservice. He was the heartbeat of every great Arsenal team.
Vieira was a box to box midfielder whose physique and strength meant he could partake with the worst English football could throw at him, while his vision and passing meant that he could also be at the heart of everything we love about football.
Trophies: Premier League (1997/98, 2001/02, 2003/04), FA Cup (1997/98, 2001/02, 2002/03, 2004/05), FA Community Shield (2002/03, 2004/05)