Top 20 Arsenal Signings of All Time

Jake Little@@jakelittleContributor IIIDecember 8, 2011

Top 20 Arsenal Signings of All Time

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    Arsenal Football Club is celebrating its 125th anniversary this season. So in the celebratory spirit let's look back into that history at the club's top 20 signings of all time.

    The heroic names in Arsenal's pantheon of greatness is long and intimidating. The number of world-class players to grace the Arsenal shirt is longer than that of most clubs.

    The Gunners have a rich history of success and integrity. The following players helped create that history.

    Keep in mind, these are all players that signed for Arsenal once they had already begun their senior footballing careers. There are no Arsenal Academy players in this article.

    So when you don't see Tony Adams, please know that's the reason why before you start writing hateful comments in the section below.  

Herbert Chapman

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    It is fitting to start off the slideshow with the man who laid the groundwork for Arsenal Football Club to become what it is today; Herbert Chapman. 

    The English tactician was enjoying success as manager of Huddersfield Town until Arsenal chairman Henry Norris lured Chapman away. Chapman signed on to be the manager of Arsenal in the summer of 1925.

    Chapman, almost immediately, led the Gunners to a trophy. Arsenal took the pitch at Wembley to face Cardiff City in the 1927 FA Cup final. But the team was no yet good enough. 

    Fast forward three years. In an ironic matchup, Arsenal face Huddersfield Town in the 1930 FA Cup final. The Gunners are making their second Wembley visit in three years, and this one proves to be successful.

    After 17 minutes, Alex James puts Arsenal 1-0 up after some neat interplay with Cliff Bastin. Huddersfield Town would never equalize. Arsenal became FA Cup Champions with a scoreline of 2-0.

    Chapman died unexpectedly in 1934 of pneumonia at the age of 55.

    However, despite his early departure, the Englishman still left his mark on football. It is a mark that can still be seen today in the form of Arsenal Football Club.

    In just eight years, Chapman had guided Arsenal to three First Division titles, one FA Cup and four FA Charity Shields.  

Brian Talbot

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    Brian Talbot made the move from Ipswich Town to Arsenal in the January transfer window of 1979. The cost to Arsenal was £450,000. Talbot turned out to be well worth the investment.

    In his six year Arsenal career Talbot made 327 appearances and scored 49 goals. Much like a latter-day Scott Parker, Talbot was a tireless worker in the midfield.

    Talbot rarely missed a game, which helped endear him to the Highbury fans. Furthermore, his ability to come up with clutch goals also didn't hurt. 

    Talbot stepped up for Arsenal twice in the FA Cup. The first instance occurred in the 1979 FA Cup Final against Manchester United. The Englishman struck home the opening goal in the 12th minute.

    Talbot would come up big again just a year later, after heading home the winner in the FA Cup Semi-Final against Liverpool.

    Brian Talbot hung his boots up at Highbury with an FA Cup to his name. However, even more impressive is the legacy that he left at Arsenal. It is not one that will soon be forgotten.  

Emmanuel Petit

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    Emmanuel Petit was recruited away from Monaco by Arsene Wenger. Petit would finish his Arsenal career after making 118 appearances and scoring 11 goals. 

    Petit was instrumental in Arsenal's midfield. Although originally a defender, the Frenchman transitioned into the midfield, and became a vital cog. 

    Were it not for Petit, Patrick Vieira may well not be the amazing player that we all remember him as.

    Although Petit was a fantastic passer of the ball, his key attributes were his footballing brain and his dominance.

    Petit demonstrated strength in the midfield that made the defenders work much easier. Perhaps the No. 17 that allowed Alex Song to fulfill the role that he does today, Petit was a vital player in his time at Arsenal.

    Petit would leave Highbury for Barcelona in the year 2000. However, in his three years at Arsenal the Frenchman was a champion of the Premier League, an FA Cup and two FA Charity Shields.  

Lee Dixon

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    Lee Dixon is a player that epitomizes what it is to be a Gunner. The English right-back enjoyed six years in football with four different teams before moving to Highbury.

    After two years at Stoke City, Dixon moved to Arsenal in the January transfer window of 1988 after Viv Anderson departed for Manchester United.

    Dixon would finish his career with an astounding 619 appearances for the Gunners, and 28 goals. The Englishman was an attacking full-back that featured perfectly in Arsene Wenger's plans once the Frenchman took over in 1996. 

    A great attacking player, and a phenomenal defender, Dixon instilled in the No. 2 shirt a legacy that may be impossible to overtake.

