Everything about Arsenal is money these days, so I’ll look at the five signings which Arsene made that proved best value for their transfer fee. A couple of rules that I’ve applied, entirely arbitrarily are that resale value doesn’t count; I’m only interested in what they achieved.
No. 5: Patrick Vieira
The original gem unearthed from French football. OK, AC Milan’s reserves but you get the drift. He was the jam in our sponge, the crème which held our bourbon biscuit together.
Everything you wanted in a midfielder, he was. The prototype of the midfield ‘beast’, we’ve been trying to replace him in the side ever since he left. Arsene hasn’t; he realises that there’s only one Patrick Vieira and has moved to a different style of play.
Whatever the style of play, Paddy fitted it. He could, pass, shoot, tackle, fight and argue with the best of them and frequently did. An automatic inclusion in every single ‘Best Arsenal XI’ and criminally overlooked when it came to his coaching career. The youngsters and first team squad would surely have benefited from his experience?
No. 4: Cesc Fabregas
Younger than Vieira and like the Frenchman, a prototype. Only Hector Bellerin looks set to emulate the success of the deal. Fabregas in his prime was as good as any midfielder in the country at the time.
He still possesses the exquisite eye for a pass and had he come back to Arsenal after Barcelona, we might not be in the pickle we’ve find ourselves in with Santi Cazorla’s injury. But to many supporters, the treachery of ‘going home’ was in the way it was handled, and will never be forgiven.
It doesn’t alter the performances but clouds them. He was the artistic beat of the team, and the rhythm section as well. When he played well, we were unplayable.
The lack of support at times cost us dear and arguably was the most visibly shaken at St Andrews. That season, the missed opportunity in the title race, is still a bigger regret than last season.
No. 3: Santi Cazorla
Half a million pounds don’t make all the difference between the previous player on the list and this one. Cazorla has indisputably repaid his fee to Wenger, after he arrived from Malaga in 2011.
Football with a smile on his face and his injuries have cost us dearly in recent seasons. Wenger’s curse, injuries to pivotal players at crucial times, has struck Cazorla and his reputation has grown the longer he is out, underlining his importance to the side.
Busy, always available for the ball when needed, he makes a difference in the games like Watford, the ones we should never lose. We don’t always win but we lose them less frequently when he is in the side.
No. 2: Thierry Henry
The club’s record goalscorer. Not an unknown, he already had a World Cup winner’s medal and had 150 appearances under his belt but the reward far outstripped expectations as he took Nicolas Anelka’s place in the starting line-up.
228 goals later, we remember Anelka as the one who paid for the modernisation of London Colney before his scoring feats in the 1997/98 season. But Anelka didn’t shine long enough to make this list, even if the return was the best that you expect if you’d used your Bet365 Bonus Code on your favourite online game!
As a pundit, his opinion was the polar opposite to his play. On the pitch, he was inventive and constantly picking the right moment. I don’t think any other striker in Premier League history has produced such a wide range of finishes. Nor as brutally but never managed to grab the headline-grabbing goals in finals.
No. 1: Sol Campbell
Expensive to sign in terms of wages and signing-on fee but a free transfer? Come on, no-one has come close to that kind of value for money! As many league titles on his own as Tottenham have won in their history and a goal in a Champions League final, something they can only dream of.
Arsene would sign him every day of the week, even knowing that his first spell at the club would end bizarrely. No grudges were held on either side; he came back later and still a decent job for the club.
At his peak, he was as imperious a defender as we have seen in modern Arsenal. Good in the air, good on the ground; strong, aggressive and a leader.
If Arsene is to be remembered for one deal, this is the pick of the bunch.
A list of the worst value for money is coming!