Arsenal’s Best Signing Ever

June 27, 2011

Who is the best player ever to have been signed by Arsenal?

Last summer I wrote a post about ‘Arsenal’s Best Transfer News Ever’. The point of that piece was to determine which piece of transfer news was the most exciting when it was announced, regardless of how that player went on to perform for the club.

So, for example, Clive Allen was on that list even though he never played a game in anger for Arsenal and so was Davor Suker, who was never more than a bit part player.

This time I want to know which signing (as opposed to home grown player) has been the best piece of business we have ever done.

You may want to weigh up factors such as what they cost, what their impact was on the team, what legacy, if any, they left behind, their achievements versus the expectations we had when they arrived and so on.

I’m not including anyone who has come through the Arsenal ranks from apprentice up, or has been recruited at too young an age to be considered a mature signing (so there’s no room for Cesc Fabregas).

For starters, here are what I consider to be some of the main contenders:

Cliff Bastin

Cliff was spotted by Herbert Chapman playing for Exeter away at Watford. Chapman had gone along to keep tabs on a promising Watford player but was so impressed by Cliff that he snapped him up at the end of the 1928/29 season. It was an inspired piece of business and was crucial to the Chapman revolution that led Arsenal to dominate English football in the 1930s. Bastin’s scoring record for the Gunners was not outdone until Ian Wright surpassed it in 1997.

Ronnie Rooke

Arsenal’s dominance in the Chapman era was ended not by any other team, but by the Second World War. When football began again afterwards we returned as a severely weakened side and narrowly avoided relegation in 1947. But the following year we bounced back to reclaim our crown – and the vital ingredient was a tough, experienced centre forward called Ronnie Rooke. He was nearly 35 when we signed him from Second Division Fulham and he had never played in the top flight – so he was a real gamble. However, his 21 goals in 1946/47 helped stave off relegation and he followed that with 33 more the next season as we marched to the title.

Frank McClintock

Our Double-winning hard man was brought up in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, which explains a lot. He was signed in 1964 after seven successful years at Leicester. Starting off in midfield before moving to the CB role (and the captaincy) he was a rock throughout the relatively fallow years of the late 1960s and, of course, led Arsenal to the Double in 1971.

Alan Smith

Another Leicester stalwart, signed in 1987. “Smudger” was an awkward-looking, ungainly centre forward, but there was no-one better at holding up the ball and bringing others into play – skills that, along with his eye for a goal, proved to be vital in our title-winning seasons of 1989 and 1991.

David Seaman

After winning the league in ’89 most of us were happy with John Lukic between the sticks, but George Graham decided that he wanted the best and went out and got Safe Hands from QPR in 1990. It’s no exaggeration to say that Seaman was an essential ingredient in every subsequent success achieved by the club during his time with us.

Ian Wright

Although he would not win a champions medal until 1998 and the arrival of Arsene Wenger, Wrighty was a mainstay of the Arsenal team in the later George Graham era, when we stopped winning championships and started winning cups and when our flamboyant attacking midfield was replaced by pragmatic journeymen. Arguably, without Wright’s goals during that period, we might really have struggled.

Dennis Bergkamp

I’ll admit to being biased here. Dennis is my all-time favourite Arsenal player – but what a signing he was in terms of ambition and imagination. Bruce Rioch was the boss when Dennis arrived in 1995 but his signing is widely attributed to David Dein. The English league did not have much in the way of foreign superstars at that time (Eric Cantona apart) and Dennis showed the way forward for many of the great foreign players that followed. His touch, vision, passing and reading of the game was a damning indictment of the type of players being produced by English clubs in the Route One era.

Sol Campbell

Sol’s signing from the N17 knuckle-draggers was the sensation of the close season in 2001. The fabled Adams-Keown-Bould back three was near the end of its days and a significant reinforcement was needed. You don’t get more significant than Big Sol, who went on to become an immense figure in our defence, even if he did go a bit loopy at the end.

Patrick Vieira

Signed in 1996 from Milan, Paddy took the EPL by storm and is arguably still the greatest midfielder to have strut his stuff since the Premiership was formed. Arsenal captain, Arsenal legend, fearless, tireless, gifted… what more is there to say?