    In his 14 years with Arsenal Dixon won four First Division titles, three FA Cups, one League Cup, three FA Charity Shields and the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup. He was also voted into the 1990 PFA team of the year.  

Cliff Bastin

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    Cliff Bastin was brought to Arsenal from Exeter City in the summer of 1929. Herbert Chapman was ready building a team to compete, and Bastin brought an ability that helped the Gunners do so. 

    Bastin's importance can perhaps be summed up by stating that in his first season at the club Arsenal won the FA Cup. 

    He finished his career with 178 goals and 396 appearances. His goal scoring record was one that he would keep until 1997 when Ian Wright became the new holder. 

    Bastin a great Gunner, who very possibly could have been even more legendary had it not been for World War II cutting into his career. 

    Still, Bastin's name is one that resonates with the Arsenal faithful. His contributions to the club are still respected and appreciated over half of a century later. 

Alan Smith

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    Alan Smith endured a rough start to his Arsenal career. After making the move from Leicester City in 1987, the English International had a rough first season with the Gunners.

    The following season, however, Smith came out with a bang, and proved to everyone that manager George Graham was right to trust him. Smith scored a hat trick in the opening game of the 1988-1989 season.  

    In his eight year Arsenal career Smith made 347 appearances for the Gunners, and banged in 115 goals. He won the English Golden boot twice.

    His Arsenal side was the winner of two First Division titles, one FA Cup, one League Cup, one UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and a FA Charity Shield. 

    Smith's achievements at the club cannot be denied. He was a signing that truly gave an impact to his Arsenal side. 

Charlie Nicholas

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    If nothing else, Charlie Nicholas represents a player that brought excitement back to Highbury, at a time in which excitement was scarce. 

    Charlie Nicholas was purchased from Celtic in the summer of 1983. He carried the price tag of £800,000, but that was money well spent as far as the Highbury faithful were concerned.

    In his four year career Nicholas made 184 appearances for the Gunners and netted 54 goals. Unfortunately, the only trophy to his name is the 1987 League Cup.

    Inconsistency and off-the-pitch extravagance led to Nicholas becoming English Football's answer to Keith Moon, as evidenced by Nicholas' nickname, Champagne Charlie.  

    Nonetheless, Nicholas offered flair and excitement to an Arsenal side that was going through a transitional period. His performances in the North London Derby helped endear him to the Arsenal faithful.

Nigel Winterburn

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    Nigel Winterburn is arguably the best left-back to ever wear the Arsenal jersey. The Englishman was a Highbury-favorite, and he helped the club to an unprecedented amount of success.

    Winterburn was brought in from Wimbledon during the summer of 1987. The cost was a measly £350,000. This would turn out to be one of the better investments ever made by Arsenal Football Club.

    In his 13-year career with the Gunners Winterburn made 584 appearances and scored 12 goals. His low goal total though overshadows his incredible assist rate. 

    Winterburn made a name for himself with his passing and crosses. He had a fantastic delivery off of set pieces, and his defensive abilities were equally as impressive. 

    In his time with the Gunners Winterburn won three First Division titles, two FA Cups, two League Cups, three FA Charity Shields and a European Cup Winners' Cup. 

    His honours are great, and his play was deserving of every trophy that bears his name. Nigel Winterburn was a fantastic Gunner. 

Sol Campbell

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    It takes a brave man to make the switch from Tottenham to Arsenal. Sol Campbell, not only made the switch, but became an Arsenal favorite after doing so. 

    The English International became one of the Premier centre-backs in England during his time at Arsenal. In his five years at the club, Campbell made 197 appearances and scored 11 goals. 

    The previous numbers do no include Campbell's brief return to the club in 2010. 

    Campbell started out his Arsenal career fantastically. In his first season with the Gunners the Englishman and his club won the Premier League and FA Cup. 

    Campbell was also a member of the infamous "Invincible" side of 2003-2004.

    Campbell finished his Arsenal career with two Premier League titles, three FA Cups and two FA Community Shields.

    Campbell was also a member of the Arsenal team that made it to the UEFA Champions League final.

    Campbell's fantastic defensive efforts helped Arsenal enjoy their most successful period in history. He is a legend for the Gunners and will go down in infamy for his exploits while wearing an Arsenal shirt. 


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    Kanu's transition to Arsenal is one that is full of interesting twists. The Nigerian made just 12 appearances in three years for Inter Milan because of a heart defect. 

    After having an aortic valve Kanu made the switch to Arsenal. The Nigerian was brought in to replace Nicolas Anelka, who had just left for Real Madrid

    Kanu's transition to North London was rough, but the Nigerian quickly realized his role for the Gunners. A scorer of some fantastic goals, and a great orchestrator of play, the Nigerian became a Highbury favorite.

