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Friday, 21 March 2014

Arsenal: Wenger's five greatest signings

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As Arsene Wenger prepares to take charge of his 1,000th game in charge at Arsenal, we thought we'd take a look back at some of Wenger's greatest achievements - starting here with his work in the transfer market.

Never one to splash cash just for the sake of it, Wenger has picked up a number of bargains in his time. In fact, the Frenchman is so stingy with his cash that he has been mistaken for a Scotsman!

But here are his top five signings:

Cesc-fabregas-25. Cesc Fabregas £500,000

Arsene Wenger has always had an eye for young talent and they don't come more talented than Cesc Fabregas. Spotted at Barcelona, Wenger convinced him his future was at Highbury and in 2003 the Spaniard joined the Gunners as a 16-year-old. He became the youngest player ever to play and score for the club, going on to become club captain and the Gunners' most important player. Fabregas was a joy to watch. He made the game look so simple and rescued the Gunners on many occasions. However, the Spaniard became increasingly frustrated with the club's inability to win silverware and couldn't resist the lure of returning home to Barcelona. In 2011, after eight years away, Fabregas rejoined Barcelona for £35 million.

4. Sol Campbell Free

Arsene Wenger pulled off a masterstroke in 2001 by not only signing their nearest rivals' best player, but doing so without paying them a penny. Sol Campbell was one of the best defenders around but felt he was being held back by his fellow team-mates. Despite being offered a deal to become the highest paid player at White Hart Lane, Campbell took the astonishing decision to swap the Lane for Highbury. His bravery was duly rewarded with two Premier League titles and three FA Cups. 

3. Patrick Vieira £3.5 million

Although Vieira technically arrived before Wenger set foot in the dugout it was the gaffer who orchestrated the deal. Vieira, largely unknown in England, became a fans' favourite with his rampaging runs and bone-crunching tackles. The Frenchman was not your typical midfielder. At 6ft 4in, Vieira looked more like a basketball player than a footballer, but he went on to spend nine successful seasons with the Gunners. Arsenal sold him in 2005 for almost £14 million.

Henry2. Thierry Henry £11 million

He may have cost £11 million but that was nothing compared to the memories he gave to the Arsenal fans and the trophies that he helped deliver to the club. Wenger knew Henry from his days at Monaco and in 1999 rescued him from his brief but nightmare spell at Juventus. Henry was being played as a winger but Wenger knew he had what it took to be a striker. Seven years on and Henry broke the club's goalscoring record, won honours galore and wrote his name in Premier League history. Arguably one of the greatest players the English game has ever witnessed. Arsenal sold him to Barcelona for £16 million.

1. Nicolas Anelka £500,000

What a bit of business this was. Wenger signed the unknown Frenchman from PSG in 1997 for just half a million and two years later, after scoring 23 goals in 65 appearances for the Gunners, sold him to Real Madrid for £22.3 million. Anelka, whose sheer pace terrorised defenders, became a household name at Highbury thanks to Wenger. The striker may have left Arsenal on a sour note but he definitely gave the financial side a huge lift.

Well that's our view. Who do you think has been Wenger's best signing? We'd love to hear from you.

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Colin Illingworth



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