Thierry Henry

After Arsene Wenger’s first Double in 1998, we were all gutted when young goal machine Nicolas Anelka was persuaded by his greedy agents (his brothers, no less) to walk out on us the following year. But we need not have worried. Arsene went one better, bringing in Thierry Henry fresh from France’s 1990 World Cup triumph. He was a winger with va-va-voom, but Arsene converted him into the deadliest striker the Premier League has ever known.

That’s it.

My choice would be Dennis, because he completely transformed Arsenal and helped transform English football. He also stayed with us until the end of his career and is clearly still a devoted Gooner.

What do you think?


No defence for no defence.

August 4, 2010

I know the ink is not dry on a contract or even if a contract is being compiled for the signing of Emir Spahić of Montpelier but I find this rather depressing. We’ve lost two world class defenders in Sol Campbell and William Gallas together with Senderos and Silvestre and have managed so far to buy Koscielny to add to our squad. We don’t have a 6’4″ lump in our junior squad waiting to step up so why aren’t we buying one?

What is it about our manager that means that he won’t fix this problem? He must see it, we can all see it, from past  players to current squad members, why would he want to undermine the spine of the team?

We are not going to sign a world class goalkeeper – or even a better one than we already have – and thats a pretty bad situation for a top club to be in. I can slightly understand the logic of not wanting a new keeper and a new centre-back pairing at the same time – the need for good comminication between those three is very important. What I don’t understand is that this situation hasn’t been sprung on Arsène. The failings of our keepers last season cost us the Premiership title so he’s had more than the closed season to be looking around for a new one.

We all say it in hushed voices “If Vermaelen gets injured we’re stuffed” well guess what?  We don’t have to be in this situation and we shouldn’t be. Whatever the reason for  not spending the money now that we have it, can’t possibly be a good enough one.

What is it about buying defenders that gives Arsène such a head-ache? If we can’t defend we get undone, results against Birmingham, Wigan and Blackburn last season show that. I’m all for living life on the edge but spending the last ten minutes of games chewing my fingers with my heart pounding in my chest because we’ve given a goal away and its now 2-1 are going to ruin my health.

Vermaelen is top class. Koscielny we don’t know. Djourou has returned from a year out injured and has so far failed to impress. Before his injury he was fourth choice – Senderos was a more proven centre-back than him.

We’ve spent £8.5m on Koscielny – he may be an excellent find, Spahić may also be an excellent find but this kind of business doesn’t inspire confidence. Arsène – you need some help here, you concentrate on the attack and let someone else help you sort out the defence.

This is an ongoing problem and a serious one and until our defending is brought up to scratch we’re not going to be challenging for the Premiership – it won’t matter how many great goals we score against the others, the ones that count are the ones we let in.

Arsenal in crisis! …. what crisis?

July 30, 2010

I am really getting fed up with all the dross coming out of the ‘red tops’. Yesterday, they reported that we are doomed for another season as RVP and Fabregas wouldn’t be fit enough to play in our opening game at Liverpool.  They are certain our spending is finished for another summer and our hopes for next season are all but over. They highlight the fact that Bendtner will also miss the opening games, (which we all knew several weeks ago) and Denilson and Diaby are also a doubt.

Some Arsenal sites panic at all this make-believe stuff. The internet has been littered with headline posts calculated to provoke reaction. Our ‘fantasy predicament’ pales into insignificance compared to the mess Liverpool are in, with an injured Torres, and Carragher, Kuyt and Gerrard burnt out after the World Cup. The new manager, Roy Hodgson has an enormous task ahead in trying to produce a side that meets the expectation of the Liverpool fans.

What Wenger actually said was that he would address the situation on the 5th August. He didn’t say that RVP or Fabregas wouldn’t play. Denilson and Diaby  both have slight groin strains but would most probably be available although Bendtner aggravated his groin problem and was always going to miss the start of the season. Luckily we have Chamakh now who it is likely will compete with Bendtner for a starting place in the side any way.

