First, check out the behind the numbers on Arsenal.com: the most comprehensive list of Arsene Wenger stats. Learn it, live it, love it. For example, did you know… “Now into his 18th term in charge, Arsène Wenger is currently presiding over the best season in the Club’s history in terms of win percentage.” This is the bible of Wenger stats.
Second, I wrote a piece for Arseblog about Wenger’s 1000 matches. As Le Prof himself pointed out in a press conference the other day, Arsene’s tenure at Arsenal can be split into two distinct periods: one which he had much more financial freedom and one which he was both restrained by the project to build the Grove and was competing against teams who combined to spend £1.5bn in the transfer market.
Third, Arsenal are also launching a Wenger 1000 app which will be full of videos, quotes, and stats. A veritable cornucopia of Arsene history. Look for that soon.
And now, on to the story…
Arsene Wenger’s Top Transfers
Mesut Özil – £44m
The most expensive transfer in Arsenal history. Like Dennis Bergkamp, always plays two steps ahead of everyone else on the pitch. Has 6 goals and 13 assists in all competitions for Arsenal already this, his first, season and he’s done that without having a real goal scoring threat in front of him (Walcott will return one day!). Has suffered heavy criticism in the press, on Twitter, and in the Blogosphere but people are always going to criticize because as Wenger points out “We live a society where everybody knows everything and it looks like it is a shame to say I don’t know.”
Thierry Henry – £14m
Only the greatest striker to play for Arsenal in the modern era. His signing in 1999 changed Arsenal forever. Converted from a left winger to a goal hungry center forward Henry would go on to score 229 goals for Arsenal and lead the Gunners to two League titles (should have been three in a row) and three FA Cups. Was the crucial component to Arsenal’s incredible unbeaten season. Once scored 24 goals and had 23 assists in a single season. Once upon a time there was a streetcar named desire, it changed its name to Thierry Henry. Oh, and was sold to Barcelona for a profit. Dig that!
Patrick Vieira – £4.7m
Before Wenger took over at Arsenal he told David Dein to go get him Patrick Vieira. Arsenal sold an ageing, alcoholic center mid in Paul Merson to Middlesbrough (£5m) for more than it cost to get Patrick Vieira and the rest is history. A fiery center mid who willed Arsenal to win. Won Arsenal their last trophy under Wenger with the final kick of the penalty shootout in the 2005 FA Cup final. Sold to Juventus for £17m… again, winning Arsenal trophies and selling him on for a profit.
Nicolas Anelka – £0.7m
Horrible person, itinerant football wanderer, but he was also the player that built the Nicolas Anelka Memorial Training Ground at London Colney. Came to Arsenal at the same time as Vieira, had two decent seasons and was sold to Real Madrid for £31m. The profit from that sale built Arsenal’s state of the art training facility at London Colney.
Mark Overmars - £6.6m
Bought the speedy winger for £6.6m, played him 140 times and he scored 41 goals for Arsenal. Sold him to Barcelona for £35m, he had an injury hit 4 seasons there and played in 137 games scoring 19 goals.
C’esc la Vie – £2.5m
Arsene bought Cesc Fabregas at age 16 from Barcelona’s youth team and quickly built a team around him. Incredible vision to pick out an incisive pass to a teammate, strong willed, loves to wear puffy jackets much to the chagrin of Phil Brown. After the breakup of the Invincibles, Cesc Fabregas was Arsenal’s only legitimate superstar. Wenger tried to build a team around Fabregas but constant injuries to Robin van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor leaving Arsenal for an absurd pay packet meant Arsenal never really challenged for the title under Cesc’s reign. Left for his boyhood club for £30m, probably half of what he was worth.
Cazorla – £16.7m
The third most expensive transfer in Arsenal’s history. The first sign that Arsene was looking to rebuild after the Cesc Brigade broke up was Wenger’s attempt to sign Cazorla in 2011. Malaga beat Arsene to the signature paying €21m for the midfield maestro but Wenger got his man the very next summer when Malaga went broke. Player of the year his first season with the Gunners now comfortable as backup to Özil and as a partner on the left. Loves a shot from outside!
The Wenger Way
These signings, and subsequent sales, of Overmars, Anelka, and Petit signaled a change in the way that English teams looked at continental players. No longer seen as lightweights who couldn’t handle the rigors of English football, these players were seen as huge value for their ability, especially when compared to similar players in England. Wenger was once criticized for his policy of buying European players but almost all of the folks who once criticized now do exactly as he has done. In, many ways Wenger kicked off a transfer revolution in England. Following his example, English teams now scour Europe looking for value and title challengers like Chelsea and Manchester City routinely field a starting XI with few or no English players.
Brit core – £27.5m
Wenger, ever the iconoclast, is actually reversing track in the transfer market. All of the purchases above were for foreign players but lately Arsene has pursued a distinctly British buying pattern, bringing in Theo Walcott (£9m), Aaron Ramsey (£5.5m), Carl Jenkinson (£1m), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (£12m), Kieran Gibbs (£0m – promoted from youth) and Jack Wilshere (£0m – promoted from youth). And they are all coming good!
Despite the almost constant criticism, Walcott has finally started to blossom into a real threat up front and last season had 21 goals and 14 assists for Arsenal in all competitions. Sadly, this season was cut short by a horrible knee injury.
Aaron Ramsey was another Wenger purchase who was oft criticized but this season has transformed into a goal-scoring threat and Arsenal’s leading tackler. Much like Patrick Vieira, he’s also Arsenal’s most tireless worker on the pitch and will be manning the engine room at Arsenal for years to come.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (the Ox) is easily the most technically gifted player of the bunch. Combines superb touch and blazing speed but is still raw in other areas of his game. Could score tomorrow against Chelsea!
Gibbs is Arsenal’s first choice left back, Jenkinson is Arsenal’s backup right back, and Jack Wilshere is Arsenal’s starting center mid. Jack has had a bit of a injury hit season this year but the raw talent is there and if he works hard, he will easily turn out as good if not better than Aaron Ramsey.
Those are my picks for Wenger’s best transfer deals. What are yours?