This has been in my drafts folder for ages. It was originally meant to be posted for Wenger’s 13th anniversary at Arsenal a few weeks ago. It was then meant to be put up on his birthday last week. As you can see neither happened but better late than never. It was Wenger’s 60th birthday and what better reason for a few lists? 15 great signings, 15 poor signings, 15 memorable games and 15 great goals (plus a few extra chucked in). Enjoy!
15 Great Signings:
1. Patrick Vieira – A relatively unknown player before he joined from AC Milan, Wenger got Arsenal to sign him before he joined himself. A decade of midfield dominance, spats with Roy Keane and the Neviller and countless trophies followed. Managed to get £14 million from Juve once his knees were knackered too.
2. Thierry Henry – 369 games, 226 goals. Best player in the Premier League for about five years.
3. Freddie Ljungberg – His red hair, his run of form in the 2001/02 season after Pires got injured, his debut goal against Man Utd, those underwear ads. A great player until his hip injury.
4. Nicolas Anelka – He left on bad terms but the money received bought Henry and Pires. The first example of Wenger buying cheap and making ridiculous profit. £22.5million profit in this case.
5. Marc Overmars – He was almost too good for Arsenal while he was there and it was no surprise to see Barcelona snap him up for £25million. Scored the winner at Old Trafford in 1998 that helped overcome a 12 point deficit and was generally very, very quick.
6. Robert Pires – His form in 2001/02 earnt him Footballer of the Year honours and he was arguably just as good in 2003/04. Scored a silly amount of goals from the wing, ran oddly, had a cool goatee strip thing and apparently knew the French for va va voom. Always felt he left too early as Wenger wouldn’t give him a two year deal. Still doing the business at Villarreal.
7. Cesc Fabregas – Pinched from Barcelona, and will probably head back there one day but for now has developed into one of the best midfielders in the world. Perhaps the prime example of Wenger buying a young player and making him world class. Club captain at 22, the best is yet to come.
8. Andrey Arshavin – Probably the first current world class player Wenger has bought. Has already made a significant impact in his short time at the Emirates, even if he can be a right lazy bugger sometimes.
9. Jens Lehmann – He was immense in 2005/06 when battling to be ahead of Kahn for Germany. Also provided much hilarity as well as the odd moment of madness in his five years at the club.
10. Emmanuel Petit – ‘He’s blond, he’s quick, his name’s a porno flick. Emmanuel, Emmanuel.’ Had one of the funnier chants of recent times. Signed as a centre back, made a midfielder – he formed a fearsome partnership with Patrick Vieira for three short seasons.
11. Sol Campbell – You can’t beat signing your local rival’s captain on a free transfer.
12. Lauren – Hard. As. Nails. An ice cool penalty taker too.
13. Kolo Toure – Bought for £150K. Sold after seven years for £16million. Was fantastic at centre back until he got malaria and developed a fat arse.
14. Kanu – Ridiculous skills. Could do things with a ball you never thought possible.
15. Robin van Persie – Absolutely loves to blast it. As a result has scored some brilliant goals in his time at Arsenal.
15 Not So Great Signings:
1. Alberto Mendez – Bought from the mighty FC Feucht. I remember reading Wenger could have bought the whole club for the £250K he paid for Mendez. Made no impact.
2. Nelson Vivas – Cost Arsenal the title in 1999 with his mistake for Hasselbaink’s winner vs Leeds late on in the season. Always got booked too.
3. Igors Stepanovs – Man Utd 6-1 Arsenal is all you need to know.
4. Francis Jeffers – The supposed fox in the box managed four league goals from 2001-04, a time when Arsenal scored by the bucketload. It would have helped if he’d played more than 22 times. £8million he cost!
5. Pascal Cygan – Wasn’t that bad but I remember how I used to shudder every time I saw his name on the team sheet. If you though Vidic had a slow turning circle…
6. Mickael Silvestre – Why? What purpose does he serve? He won’t even get a link.
7. Tomas Danilevicius – A headbutt in a pre-season seems to ring a bell but that might have been after he left for Dunfermline. Played twice, didn’t score. The kind of random Wenger gamble where you wish we’d just saved the £1m.
8. Jeremie Aliadiere – Still only 26, he pissed about at Arsenal for eight long years, never learning from any of the amazing strikers at the club and scoring one league goal in his time. You always knew Wenger was basically giving away a game when Aliadiere started up front.
9. Jose Reyes – A bit dim, which meant he was the victim of many a prank. Involved in the Aragones ‘black shit’ saga too which meant his Arsenal career was over before it began given that Henry hated him. Scored a great debut goal against Chelsea though.
10. Amaury Bischoff – Normally Arsenal sign midfielders and then injure them. They tried the opposite and bought someone already injured. Needless to say he left after a year. He did play a game apparently.