Year after year the media ‘will us to fail’ and try every conceivable method to brainwash a gullible audience, some of whom fall for it every time.

Wenger isn’t stupid, I’m sure he wants to buy where we need cover.  He knew months ago that Gallas, Silvestre, Senderos and Campbell were out of contract and would probably leave, and at the same time he would have assessed our present cover. The pre-season games in Austria will have given him a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses in the squad .

Look how little activity there is from the top clubs so far this summer. There is a worldwide recession. Most PL clubs are in so much debt that,the penny has finally dropped. The days of buying players at over inflated prices must stop (unless you’re man city) but also, the availability of top players is limited.

Have you seen many who played in the world cup change clubs? City will continue to splash the cash, but making wholesale changes doesn’t always equate to a winning formula .

I feel very confident that we have a good balance now in the squad and will still buy at the least another centre back.

Have faith my friends.

Written by kelsey

Arsenal get it right …. the Press get it wrong

July 29, 2010


What is it about the Daily Mail? No matter how much I try to ignore Fleet Street’s greatest embarrassment, I can’t help finding new things about this fear-mongering, xenophobic, Thatcherite rag to annoy me, usually via a Newsnow link. This time it wasn’t some load of nonsense about how we’ll all be mugged by Kosovan asylum seekers if we even dared to step outside our front doors into the warzone that is 21st century British suburbia; it’s just another piece of journalistic sloppiness about football.

MJC posted a very good piece a little while ago about how the new 25-player squad rules will work – to recap, he explained that essentially (a) any player who is born on or after 1 January 1989 doesn’t count towards the 25-player limit at all for the coming season and (b) of the 25 “older” players, eight places are reserved for players who spent at least three seasons in England and Wales between the ages of 16 and 21 – these are “homegrown players”.

Importantly, but apparently beyond the wit of the Daily Mail, homegrown players can have any passport, it’s just where they trained in their early years that counts.  So, Owen Hargreaves, as a Bayern Munich trained player, isn’t homegrown despite being English (sort of), but Nicolas Anelka is homegrown despite not being English and having played in France, Spain and Turkey as well as England. Clubs can have more than eight homegrown players, it’s just a quota to protect against importing too many established players from other leagues.

MJC explained that Arsenal are in pretty good shape for the new rules, but I wondered how that stacked up against our principal rivals. My nerdy curiosity got the better of me, and I checked the current first team squads of our principal rivals for the coming season (Chelsea, United, Spurs and City – sorry, I didn’t bother with Liverpool, they just don’t seem relevant…). I had to make some assumptions about which young players at each club would be serious senior squad contenders, but my conclusion is as follows:

* Arsenal: Squad of 33, of which 13 are under 21. We therefore have five spaces left for non-homegrown players aged over 21.

* Chelsea: Squad of 27, of which five are under 21. They therefore have three spaces left before they reach the 25-player cap, two of which are for homegrown players.

* United: Squad of 33, of which eight are under 21. United therefore have no spaces in their squad, so can’t make new signings without omitting existing squad members.

* Spurs: Squad of 29, of which four are under 21. They also have no space left in their squad for senior players.

* City: Squad of 31, of which six are under 21. But not only do City have no space left in the squad, even before making any further signings, they will already have to omit seven existing senior players.

Of course, none of this matters if our regular first choice players aren’t up to it, but we are clearly in great shape to get the best out of these rules. Only Chelsea come close to being in as good a position.

But what did the Daily Mail say? They of course said that United are doing well because they have lots of English players, but thought Arsenal and Chelsea would have to omit players. In fact, it’s the other way around, United are the worst positoned of last season’s top three. It’s a shame that there are so many people paid to write about our game who don’t know enough about it, or are too lazy to check.

Written by 26may1989

Arsenal Untested ….A Friendly Stroll in The Park

July 28, 2010

SC Neusiedl 1919. 0 Arsenal 4.

With yet another good workout satisfactorily completed the thoughts will turn to The Emirates Cup, where we might really begin to judge our squad at a much higher level, but I will leave that for another time.

