Arsenal Transfers: Ranking Arsene Wenger's Worst Signings for the Gunners

Mohamed Al-Hendy@Mo_HendyCorrespondent IAugust 12, 2011

Arsenal Transfers: Ranking Arsene Wenger's Worst Signings for the Gunners

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    Throughout his reign at Arsenal, Arsene Wenger has been well-known for his ability to sign talented youngsters and turn them into world-class players. Patrick Viera, Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas, Nicholas Anelka, Freddie Ljungberg, Kolo Toure, etc... the list goes on and on.

    But for all his successes in turning talented youth players into world beaters, there have been failures. In honor of the signing of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who arrives at Arsenal with the massive pressure of being the most expensive youth player Wenger has ever signed, we take a look at the worst signings of the Arsene Wenger era.

Honorable Mentions

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    Here are the guys who just missed the cut to be included among Arsene Wenger's worst signings:

    Amaury Bischoff, Central Midfielder

     Bought For: Nothing

    Sold For: Nothing

    Amaury was signed in 2008, with Arsene Wenger admitting that he was taking a gamble on his talent despite his poor injury record. The gamble did not pay off as the Portuguese midfielder made only one substitute league appearance for Arsenal before being allowed to leave on a free transfer at the end of the season.

    Now 24, Bischoff is currently a free agent after spending two poor seasons at Portuguese Liga club Academia.

    Alberto Mendez, Central Midfielder

    Bought For: Nothing

    Sold For: Nothing

    Mendez was signed by Arsene Wenger in 1997 while playing for German non-league side SC Feucht. Despite spending five years with the team, Mendez made only four league appearances for the club, and eventually left permanently for Racing de Ferrol, a team in Spain's Segunda Division at the time (now in the Tercera Division).

    David Grondin, Left Winger

    Bought For: Nothing

    Sold For: Nothing

    David Grondin's story mirrors that of Mendez and Bischoff. Signed from AS Saint-Etienne at the age of 18, David Grondin failed to fulfill his potential, and after making one league appearance in five years at the club, was sold to Dunfermline Athletic in the Scottish Premier League.

8: Tomas Danilevicius

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    Position: Striker

    Bought For: £1 million

    Sold For: Peanuts

    Tomas Danilevicius was a tall Lituanian striker signed from Lausanne, a Swiss Super League club, in December 2000 for a fee in the region of €1 million, but he didn't last long at Arsenal. He played a couple of league games for the club before being loaned out to Dunfermline Athletic and then sold to Beveren in July 2001. Since then he has played for five other clubs and he is also the record goalscorer for his country.

    Wenger had signed him after he had impressed in a friendly for Arsenal, but he quickly changed his mind after he joined the club. There have been very few players who have spent such a short time at Arsenal during Wenger's reign.

    Still, despite his failed spell at Arsenal, Danilevicius has had a pretty successful career overall, and did manage to score against Barcelona while at Arsenal.

7: Jermaine Pennant

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    Position: Right Winger

    Bought For: £2 million

    Sold For: Nothing

    Jermaine Pennant was only 15 years old when Arsenal paid Notts County £2 million for his services in 1999. He was seen as one of the brightest young prospects in English football, and his future at Arsenal looked really bright. However, he never managed to live up to his potential, as a string of disciplinary problems blighted his six years at the club.

    He is seen as one of the reasons Wenger is not keen on signing English players, as his behaviour left so much to be desired. There was no doubting his skill, but he just didn't seem to have the application to accompany it. His only goals for Arsenal all came in the one game, as he scored a hat trick on his full debut against Southampton in the league in May 2003.

    Since leaving Arsenal he has made a very good living out of football, and appears to be well-settled at Stoke City now, but he has never managed to become the player he should have been (he came close in the 2006-07 season at Liverpool, though). Despite his talent, Pennant never seemed to have the mental ability needed to make it and stay at the very top.

6: Kaba Diawara

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    Position: Striker

    Bought For: £2.5 million

    Sold For: £3 million

    There are a number of players I passed over due to the fact that Arsene Wenger managed to cash in on them and make a profit despite their poor spells at Arsenal. Despite the fact that Diawara is one of these players, I felt like he still could not be ignored as a poor signing.

    Kaba Diawara joined Arsenal from Bordeaux in the the summer of 1998 when Arsenal were the holders of the domestic double in England. He was signed for a fee of £2.5 million and quite remarkably Arsenal managed not to lose any money when he was sold to Marseille the next summer. He made a total of 15 appearances for Arsenal, but most of them were as a substitute and he never managed to score a goal.

    He had the chance to make a name for himself in Arsenal's penultimate game of the season when they needed a win to put themselves in a position to retain their title. He came on as a sub late in the game away to Leeds United, but he hit the bar and Arsenal lost to a late goal. Since leaving Arsenal 12 years ago he has played for 13 different clubs, but his goals have been few and far between.

5: Mikael Silvestre

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    Position: Center Back

    Bought For: Peanuts

    Sold For: Nothing

    Mikael Silvestre's form during his time at Arsenal makes Sebastian Squillaci look like a solid option in defense.

    Mikael Silvestre was signed from Manchester United in the summer of 2008 for a small fee, and rarely has a signing been so unpopular among Arsenal fans. From the start, he looked sure to be an awful signing, as just the previous summer Manchester United had fought tooth-and-nail to ensure that Gabriel Heinze did not move to Liverpool, meaning that they would've likely blocked Silvestre's move if they thought he had anything positive left to contribute to Arsenal.

    He was viewed as being well past his best by the fans, and his appearances in the Arsenal team certainly didn't disprove that theory. He stayed for two seasons, but he was never a first choice during that time.