    Perhaps his most immortalizing Arsenal moment came in his first season with the Gunners. While visiting London-rivals Chelsea, Kanu scored an impressive 17-minute hat trick at Stamford Bridge.

    In his five-year career with Arsenal Kanu made 198 appearances and scored 44 goals. He also was the recipient of two Premier League titles and two FA Cups.  

Marc Overmars

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    Marc Overmars enjoyed a brief, but successful, three year stint with the Gunners beginning in 1997. The Dutch midfielder made the move from Ajax in the summer of 1997. 

    After enjoying success with Ajax, Overmars had a run of injury problems that discouraged other teams from moving for the Dutchman.

    So often has been the case, Arsene Wenger went ahead and made a gamble that paid off. From the midfield, Overmars netted 41 goals in 142 games.

    The key attribute that the Dutch International brought to the team was speed. Overmars' blistering pace added an entirely new dimension to the Gunners.

    Overmars helped the Gunners win the Premier League and FA Cup double in the 1997-1998 season, which was Wenger's first full season in charge.

    After that season Overmars became injury ravaged once again. In 2000, Wenger decided it would be best to let the Dutchman go. Barcelona purchased Overmars for a fee that made him the most expensive Dutch player in history. 

    Although his career was short, no one can overestimate Overmars' contribution in the 1997-1998 season. He truly was spectacular.  

Freddie Ljungberg

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    Freddie Ljungberg went well on his way to cementing his status in Gunner history just seconds into his debut when he scored against Manchester United. 

    Ljungberg played the first four years of his career with the Swedish side Halmstad. In 1998 Wenger purchased the Swedish International for a fee of £3 million.

    The partnership he would go on to form with Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires is one that Arsene Wenger could only have dreamed of when he signed him. 

    Ljungberg was an attacker. His style of play paved the way for Samir Nasri to have the season that he did in 2010-2011. 

    In his nine year Arsenal stint, the Swede made 328 appearances and scored 72 goals. He has two Premier League titles and three FA Cups to his name.

    Ljungberg is currently playing in Japan, but as far as the Arsenal faithful are concerned, Freddie will always be a Gunner. 

Pat Jennings

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    Pat Jennings is another one of those players that found a way to transcend the boundaries of North London clubs and come away as an Arsenal favorite. 

    The Northern Irish goalkeeper made the North London switch in the summer of 1977. The reason he was equally liked in both parts of North London is simple; he was a phenomenal goalkeeper. 

    Jennings was with Arsenal from 1977-1984 and in that time the Northern Irish keeper made 327 appearances for the Gunners. 

    His abilities as a keeper were plentiful. He was good against crosses, he could manage a one-on-one and he was a great shot stopper. 

    The only trophy that Jennings won with the Gunners was the 1979 FA Cup. Still, he was one of the standout performers for Arsenal in an otherwise sub-par time period.  

David Seaman

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    Few managers would consider displacing John Lukic in goal. Luckily for Arsenal fans, George Graham was not one of these managers.

    Graham purchased Seaman from Queens Park Rangers for a fee of £1.3 million. It would turn out to be money well spent.

    In Seaman's first season with the club, the Englishman kept an unprecedented 23 clean sheets and helped Arsenal win the First Division title. He was just getting started.

    Seaman had a 13 year career at Arsenal that spanned from 1990-2003. In that time the English International made 564 appearances.

    His decorated Arsenal career had a final count of three First Division titles, four FA Cups, one League Cup and one European Cup Winners' Cup.

Robert Pires

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    Robert Pires started his Arsenal career in a difficult fashion. He stepped into a role that was once occupied by Marc Overmars.

    The shadow left by the Duthcman's departure may have unnerved a different player. But Pires was a revelation in the Arsenal midfield.

    The Frenchman made the switch from Marseille to Arsenal in 2000 for a fee of £6 million. After a slow start and rough adaptation to the English game, Pires finally arrived during his second season in North London.  

    Pires possessed incredible vision, and a goalscoring ability that helped him become a favorite of the Arsenal faithful. 

    Aaron Ramsey would be the current Arsenal squad member that comes to mind in comparison. Although Ramsey has yet to show the jaw-dropping ability that Pires had possessed.

    Pires enjoyed a solid six year career in North London. He scored 84 goals in 284 appearances for the Gunners. 

    By the time he was through with the Gunners, he had two Premier League titles and two FA Cups as well. 

