Arsene Wenger has been in charge for almost 15 years at Arsenal, and in that time he has bought and sold some of the best players in the world. His transfer dealings have been exceptional at times, as he has picked up players at bargain prices and sold them at a huge profit. Of course nobody is perfect, and he has made some mistakes at times as well.
In this article I will attempt to list the 10 worst buys by Wenger in his time at Arsenal. There are a few ways to judge the success or lack of it for the players Wenger bought, and it's not always a case of how much money the players cost. Some of the players were picked up for a fairly small fee, but they turned out to be completely out of their depth at Arsenal.
10: Amaury Bischoff.
Amaury Bischoff was signed by Arsenal in July 2008 for one season only, as Wenger said he was taking a gamble on his talent despite his injury record. He was 21 years old at the time and he had made over 50 appearances for Werder Bremen's reserve side in Germany, but his first team experience was extremely limited. He may not have actually cost Arsenal a transfer fee, but he was paid for a whole season by the club.
He managed one Premier League game for Arsenal towards the end of the 2008/09 season, as well as a few appearances in the Carling Cup and the FA Cup. At the end of the season he was allowed to leave on a free transfer, or he decided to leave himself depending on which side of the story is believed. His time at Arsenal can only be seen as an abject failure, and since then he has gone on to very little else.
9: Tomas Danilevicius.
Tomas Danilevicius was a tall Lituanian striker signed from Lausanne in December 2000 for a fee in the region of €1 million, but he didn't last long at Arsenal. He played a couple of league games for the club before being loaned out to Dunfermline Athletic and then sold to Beveren in July 2001. Since then he has played for five other clubs and he is also the record goalscorer for his country.
Wenger had signed him after he had impressed in a friendly for Arsenal, but he quickly changed his mind after he joined the club. There have been very few players who have spent such a short time at Arsenal during Wenger's reign.
8: Kaba Diawara.
Kaba Diawara joined Arsenal from Bordeaux in the the summer of 1998 when Arsenal were the holders of the domestic double in England. He was signed for a fee of around €3 million and quite remarkably Arsenal managed not to lose any money when he was sold to Marseille the next summer. He made a total of 15 appearances for Arsenal, but most of them were as a substitute and he never managed to score a goal.
He had the chance to make a name for himself in Arsenal's penultimate game of the season when they needed a win to put themselves in a position to retain their title. He came on as a sub late in the game away to Leeds United, but he hit the bar and Arsenal lost to a late goal. Since leaving Arsenal 12 years ago he has played for 13 different clubs, but his goals have been few and far between.
7: Oleg Luzhny.
Oleg Luzhny was signed for roughly €2 million from Dynamo Kiev in the summer of 1999 after he had impressed for them in the Champions League against Arsenal. He looked like a very good right back at the time with a real penchant for getting forward. However, he never really made a permanent place in the team his own over the next four years.
He played over 100 games in total for Arsenal, but he never lived up to the hype which accompanied his signature for the club. When Wenger signed him he was just short of his 31st birthday, and he is one of the few players over the age of 30 signed by Wenger. He left on a free transfer to Wolverhampton Wanderers at the end of 2002/03 season, but he rarely played for them and left after only one season.
6: Mikael Silvestre.
Mikael Silvestre was signed from Manchester United in the summer of 2008 for a small fee, and rarely has a signing been so unpopular among Arsenal fans. He was viewed as being well past his best by the fans, and his appearances in the Arsenal team certainly didn't disprove that theory. He stayed for two seasons, but he was never a first choice during that time.
In the summer of 2010 Silvestre joined Werder Bremen on a free transfer, and rarely have Arsenal fans celebrated a player leaving quite so much. At best he was slow and awkward during his time at Arsenal, but at his worst he was a real liability to the team. He managed to play 43 games during his two seasons at Arsenal, but the defence never looked solid when he played.
5: Jose Antonio Reyes.
Jose Antonio Reyes was only 20 when he joined Arsenal from Sevilla in the January transfer window of 2004 for a fee believed to be in the region of €12 million. He was sold to Real Madrid for a slightly smaller fee in the summer of 2006, and his time at Arsenal was judged to be a failure. He managed to score 23 goals in over 100 games for Arsenal during his two and a half seasons at the club, but he never really settled into life in England.
