When Wenger Got It Wrong: Arsenal's Five Worst Signings Under His Rule
Much has been documented about Wenger's desperate need to sign new players assuming that the arrival of new talent will inject winning ways into European footballs nearly men.
While most new signings are met with a wave of optimism, some fail to live up to the hype, or indeed justify fans scepticism of their arrivals in the first place.
This is a list I have compiled of what I believe to be Wenger's 10 worst transactions as an Arsenal manager; I look forward to hearing from you guys.
Jose Antonio Reyes
Cost: £10.5 million
The arrival of Reyes brought about much excitement and anticipation to Highbury; the young Spaniard had impressed during his time at Sevilla and was seen as an ideal strike partner for Thierry Henry. Early signs of promise suggested that Arsenal's then record signing could go on to be a club legend.
The hopes of fans, and indeed his early potential, went by mostly unfulfilled. The Spaniard found it hard to adapt to life in England and was plagued by homesickness. Among his achievements at Arsenal he became the second player in history to be sent off in the F.A Cup final and scored an own goal against Middlesbrough in his second game for the Gunners.
Despite signing a six year contract in summer 2005 he left the following year, initially on loan to Real Madrid before transferring officially to Atletico Madrid in 2007 for a fee believed to be 12 million euros.
Cost: £2 million
A lack of positional knowledge, failure to win balls in the air and the inability to tackle made Cygan a tormenting figure for Arsenal fans to watch. Despite mostly being a fringe player the French centre back somehow managed to collect a Premier League winners medal in the 2003- 04 season. What is all the more surprising is that the Gunners went unbeaten with the calamitous centre back on the pitch.
Cygan was not aided by the fact he had to fill the void left by recent retirees Tony Adams, Martin Keown and Steve Bould; club legends in their own right. The Frenchman never looked truly comfortable playing in their shadow but managed to stay at Highbury for three seasons.
Despite his apparent lack in ability Cygan's statistics as a first team Gunner are flattering. In the 2005- 06 season the defender was forced to fill the void left by the injured Ashley Cole and Gael Clichy, deputising as an emergency left back. Arsenal won 12 of 20 games with Cygan in that position, achieving 11 clean sheets.
He was sold to Villareal in 2006 for £2 million.
From: Celta Vigo
Almunia's spot in Arsenal's first team is one that baffled fans from the get go; he has never looked like he was ready, or good enough, to bridge the gap left by Lehmann.
Almunia arrived at Highbury having been employed by Celta Vigo for three years; in that time his Spanish employers never played him. Perhaps Wenger should have got the message. Manuel's only real first team experience previous to his Arsenal days came playing for Spanish minnows Albacete, Eibar and Osasuna's B team. His first real chance in an Arsenal shirt was the 2006 Champions League final where he replaced Robert Pires in the 18th minute following Lehman's red card.
After season's of pressure it now seems that Almunia's Arsenal days are over; Wenger has finally lost patience with the clumsy Spaniard.
Cost: £1 million
From: Skonto Riga
A terrible performance against Manchester United in a 6-1 drubbing is perhaps all Arsenal fans may choose to remember from Stepanovs' brief Arsenal career. The 6ft 4 Latvian centre back arrived at Highbury following a strong career at Skonto Riga; perennial league champions in Latvia and the core of the Latvian national team.
Stepanovs played 17 times for Arsenal and in each fixture his incompetence shone through; he simply was not good enough for the Gunners and is viewed by many as Wenger's worst signing of all time.
He spent three seasons with Arsenal before moving on to K.S.K Beveren. The Latvian has since played for a wealth of clubs, never making more than 50 appearances for any team. It didn't take long for any manager to work out that the lanky Latvian was useless, despite his physical attributes.
Cost: £8 million
Francis Jeffers arrived at Arsenal as an exciting young talent and one of the clubs most expensive signings to date.
At Everton Jeffers looked like a promising young striker; netting a total of 20 goals in 60 appearance. An argument with manager Walter Smith concerning a pay rise saw him sidelined for half a season and he never truly recaptured his form.
Despite the club winning a wealth of honours during Jeffer's spell there he was not eligible for a single winners medal; some fans may recall him being sent off in the 2003 Community Shield match against Manchester United, 12 minutes after coming on as a sub.
Injury and the form of Thierry Henry and Sylvain Wiltord prevented Jeffers from becoming the great Arsenal striker his early Everton and England Under 21 career had promised he would be.
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