Patrick Vieira

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    It is difficult to describe Patrick Vieira's contribution to Arsenal Football Club in a succinct fashion. The Frenchman arrived at the club at the same time as Arsene Wenger. 

    If only the world knew what impacts those two would end up having on the club. 

    If given one word to describe Vieira, imposing would be the most fitting. Vieira's strength helped him hold off defenders, and his ability was such that enabled him to flick a pass forward to get the Gunners attack moving. 

    Vieira is the player that Arsenal fans have been missing ever since his departure from the club in 2005. 

    In his nine year Arsenal career, the French International made 406 appearances and scored 33 goals. 

    He was at the heart of the 2003-2004 "invincible," team. His success at Arsenal can be seen by his trophy list.

    Vieira won three Premier League titles and three FA Cups.

    The Highbury faithful always loved Vieira, and he is a Gunner that will forever be cemented as one of the best signings in Arsenal history.  

Ian Wright

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    Ian Wright spent six years in football with Crystal Palace before signing for Arsenal in the summer of 1991. He would depart seven years later as the clubs leading goal scorer. 

    After paying £2.5 million the Gunners had secured the services of one of the most high profile strikers in the English game.

    Wright's ability as a striker was limitless. In his league debut for the Gunners Wright had a hat trick away at Southampton.

    In his seven year career with Arsenal Wright scored 185 goals from 288 appearances. Unfortunately, Wright arrived in football a bit late.

    When Arsene Wenger arrived at the club in 1996 Wright was already 33 years of age. As he does, Wenger got rid of the aging striker in 1998.

    The English International claimed one Premier League title, two FA Cups and one League Cup in his time with Arsenal. 

Dennis Bergkamp

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    There are not enough superlatives in the world to describe Dennis Bergkamp's contribution to Arsenal. The Dutch midfielder left his mark on the club by creating an endless amount of goals.

    He didn't always score them. But it was, more often than not, his incredible vision that set them up.

    The Dutch International made the move to North London after a two year stint with Inter Milan. Bergkamp arrived at Highbury in 1995 for a fee of £7.5 million. Pennies compared to what he was worth to the Gunners.

    Bergkamp was the heart behind Arsene Wenger's new-look Arsenal. He vision and footballing intelligence would be key into helping Arsenal achieve what it did.

    In his 11 years at the club Bergkamp made 423 appearances and scored 120 goals. He was in the 2003-2004 "invincible," squad. If it was a major deal for Arsenal in the last two decades, chances are Bergkamp was there.

    When the Dutchman departed North London in 2006, he had three Premier League titles and three FA Cups to his name. 

    Dennis Bergkamp was an incredible bargain, and an incredible Gunner. 

Thierry Henry

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    It's the one name that everyone knew would be in this slideshow. Thierry Henry personified Arsenal in his time at the club. He became the face of the club, and it would be false to say that it was unwarranted. 

    Henry arrived in North London after an estimated £11 million transfer from Juventus in the summer of 1999.

    In his eight years at the club, Henry went on to score 226 goals in 380 appearances. When he left, he was Arsenal's all-time leading goal scorer. The same is true today. 

    Henry's strength, technique and pace made him a nightmare for defenders. 

    The Frenchman has four Premier League Golden Boots to his name. Along with those he has two Premier League titles and three FA Cups. 

    Henry is said to be the best player in the history of Arsenal Football Club. While that claim is bold, it is difficult to refute. 

    Thierry Henry was instrumental in the success of Arsenal during his time in North London. 

    But even with all of his records and accolades, there is still one man that was a better signing than Henry. 

Arsene Wenger

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    Despite recent tough times, Arsene Wenger has been the most important signing in the history of Arsenal Football Club. Wenger was brought to the club from Monaco in 1996.

    Since then, Wenger reinvented the club. What he has created in his time at Arsenal is as solid a foundation as any club could ever hope for. 

    He's won trophies. He architected the move from Highbury to the Emirates. Arsene Wenger has been Arsenal's most important figure in history, perhaps aside from Herbert Chapman. 

    Since Wenger took over in 1996, Arsenal has gone on to win three Premier League titles and four FA Cups. He guided the Gunners to their first ever European final in 2006. 

    He's done all of this, while spending significantly less money than Arsenal's competitors.

    Even more impressive, is the fact that Arsenal just progressed further than both big-spending Manchester clubs in the UEFA Champions League.

    While he can be frustrating at times, Arsene Wenger has proven time and time again that he knows what is best for Arsenal Football Club. 

    Wenger's signing has brought success, stability and competence to North London. He has truly been one of Arsenal's most important signings to date.