The first thing that struck me last night was the stadium, the infamous Sportzentrum Neusiedl. Even allowing for the fact that Neusiedll were being compared to a Conference side, it appeared that someone had quickly assembled a pitch in a far flung park somewhere in eastern Austria. Nevertheless there was a capacity crowd of 2500, amongst which I must have spotted at least 400 kids happily enjoying their ice creams.

Back to more serious matters. We had learnt earlier in the day that Sol had finally decided to leave us for the heady heights of Newcastle and I’m sure all of us wish him well and even at the ripe old age of 36, I feel it would have been beneficial to have him still in our squad. This was further compounded with the sad sight of Djourou leaving the field after barely 20 minutes, and this may turn out to be a blessing in disguise, as the need for a centre back is now a must.

I won’t give you a match report as it wasn’t really a game, but in the first half Nasri shone way above anyone else and looked sharper than ever. Wilshere also had a fine first half and was reintroduced midway through the second half. I hope the boss was thinking that the lad is now ready to be an active member of our first team squad.

Frimpong, after a slow start impressed yet again, and it was as nice to see Carlos score with his customary chip, as it was to see Theo score and Chamakh cooly slotting in his first goal for the club from the penalty spot.

Many were surprised to see Almunia start let alone as captain, but I wouldn’t read too much into that. For those who were not aware, Rosicky was withdrawn 10 minutes before the start.

Generally we still look vunerable in defence and again our crossing needs to improve dramatically. This is a real issue for me, but on the other hand we will see a radically different line up for the first game at Anfield. Arshavin is a canny player and one gets the impression, not for the first time, that he is saving himself for the games that really matter.

All in all maybe a few questions were answered for the boss and finally it was nice to see Gibbs back in the team, though he may well need a good few weeks to regain his sharpness. JET for a big lad had a very compact game, but I doubt he is quite ready for the first team, and a word for Mannone who has hardly been mentioned lately, a good penalty save and basically nothing much else to do.

Roll on Saturday and A.C.Milan.

Written by kelsey

Gallas to Return?

July 14, 2010

Has Gallas really gone? We all know he is currently touring the fashion capitals of Europe in search of a two year contract and a wage that will enable him to continue the lifestyle he has become accustomed to — but is that really likely to happen? He can rule out the big four salary payers: Barça, Real, City and Chelsea, they have no interest in him.

So, now what for Gallas?

My guess is that he is in for a rude awakening, that’s if the morning sun isn’t already shining in his eyes from having Juventus laugh his grandiose demands out of town. Still smarting from that embarrassment he might just start looking a bit more fondly at our one year contract, and its suggestive nod towards a second year, with renewed interest.

Gallas has not burned his bridges at Arsenal and he is going to have to work somewhere so why not come back to the warm familiarity of the Home of Football.

Koscielny to start against Liverpool – are you sure?

I am not convinced that Koscielny, a player with so little big time experience, has been ear marked by Wenger as a first choice starter. Well, not at the very beginning of the season any way; I have trouble imagining him taking to the field along side Vermaelen at Anfield and I am not persuaded by the argument that we wouldn’t have paid ten million pounds just for back up. Why wouldn’t we is my answer to that?

There must be a few others reading this who, similar to me, like to cook? Imagine you were in the middle of cooking fish, something I am particularly fond of, and you look in the fridge in search of lemons and realise that they are all past their use by date. To solve the problem you send one son to the shops and another to pick one from the tree in the garden. Taking the fish out of the oven you are confronted with a dilemma — which lemon to use – the answer is, of course, the best one, irrespective of where it came from — the one that will make the meal the most successful.

Hopefully someone reading this will realise that the home grown lemon is a metaphor for Djourou and the purchased lemon being Koscielny – the only thing that Wenger will take into consideration when choosing between them is which one will make the team the most successful.

More new centre back signings – in our dreams.

One thing that I don’t believe will happen is that we will buy a house hold name centre back with more experience than Koscielny that’s to say Mertesacker or Jagielca.