    In the summer of 2010 Silvestre joined Werder Bremen on a free transfer, and rarely have Arsenal fans celebrated a player leaving quite so much. At best he was slow and awkward during his time at Arsenal, but at his worst he was a real liability to the team. He managed to play 43 games during his two seasons at Arsenal, but the defence never looked solid when he played.

4: Igor Stepanovs

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    Position: Center Back

    Bought For: £1.35 million

    Sold For: Nothing

    Contrary to popular belief, Stepanovs actually got off to a good start at Arsenal after his £1.35 million transfer from Skonto Riga, and was getting more and more playing time before that fateful day against Manchester United.

    Late in February 2000, Manchester United completely crushed Arsenal, six goals to nil. Stepanovs was largely blamed for the wide margin of defeat, and from that game on showed that he was way too slow and lethargic to keep up with the fast pace of the Premier League.

    After only 17 appearances in three years, Stepanovs left Arsenal for K.S.K. Beveren, a Belgian team currently playing in the Belgian second division, on a free transfer. Stepanovs would go on to become Latvia's most capped player ever, but would never play at a top European club again after his departure from Arsenal.

3: Jose Antonio Reyes

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    Position: Left Winger

    Bought For: £10.5 million

    Sold For: £8 million

    Jose Antonio Reyes was only 20 when he joined Arsenal from Sevilla in the January transfer window of 2004 for a fee believed to be in the region of £10.5 million. He was sold to Atletico Madrid for a slightly smaller fee in the summer of 2007, and his time at Arsenal was judged to be a failure. He managed to score 23 goals in over 100 games for Arsenal during his two and a half seasons at the club, but he never really settled into life in England.

    Reyes had problems learning English and he was homesick despite the fact that his family had come to England with him. He was a very talented player when Arsenal signed him and he showed that talent to varying degrees for the club. The end of his Arsenal career started away to Manchester United when Gary Neville was allowed to continuously foul him, and the referee gave him no protection at all.

    After that game it seemed like Reyes lost some heart and despite signing a new contract in 2006 he was allowed to leave before the start of the next season. Despite some excellent performances at times he failed to live up to his potential in an Arsenal shirt.

2: Richard Wright

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    Position: Goalkeeper

    Bought For: Undisclosed (widely believed to be £6 million)

    Sold For: £3.5 million

    Move over Manuel Almunia; your spot on this list has been taken over by Richard Wright.

    Richard Wright was a 23-year-old goalkeeper with an awful lot of potential when he joined Arsenal from Ipswich Town in July 2001. His fee was undisclosed, but it is rumored to have been up to £6 million. David Seaman was nearing the end of his career at the time, and Wright was seen as a long-term replacement for the Arsenal legend.

    He got his chance to show what he could do early on, as Seaman picked up an injury, but it soon became apparent that he wasn't up to the task. He lost his place in the team to Stuart Taylor with Seaman still out injured, but the appearances he made still entitled him to a Premier League winners medal when Arsenal lifted the trophy. He was yet another English signing by Wenger who failed to live up to his billing in what was becoming an all too familiar scenario.

    Arsenal sold him to Everton after only one season at the club, but his career has been hampered by injuries to his knee in particular. His appearances since then have been limited, and he currently finds himself without a club at the age of 33 when a goalkeeper should be in his prime.

1: Francis Jeffers

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    Position: Striker

    Bought For: £8 million

    Sold For: £2.6 million

    Francis Jeffers was seen as the "fox in the box" Arsenal needed when Wenger signed him from Everton in 2001 for a fee of £8 million. He was only 20 years old at the time, but he never really lived up to the billing and his time at Arsenal was also plagued by injury. He was at the club during the domestic double season in 2002 and the FA Cup triumph in 2003, but he failed to pick up any medals himself.

    It can't have been easy for him having to compete for a place with Thierry Henry and Sylvain Wiltord, but it would appear Wenger's judgement on him wasn't very far off as he has done very little since leaving Arsenal. He spent some time on loan at Everton before Arsenal managed to sell him to Charlton for £2.6 million in 2004. In his time at Arsenal he never looked up to the task in my opinion, and at only 30 years of age he now finds himself without a club.

    Wenger has not had a good record signing young English players, but Jeffers was by far the biggest failure of all of them. He cost nearly as much as Henry did a few years earlier, but the Frenchman went on to break all of Arsenal's goal scoring records, while Francis Jeffers is most notable for being sent in the 2003 Community Shield match against Manchester United, 12 minutes after coming on as a sub.

Conclusion

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    After scouring the internet for lists and opinions on Arsenal's worst signings under Arsene Wenger, it's clear that he's definitely made many more good signings than bad ones for Arsenal. Most lists and discussions mentioned the same names, and many lists included players who actually didn't perform too badly for Arsenal (such as Oleg Luzhny, pictured above).

    Thus, even though the frustration with Wenger's signing of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, rather than a mature, developed center back, is understandable; the odds are strongly in Wenger's favor for Oxlade-Chamberlain to turn out to be a star in the future.

    But back on topic, what do you guys think? Are there are any disastrous signings that I've missed that should be included? Or any bad but not awful signings that should've been included among the honorable mentions?

    I tried to avoid including members of the current team as I like to believe that they still have time to turn their Arsenal careers around. In any case, even the candidates to make this list, like Almunia, didn't make it because a) they've had multiple good moments in their Arsenal career, and b) there are worse signings in their position.

    Still, I'd like to hear who you think should be on this list when they leave Arsenal from the current team, if you believe that any members of the current team are bad enough to be included among Arsene Wenger's worst signings for Arsenal.

    Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing your thoughts and reading your comments!