Reyes had problems learning English and he was homesick despite the fact that his family had come to England with him. He was a very talented player when Arsenal signed him and he showed that talent to varying degrees for the club. The end of his Arsenal career started away to Manchester United when Gary Neville was allowed to continuously foul him, and the referee gave him no protection at all.
After that game it seemed like Reyes lost some heart and despite signing a new contract in 2006 he was allowed to leave before the start of the next season. Despite some excellent performances at times he failed to live up to his potential in an Arsenal shirt.
4: Igor Stepanovs.
Igor Stepanovs was signed from Skonto Riga in 2000 for a fee of around €1 million, and over the next three years he made very few appearances for Arsenal. He was sold to Beveren in 2003 to the relief of all right minded Arsenal fans after his years at the club were a complete failure. He was part of the central defensive partnership that was so easily taken apart in a 6-1 defeat to Manchester United in 2001 and he only managed 17 league appearances in those three years.
Since leaving Arsenal he has gone on to become the most capped Latvian player of all time, and he is not a bad player. There is a step up from an ordinary player to a good player to be made, and unfortunately when he got his chance he simply wasn't up to the task. Since the defence assembled by George Graham retired Wenger has struggled at times to bring quality defenders into his squad, and Stepanovs was certainly one of his biggest mistakes.
3: Jermaine Pennant.
Jermaine Pennant was only 15 years old when Arsenal paid Notts County €2 million for his services in 1999. He was seen as one of the brightest young prospects in English football, and his future at Arsenal looked really bright. However, he never managed to live up to his potential, as a string of disciplinary problems blighted his six years at the club.
He is seen as one of the reasons Wenger is not keen on signing English players, as his behaviour left so much to be desired. There was no doubting his skill, but he just didn't seem to have the application to accompany it. His only goals for Arsenal all came in the one game, as he scored a hat trick on his full debut against Southampton in the league in May 2003.
Since leaving Arsenal he has made a very good living out of football, but he has never managed to become the player he should have been. It was such a pity that such a bright prospect didn't have the mental ability needed to make it at the very top.
2: Richard Wright.
Richard Wright was a 23 year old goalkeeper with an awful lot of potential when he joined Arsenal from Ipswich Town in July 2001. His fee was undisclosed, as is the Arsenal way but it could have been anything up to €6 million. David Seaman was nearing the end of his career at the time, and Wright was seen as a long term replacement for the Arsenal legend.
He got his chance to show what he could do early on, as Seaman picked up an injury, but it soon became apparent that he wasn't up to the task. He lost his place in the team to Stuart Taylor with Seaman still out injured, but the appearances he made still entitled him to a Premier League winners medal when Arsenal lifted the trophy. He was yet another English signing by Wenger who failed to live up to his billing in what was becoming an all too familiar scenario.
Arsenal sold him to Everton after only one season at the club, but his career has been hampered by injuries to his knee in particular. His appearances since then have been limited, and he currently finds himself without a club at the age of 33 when a goalkeeper should be in his prime.
1: Francis Jeffers.
Francis Jeffers was seen as the "fox in the box" Arsenal needed when Wenger signed him from Everton in 2001 for a fee believed to be almost €10 million. He was only 20 years old at the time, but he never really lived up to the billing and his time at Arsenal was also plagued by injury. He was at the club during the domestic double season in 2002 and the FA Cup triumph in 2003, but he failed to pick up any medals himself.
It can't have been easy for him having to compete for a place with Thierry Henry, but it would appear Wenger's judgement on him was very far off as he has done very little since leaving Arsenal. He spent some time on loan at Everton before Arsenal managed to sell him to Charlton for €3 million in 2004. In his time at Arsenal he never looked up to the task in my opinion, and at only 30 years of age he now finds himself without a club.
Wenger has not had a good record signing young English players, but Jeffers was by far the biggest failure of all of them. He cost nearly as much as Henry did a few years earlier, but the Frenchman went on to break all of Arsenal's goal scoring records.
I haven't included any of the current Arsenal squad in my assessment of Wengers 10 worst buys, as there's still the possibility that current flops could turn things around. If there's one thing for Wenger to learn it's that his assessment of young English players is not all it should be, and he should rightly be very careful about buying them. He has promised to be very active in the current transfer window which means my list might well have to be amended in a year or two.
That's it for today.
Here's a look at Pennant's hat trick.
See You Tomorrow