11. Christopher Wreh – George Weah’s cousin. The family talent had obviously been diluted. Did score a couple of important goals in the 1997/98 season to be fair.
12. Kaba Diawara – All I remember was that he never scored, hit the post several times and was then still sold back to France for half a million profit.
13. Richard Wright – Big ears, crap goalkeeper.
14. Abou Diaby – There has to be someone current. Possibly the most frustrating player I’ve seen. could be excellent. Isn’t.
15. Rami Shaaban – Just where does he find these keepers from?!
15 Memorable Games (not all good):
1. Arsenal 1-2 Man Utd 14/04/99 – The one with everything, but especially the Arsenal missed penalty that would give Man Utd the momentum for the treble.
4. Arsenal 2-1 Leicester 15/05/04 – The one where they went the season undefeated.
6. Liverpool 4-2 Arsenal 08/04/08 – The one where they were robbed in the Champions League.
7. Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea 06/04/04 – The one where they dominated three of the four halves but still got knocked out.
8. Arsenal 2-0 Chelsea 04/05/02 – The one where they won their second double in four years.
9. Man Utd 0-1 Arsenal 08/05/02 – The one where they won the league in Manchester.
10. Inter 1-5 Arsenal 25/11/03 – The one where they produced the most unexpected scoreline I’d seen in years.
11. Leicester 3-3 Arsenal 27/08/97 – The one with the Bergkamp hat-trick.
14. Arsenal 7-0 Everton 11/05/05 – The one with the biggest league win under Wenger.
15. Arsenal 0-0 Man Utd 21/05/05 – The one where Arsenal stole the FA Cup.
15 Memorable Goals (in no particular order):
1. Thierry Henry vs Man Utd 30/09/00. Probably the first classic Henry Arsenal goal. He was just on the cusp of dominating the Premier League when he scored this.
2. Tony Adams vs Everton 03/05/98. Conclusive proof that Arsenal had shed their boring tag. Steve Bould chipped, yes chipped a through ball to Tony Adams who chested it before smashing a left foot volley home. The goal that sealed Wenger’s first title.
3. Dennis Bergkamp vs Newcastle 02/03/02. I remember people at the time saying he didn’t mean this. Fools.
4. Robert Pires vs Southampton 07/05/03. I think this gets underrated as it was a meaningless game before the 2003 Cup Final but few players could have done such a lob with three touches let alone one.
5. Ray Parlour vs Chelsea 04/05/02. Romford Pele scored few but when he did they were usually special. Tim Lovejoy gets slated to this day for saying ‘Oh, it’s only Ray Parlour’ just before he scored.
6. Dennis Bergkamp vs Sunderland 15/01/97. The non-flying Dutchman scored many an amazing goal for Arsenal but his trademark was opening up his body and curling one round the keeper into the top corner from about 25 yards. Like this.
7. Robert Pires vs Aston Villa 17/03/02. Any goal that makes Peter Schmeichel look silly gets the thumbs up from me. Pires was quite possibly the best player in Europe in the spring of 2002.
8. Freddie Ljungberg vs Juventus 04/12/01. I remember being at work during this match and trying to check my phone for text updates. Little did I know what a special goal I’d see when I got home. Just watch Bergkamp’s skill again and again and again…
9. Eduardo vs Burnley 08/03/09. Out for a year and he comes back with this. Quite recent but no less special for it.
10. Thierry Henry vs Spurs 16/11/02. Hmm how to wind up your rivals? I know, run 75 yards, dribbling past half the team before scoring, and then run all the way back and celebrate in front of the Spurs fans. Nice.
11. Dennis Bergkamp vs Leicester 27/08/97. One third of the greatest hat-trick in Premier League history.
12. Robin Van Persie vs Charlton 30/09/06. Trust me, he didn’t shin it. Well not on purpose anyway.
13. Ray Parlour vs Valencia 04/04/01. Back when Valencia and John Carew used to screw Arsenal over every couple of years there were many a disappointing night in Europe. This special from Ray Parlour however resulted in one of the most mental celebrations I’ve ever witnessed in pub.
14. Emmanuel Adebayor vs Villarreal 07/04/09. Yes he’s a prick but there’s no denying this was a great goal. The last good thing he did in an Arsenal shirt.
15. Thierry Henry vs Liverpool 09/04/04. Dumped out of the FA Cup and Champions League in consecutive games to Man Utd and Chelsea of all teams, Arsenal were 2-1 down at half-time at home to Liverpool with an unbeaten record to protect. Pires quickly equalised, before Henry gave Carragher the runaround for an amazing third. He’d complete his hat-trick later on and Arsenal went on to win the league unbeaten.