Arsenal's Most over-Hyped Players of Last 10 Years
Arsenal are a club where there always seems to be a disparity between expectation and reality. They have players brimming with potential, but they invariably fail to live up to their billing.
In this piece, we identify and rank the 10 players who've been most over-hyped in the last decade. In some cases that's been by the manager—Arsene Wenger has occasionally declared his faith in a player only to be left disappointed.
Alternatively, sometimes players are over-hyped by the media. This can often be the case when it comes to British players, with the press quick to build up any young talent before they've proved their ability over a sustained period.
Sometimes it's the fans who are guilty of setting their expectations for a player too high. Arsenal fans are so passionate that sometimes it clouds their objective assessment of a player.
The men in this list are ranked according to size of the gulf between the excitement over their potential impact and their ultimate influence on the team. Therefore No. 10 would be the least disappointing—No. 1 the most.
Read on to discover who the most over-hyped players at Arsenal have been over the last 10 years.
10. Theo Walcott
It might seem strange to include a player who has scored 100 goals for Arsenal in this list. However, Theo Walcott makes the cut because such outrageously high expectations were set for him when signed from Southampton in 2006.
Walcott was just 16 at the time, but he was already being talked about as a possible "new Thierry Henry"—even as recently as 2012 Wenger was drawing parallels between Walcott and the legendary Frenchman, per the Guardian.
Comparing him to the greatest goalscorer in Arsenal’s history was always likely to lead to a measure of disappointment.
9. Carl Jenkinson
Carl Jenkinson wasn't over-hyped when he first arrived at Arsenal—as a player arriving from lowly Charlton Athletic, expectations were not particularly high. However, once he began to make strides in the first team, Jenkinson's reputation sky-rocketed.
Perhaps that was because he was a self-confessed Arsenal fan, and, as such, the supporters were willing him to be a better player than he actually was. His high point was probably in November 2012 when he won what proved to be a solitary cap for the England senior team.
Ivorian winger Gervinho arrived at Arsenal with a glowing reputation from Ligue 1 as one of the star players in Lille's first title triumph for 56 years. Gervinho and Eden Hazard were the star players as Lille collected an unlikely double.
However, while Hazard has become a star of the Premier League with Chelsea, Gervinho never really took off in England. His unpredictable style seemed more confusing to his team-mates than opposition defenders, and ultimately he faded from the first-team picture before being sold to Roma.
7. Emmanuel Frimpong
Back in 2011, Wenger could barely contain his excitement about the potential of young Ghanaian midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong. He said, per Arsenal.com:
I love his raw enthusiasm. The only problem is to keep him on the right track. Like every generous guy, you don't want to see him lose that. He's a real fighter. You would love to go to war [alongside] Frimpong. He has a good mixture of confidence, humility and energy. He learns as well.
However a combination of injury problems and ill-discipline meant that Frimpong never really made the grade as a first-team player with Arsenal. After a spell in Russia, he is currently turning out for Swedish outfit AFC Eskilstuna.
For some Arsenal fans, the mediocrity of the second half of Wenger’s Arsenal reign is summed up by his persistent faith in Brazilian midfielder Denilson. Wenger was insistent that the holding midfielder would prove himself to be a reliable first-team performer, saying, per PA (h/t The Independent in 2011):
"Denilson has 150 games in the Premier League. People do not notice how important he is for us and he can play in every single position in midfield. He is very strong in reading the game and winning the ball back."
However, by the end of that season, Wenger had abandoned the project. Denilson was loaned back to Sao Paulo, and he has not appeared for the Arsenal senior team ever again.
5. Julio Baptista
Wenger was not alone in salivating over the potential of Julio Baptista when the Brazilian arrived at Arsenal from Real Madrid in 2006. Pretty much everyone was intrigued to see how the man dubbed "The Beast" might fare in north London.
Wenger did little to play down the excitement when he said, per Arsenal.com:
He looks like a boxer. When you see his body he does not have fat at all. He is muscular and is in the gym everyday.
Julio has such penetrative power. He is a killer once he is in front of goal. Once he is running with the ball you just feel this guy cannot be stopped.
However, Baptista did not do enough in his time with Arsenal to earn a permanent deal—and returned to Madrid after just 12 months. Although he'll be fondly remembered for goals against Liverpool and Tottenham, it was hoped he's achieve far more.
4. Carlos Vela
Young players at Arsenal are often the subject of intense hype. The fact that the likes of Patrick Vieira and Henry blossomed into elite players under Wenger's tutelage has created an expectation that the club will be able to churn out top level talent with unerring regularity.
Carlos Vela was another that seemed destined for the top. Whenever called upon (usually in what was then termed the Carling Cup), he seemed to impress. He was particularly clinical in front of goal, regularly showcasing the confidence and technique to chip the goalkeeper from seemingly any angle.
However, he was never really able to translate that ability into effective Premier League performances. Ultimately, he was sold to Spain—where he has since flourished.
3. Nicklas Bendtner
Nicklas Bendtner was highly overrated—primarily by himself. Back in 2010, the Dane told Matt Lawton of the Daily Mail:
If you ask me if I am one of the best strikers in the world, I say yes because I believe it. When I see that other strikers score a lot of goals, I realise I need to score those goals. But I think everything else in my game is right. Even if I believe I can still improve. But the goals are the last thing I need to add and when I do I believe I will be the player I want to be. One of the best.
His career since then would suggest that Bendtner was significantly overestimating his own ability.
He was a player of considerable potential, but perhaps that cockiness meant he didn’t quite have the application required to master his craft.
2. Andrey Arshavin
When Arsenal signed Andrey Arshavin, fans gathered outside the Emirates Stadium to herald his arrival. He was greeted as a saviour—and for the first few months, that faith was rewarded.
However, after his initial impact, Arshavin quickly began to fade. His ability to influence games waned, and his performances became alarmingly lazy.
After his dazzling displays at Euro 2008, Arsenal thought they’d landed a genuine world-beater. Instead, they got a guy who was so ineffective in his final season that Arsenal loaned him out midway through the campaign.
1. Jack Wilshere
Jack Wilshere made his breakthrough for Arsenal at 16, and Wenger immediately told the Guardian he thought he might have discovered the new Dennis Bergkamp:
I believe he will end up a central midfielder, just off the striker in the Bergkamp role. I am convinced he will have tremendous penetrative power and we forget that this boy is only 16 and already has so much power — you give him four more years and he will be massively strong.
He can find the final ball and can also score goals. He is a passionate and committed guy, he is not afraid of tackles and you would want this type of player to finish off central.
Wilshere has since inherited Bergkamp’s No. 10 shirt at Arsenal, but that's the only real comparison that can be made between the two players. Right now, Wilshere is stationed on loan at Bournemouth and it's genuinely difficult to envisage him ever re-establishing himself in the Arsenal first team.
That's mainly down to injuries. Had Wilshere remained fit since breaking into the team, he might well have come close to matching the Dutchman's extraordinary efforts in the Arsenal side. Unfortunately, that will probably now never come to pass.