Everyone has been giving their opinion on Arsene Wenger’s best ever eleven, but no-one has done an Arsene Wenger worst eleven. So I thought it would be fun to see which from his worst ever signings could complete a truly awful team.
For the record, my favourite Arsene eleven from his last 1,000 games would be:
GK: David Seaman
CB: Tony Adams
CB: Sol Campbell
LB: Ashley Cole
RM: Freddie Ljungberg
CM: Cesc Fabregas
CM: Patrick Vieira
LM: Robert Pires
CF: Dennis Bergkamp
CF: Thierry Henry
But I’m sure your best eleven would be different.
So onto Arsene Wenger’s worst eleven. As with the best eleven, I’ve gone for a traditional 4-4-2 formation as that’s the one Arsene has used the most over the last 17 years.
Goalkeeper: Richard Wright
It was a toss up between Richard Wright and Manuel Almunia, but I decided to go for the England goalkeeper. Signed in 2001 when Sol Campbell also joined the club, he was the next big thing and tipped to be a future England goalkeeper. He only managed 12 league appearances for the club (22 overall) and was sold after only one season. A spate of injuries hampered his career and he ended up playing for a host of lower league sides and is apparently now at Manchester City.
Right Back: Oleg Luzhny
A bit unfair perhaps, but when he signed for Arsenal in 1999, he came from the extremely talented Dynamo Kiev side which had players like Andrei Shevchenko and Sergeih Rebrov. He was signed to replace Lee Dixon who was coming to the end of his career and actually made a lot of appearances for Arsenal. Unfortunately for Luzhny, a young man called Lauren arrived at the club and Luzhny found himself as the main backup.
When you consider the other main right backs were Lee Dixon, Lauren, Eboue and Bacary Sagna and Luzhny is considered the “worst”, then it shows how good that position has been over the last 17 seasons.
Central Defence: Pascal Cygan
Forever an Arsenal legend, the man nicknamed “Zinedine Cygan” was a god awful defender. He signed from Lille for just over £2 million and was actually highly-rated in France, winning the player of the year (or being in the team of the season, I can’t remember) just before he signed for Arsenal.
The biggest problem was he had no pace which is a problem in the Premier League. He did manage to score a few goals from set-pieces which added to his legend, but when he left in 2006 not many Arsenal fans were disappointed.
Central Defence: Sebastien Squillaci
Signed from Sevilla in 2010 for £3.5 million, and at 29 was an exciting signing for the club because of his experience in a team full of young players. When he arrived at the club he took the Number 18 shirt, previously worn by Pascal Cygan and Mikael Silvestre, which really should have told us what was to come.
He was mainly backup to first choice defenders Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen, but unfortunately an injury to the latter meant he ended up playing 32 appearances for the club. And during that time he was widely criticised for his poor performances. He just struggled to adapt to the pace of the Premier League and made so many mistakes I can’t think of any specific one – I just remember he was a terrible defender who contributed to a lot of the goals we conceded.
Left Back: Mikael Silvestre
Alex Ferguson thought the French defender was past it and obviously the logically thing to do was to sign him. He was given a 2 year deal in 2008 and was part of the team that collapsed against Tottenham Hotspur, resulting in the small club down the road to come away from The Emirates with a 4-4 draw.
Another signing I never understood.
Right Midfield: Jermaine Pennant
Another “prospect” Arsene signed which ended up being a flop at Arsenal. His first league appearance for Arsenal resulted in the young winger scoring a hattrick against Southampton (in a game where Robert Pires also scored a hattrick) but after that his Arsenal career went downhill; he reportedly turned up late for training, loved the flashy lifestyle and generally believed he was the best thing since sliced bread. Sliced bread had a better attitude though.
Central Midfield: Amaury Bischoff
Signed in 2008, this is probably the strangest signing Arsene Wenger has ever made. He had a reputation for having injury problems and he didn’t disappoint. Arsene said at the time he was “a gamble on talent” but personally I thought he was Arsene’s illegitimate son. He played a host league cup games and finally made his only ever Premier League appearance against Portsmouth, coming on as a substitute for Theo Walcott.
