Arsene Wenger swansong: Thierry Henry to Granit Xhaka, a look at Arsene Wenger's best and worst signings for Arsenal

Arsene Wenger has announced that he will step down as Arsenal manager at the end of the season. It has been 22 years since Wenger took charge of the London-based club, and while recent results have not been inspiring, the Frenchman has managed to leave a lasting legacy.

When Wenger joined the Gunners in September 1996, he came with an extensive knowledge of European football. During that period, most of the first-team players in the Premier League were English. There were only a few managers who knew about an untapped market of players all around Europe waiting for a club to take a chance. Not even Sir Alex Ferguson.

In his early years at Arsenal, Wenger became famous for signing great foreign players, especially from France. The 68-year-old often put his trust in the youth, and when he dipped his hands into the club’s coffers, a talented player would arrive at the Highbury, later the Emirates. However, some of his signings were quite miserable.

Here, we look at the Frenchman’s best and worst signings:

Starting with the best:

Patrick Vieira (Signed from AC Milan in 1996)

Arsenal's Patrick Vieira in action against Manchester United in 2005. Reuters

Arsenal's Patrick Vieira in action against Manchester United in 2005. Reuters

The French midfielder technically joined the North London club before Wenger took over at the Highbury but admitted it was Wenger's impending arrival that prompted him to join Arsenal. He would go on to captain the club — most notably as the leader of Arsenal's 'Invincibles' campaign in 2003-04.

Known for his full-blooded approach and midfield industriousness, he left many — including opposition players — in awe of his tackling and ball-distribution skills before leaving for Juventus in 2005.

Thierry Henry (Signed from AS Monaco in 1999)

It is safe to say that the move for Henry was Wenger's finest gamble in the transfer market. The French forward went on to score 228 goals for the Gunners and is Arsenal's all-time leading goal scorer.

Having worked under Wenger at Monaco, Henry signed for Arsenal after an off-colour season at Juventus, where he played as a winger. Wenger saw the potential and turned his ward into an out-and-out striker. Who would've guessed that? Henry's athleticism and hunger for goals perfectly suited the club’s style of play.

A top goal-scorer in four different seasons in the Premier League, Henry claimed seven honours with the Gunners.

He later left Arsenal to sign for La Liga giants Barcelona but returned to the Emirates for a short spell on loan in 2012 and marked his final Premier League appearance for the club with a last-minute winner at Sunderland.

Robert Pires (Signed from Marseille in 2000)

Arsenal's Robert Pires is challenged by Blackburn Rovers' Dickov and Pedersen during their FA Cup semi-final at the Millennium Stadium on 16 April, 2005. Reuters

Arsenal's Robert Pires is challenged by Blackburn Rovers' Dickov and Pedersen during their FA Cup semi-final at the Millennium Stadium on 16 April, 2005. Reuters

Pires joined Arsenal from Marseille in the summer of 2000 with a huge task of replacing Marc Overmars, who had left the Gunners in a record £25 million to join Barcelona. Straightaway, the young France international faced a lot of flak for keeping the ball and was under scrutiny from pundits and fans.

Interestingly, Pires had an option to choose between Real Madrid, Juventus and Arsenal but Wenger made sure that he chose the Gunners.

It took no time for Pires to form a formidable strike partnership with Henry on the left side of attack, occasionally chipping in with important goals as well.

In 281 appearances, Pires scored 85 goals for Arsenal, helping the club to numerous trophies including the Premier League and the FA Cup.

Robin van Persie (Signed from Feyenoord in 2004)

Another genius move from the Frenchman and his scouts was to get a gem of a player and that too at a premium cost in Robin van Persie. Van Persie was signed by Arsenal for just £2.75 million from Dutch side Feyenoord.

Wenger successfully converted the shy winger into a powerful striker as Van Persie ended up scoring 132 goals in 280 appearances before acrimoniously opting to join rivals Manchester United in the summer of 2012. He captained the North London club for a few years and in the season before he switched to Old Trafford, Van Persie netted 26 times in the Premier League to propel Arsenal to the Champions League.

Despite enduring an injury-hit stint with Gunners, he was always a treat to watch when fit and that makes him one of Wenger’s best ever signings.

Now let's take a look at some of  Wenger's worst signings

Park Chu-Yung (Signed from Monaco in 2011)

Signed from Monaco in 2011 for a reported £4million, South Korea's Park failed to impress the manager and fans. He was undergoing a medical at Lille when he learned of Arsenal's interest and wasted no time to leave the hotel for London and complete a dream move to the Premier League.

Park struggled to break into the first-team and made only one appearance in the league — a 2-1 defeat to Manchester United. His solitary goal came in a League Cup win over Bolton before loan spells with Celta Vigo and Watford pre-empted his departure.

Silvestre (Signed from Manchester United)

Chelsea's Didier Drogba (R) vies for the ball with Arsenal's Mikael Silvestre during the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium in London on 18 April, 2009. AFP

Chelsea's Didier Drogba (R) vies for the ball with Arsenal's Mikael Silvestre during the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium in London on 18 April, 2009. AFP

Wenger should have known the reason behind Sir Alex Ferguson's willingness to sell Silvestre to rivals Arsenal. Many pundits said that the French manager was making a huge mistake. Well, they were absolutely correct.

However, the club fancied the move because Wenger was short of defenders. Silvestre had enjoyed title success at United but as seasons passed by, he could barely match up to the pace of attackers and was inconsistent. As expected, Silvestre struggled at Arsenal and lasted only a year.

Granit Xhaka (Signed from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2016)

Arsenal's Granit Xhaka (L) vies with Atletico Madrid's Angel Correa during the UEFA Europa League first leg semi-final on 26 April, 2018. AFP

Arsenal's Granit Xhaka (L) vies with Atletico Madrid's Angel Correa during the UEFA Europa League first leg semi-final on 26 April, 2018. AFP

Many would argue on this but Xhaka's inconsistent form and splitting of the Arsenal fan base mirrors Wenger's final years at the club. After extensive scouting, the Switzerland international was signed for a reported fee of £35 million from Borussia Monchengladbach in May 2016. Wenger had hoped Xhaka to be the new, tough-tackling midfielder that the club had been looking for.

However, within six months Wenger was left disappointed with Xhaka's inability to tackle and press. His disciplinary record and unwillingness to backtrack has often cost Arsenal the match.

Andre Santos (Signed from Fenerbahce in 2011)

Santos was clearly one of the worst signings by Wenger. Although the Brazilian made a good enough start for the North London club with a goal in his third game in a 2-1 Champions League win against Olympiakos.

After that, his journey was all about injuries. Fans expected a lot from him when he arrived from Fenerbahce. Things got worse for him when he stoked the fans' ire by asking ex-Arsenal striker Robin van Persie for his shirt when making his way off the pitch at half-time against Manchester United at Old Trafford.


Updated Date: May 05, 2018 00:28 AM

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