Wenger may pit Djourou and Koscielny against each other to fight it out for the right to eventually play along side Vermaelen but I don’t believe he would buy someone who by reputation will expect an automatic first team place: the effect would be to crush the enthusiasm of the two we already have as they would be consigned to the bench for what could be the best part of the season and quite possibly a lot more. History tells us that Wenger doesn’t do that; he always gives players a chance.

Gallas’ return would solve many problems.

The beauty of Gallas returning is that he could start the season bringing all his experience to bear while gradually handing over the reigns to whoever best emerges between Djourou and Koscielny and even if Gallas starts playing out of his skin the two younger Franco-phones will know that their chance will be coming sooner rather than later.

I genuinely think Gallas’ return is a realistic possibility and is the only reason Sol is waiting before he takes up one of his many offers. If Gallas returns there is absolutely no space for Sol, if Gallas finds another club there is still work for Campbell.

Come back Gallas your team needs you.

Lets see how many people come on today, not having read to the end, and leave a belligerent comment saying I am mad and that Gallas has been released – to them I say this: he may well have been but so had Campbell and look what happened there?

Written by London

The Exit Looms …. But For Who?

July 12, 2010

When discussing buying players recently, I’ve found myself repeating the phrase ‘cautiously dipping our toes back into the transfer market’.

I know we’ve been buying players selectively over the last couple of years, but I do believe that the pattern of one decent signing over the summer will become 2,3 or even 4 as long as our profits remain healthy and the squad needs reinforcing.

In a perfect world, we’d have a gifted and balanced squad, none of whom want to leave, fed by a constant influx of talent from our youth system, but Carlsberg don’t do football management. I don’t expect us to buy any ‘finished article’ £25m+ superstars, but continue with what we do best and that is to identify players who are not on the radar of the big clubs but are ‘Wenger gems’ in the making. I expect Koscielny to be just such an acquisition.

This brings me to the main point of the post. In the future, if we are going to bring in 2 or 3 players, we will also be letting 2 or 3 players go. Competition for places in the side should be fierce and hopefully this will increase desire, ambition and work rate in the squad. I’m not referring to the likes of  Sol, Silvestre and Campbell’ older players who are being ‘let go’. It would be great if the next time we sell a player it will be because WE want to  rather than THEY would prefer to play for a ‘bigger’ club.

In yesterday’s post, 26may1989 put it very well when he wrote this about the respective performances in the World Cup ‘Never has a tournament shown the value of team play, of the collective over the individual. To me, that’s a good thing.’

I would argue that team spirit and belief is eroded when the better players know that there are weak links in the side.

We’ve discussed the importance of not damaging player’s confidence by character assassination from the terraces; in the media or on the blogs, but the ruthless objectivity that has got us into this enviable position must also apply to the squad.

The purchase of Vermaelen to replace Kolo Toure is a perfect example of the way I think we should go about strengthening the squad.

I have it from a ’very reliable source close to the top’ (hell, I sound just like the sort of rumour monger I despise), that last season, there were four first team regulars that were thought not to be up to standard – pretty amazing that we finished 3rd in the Premiership if that really was the case.

I can already sense every reader compiling a list in their heads. Apart from the obvious choice of the keeper, this subject will produce more disagreement than any other. Song would be one of the first names on the team sheet for me whereas I am yet to be convinced that Diaby can produce the consistency and discipline required.

I shall not describe any players in relation to a ‘popular savoury spread’, but suffice to say that we all employ our personal prejudices when evaluating players and sometimes that is an irrational judgement, but the harsh reality is that we can now afford to replace any that are not good enough – and that’s precisely what we must do!

Arsène will no doubt have it in his mind that next season will be make or break for some players. He has announced in previous years that he expects player ‘A’ (Theo?) to really step up a level, he now has the financial clout to replace player ‘A’ if he fails to reach the required standard. Every player with potential should be given the chance to prove they can make the grade (Vela?), but equally there is a point where persistence with failure damages the team and costs games.

We will have a stronger team this coming season. The description of Koscielny as a ‘warrior’ says it all; Arsène knows we need to be stronger and more aggressive to compliment our silky passing skills.

I expect that any player who consistantly fails in terms of ability and work rate will be closest to the door when we go shopping next summer.