Funnily enough, he left after one season with the club.
Central Midfield: Julio Baptista
The Brazilian was very highly rated in Spain where he played for Sevilla and in the summer of 2005 we tried to sign him, only for him to go to Real Madrid, which was a sign of his value at the time. He reportedly said he wanted to stay in Spain for one more season so he could get his dual citizenship, but in 2006 we signed him on a one year loan deal in exchange for Jose Antonio Reyes.
Nicknamed “The Beast”, Baptista’s main assets where his power and strength. He struggled to get to grips with the pace of the Premier League and in the 2006-2007 season Arsene preferred to use the midfield pairing of Mathieu Flamini and Cesc Fabregas. He did score a few goals and even scored a memorable four goal haul at Anfield in the (then) Carling Cup. He failed to impress and left after just one season with the club.
Left Midfield: David Bentley
Like Jermaine Pennant, he was tipped to become a big player for Arsenal and England. But like a lot of young players who get accolades and money early, it all went to his head and he was labelled the “next David Beckham”. He scored an exquisite chip against Middlesbrough in the FA Cup in 2004 but never lived up to the hype. Off the field problems including a gambling addiction didn’t help and he joined Blackburn Rovers in 2006.
Did come back to haunt Arsenal a couple of times, the most memorable being the 45 yard volley against us in the disastrous 4-4 draw.
Centre Forward: Francis Jeffers
He signed for £8 million and just like Wayne Rooney when he started his career at Everton, he was tipped for big things. Labelled the “Fox in the Box”, he stayed for 3 seasons and scored a total of 4 goals. Notable incidents included getting sent off in the Charity Shield for kicking Philip Neville in the head (well, attempted to) and well, not managing to actually score any goals or be on the same wavelength as his Arsenal teammates.
Rumour has it that in 2001 when Arsene signed Jeffers, that he had the option to sign Ruud Van Nistelrooy instead of the young forward from Everton, adding to the legend that is Francis Jeffers.
Centre Forward: Olivier Giroud
A man who divides opinion, but for me Olivier Giroud is one of the worst forwards Arsene Wenger has signed. Of course, we’ve had players Marouane Chamakh, Park Chu-Young, Nicklas Bendtner and Gervinho but they were never been our main strikers. Since Arsene Wenger joined Arsenal in September of 1996, the main strikers at Arsenal have been Ian Wright, Dennis Bergkamp, Nicholas Anelka, Thierry Henry, Nwankwo Kanu, Davor Suker, Robin van Persie, Emmanuel Adebayor, Eduardo and now Olivier Giroud. He’s not even in the same league as the rest of those players, and the list includes the biggest wanker that is Adebayor.
He’s not good enough. He wouldn’t get into any other Top 10 side, nevermind any Top 4 team. Manchester City have Aguero, Jovetic, Dzeko and Negredo, Liverpool have Suarez and Sturridge, Chelsea even have Torres and Eto’o who are past it but they’re still better than Giroud. In a nutshell, his ability to miss the simplest of chances has cost Arsenal dearly this season. With a top class striker we’d be a good 10 points better off this season and right in the title race. We have Mesut Özil, a world class assist master who is struggling because he’s used to providing chances to a clinical, powerful, world class finisher but now has to try and work with a player who can’t score decisive goals. Granted, he’ll score against teams like Sunderland, Fulham and Hull City but ask him to contribute anything positive against a half decent side then he disappears.
Arsene’s Worst Eleven in full:
GK: Richard Wright
RB: Oleg Luzhny
CB: Pascal Cygan
CB: Sebastien Squillaci
LB: Mikael Silvestre
RM: Jermaine Pennant
CM: Amaury Bischoff
CM: Julio Baptista
LM: David Bentley
CF: Francis Jeffers
CF: Olivier Giroud