Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will celebrate his 1,000th game in charge of the club this weekend against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
The Frenchman has revolutionised the club during his 18 year tenure and has also created and signed an array of talents in that period.
Wenger rarely makes big money buys but this summer was all change as he splashed out £42.4million on Mesut Özil from Real Madrid.
The German star has the potential to become a club great but until his time comes, here are Wenger’s best 10 signings to date.
1. Thierry Henry
Arsenal’s all-time record goalscorer arrived at the club with an afro and a huge amount of self-doubt following a nightmare spell in Turin with Juventus. Wenger paid £11 million for his services in 1999 and converted him from a left winger to a world class centre-forward. Pace, power, athleticism and a ludicrous amount of flair made him arguably the Premier League’s finest ever import as he claimed five major honours at the club.
2. Patrick Vieira
The gangly Frenchman was a colossus in the centre of the park for 10 trophy-laden years at Arsenal. Signed for a meagre £3.5million from AC Milan in 1996, Vieira was an instant hit with the Highbury faithful and was arguably the most influential signing of Wenger’s reign. He was part of all seven of Arsenal’s trophy-winning teams and captained the side during the unbeaten 2003-4 season.
3. Nicolas Anelka
Continuing the French theme is Anelka, who arrived at Arsenal as an unknown 17-year-old from Paris St Germain after Wenger paid just £500,000 for him in 1997. He made an instant impact on his debut, scoring against Man Utd at Highbury on the way to winning a Premier League/FA Cup double in 1998, his first full season. He departed for the bright lights of Real Madrid a year later for £22.5million which paid for a brand new, state of the art training facility at London Colney.
4. Marc Overmars
Operating in attack with his fellow Dutchman Dennis Bergkamp, Overmars was an integral part of the Arsenal double winning team in 1998. His raw pace terrorised defenders up and down the country and his finishing ability was world class. His stand out moment was scoring the winner at Old Trafford and mimicking Eric Cantona’s famous arrogant celebration. He was another of Wenger’s bargain buys at just £5.5million from Ajax.
5. Robert Pires
In terms of Gallic flair, Pires had it in abundance. He was a goalscoring midfielder who made the game look so very simple. His almost telepathic understanding with Henry left the world’s best defenders dazzled. He was outstanding in the 2002 double winning season before a cruciate knee injury ended his campaign in March. Despite the setback, he was named the Football Writers’ Player of the Year and was worshipped by his teammates when lifting the Premier League trophy at Highbury.
6. Cesc Fabregas
Arsenal’s tendency to look abroad for upcoming youth talent saw a 16-year-old Catalan boy arrive at the club in 2003. Cesc Fabregas became Arsenal’s youngest ever first team player after making his debut against Rotherham United in a League Cup tie – and he hasn’t looked back since. After Patrick Vieira’s departure to Juventus, the Spaniard was handed the number 4 shirt and featured regularly alongside central midfield partner Gilberto Silva. Fabregas was named club captain in 2008 and enjoyed some of his best football in the following seasons before returning ‘home’ to Barcelona two seasons later for a handsome £35million fee.
7. Sol Campbell
The greatest signing Wenger ever made in the eyes of Arsenal fans was bringing in Tottenham captain Campbell on free transfer in 2001. His decision to move across the North London divide was justified as he went onto win two Premier League titles and three FA Cups. A rock at the heart of the defence, Campbell was the replacement fans had been yearning for since the retirement of Tony Adams.
8. Kolo Toure
Like Anelka, Toure arrived at Arsenal as an unknown from ASEC Mimosas for a fee of £150,000 in 2001. His boundless energy and enthusiasm made him a huge hit with the fans and he partnered Campbell in the centre of the defence during the 2003-4 Invincibles season. Toure started as a rampaging right back until Martin Keown spotted his central defensive abilities which Wenger immediately exploited.
9. Bacary Sagna
The spider-haired Frenchman was brought in from Auxerre for £6million in 2007 and has been Arsenal’s Mr Consistent ever since. A defensive stalwart, Sagna has been named in the Premier League Team of the Year on two occasions. He is blessed with the natural athletic ability to overlap down the right flank for 90 minutes and all this after sustaining two leg breaks which ruled him out for a combined 10 months. Sagna is stalling on signing a new contact this year and it would be a huge job replacing a player of his ability.
10. Aaron Ramsey
This may be seen a controversial choice but after his exploits this season, Ramsey has shown the talents that made Wenger fork out £5million for him in 2008. He has an incredible engine and before his injury, was the form midfielder in Europe after scoring 11 goals in 18 appearances. The Welshman has developed into the complete all-action midfielder who can tackle, assist and score. His recovery from a horror leg break in 2010 was slow but Wenger was patient and believed in his ability. Barring further injuries, Ramsey can go onto become one of the best midfielders in the clubs history.
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