Arsène Wenger is Arsenal’s longest-serving, and most successful, manager of all time.
As Herbert Chapman did in the 1920s, Wenger has transformed Arsenal Football Club off and on the pitch throughout the ’90s and ’00s as they moved stadium and became only the second-ever team to go a whole domestic season unbeaten.
Wenger’s success on the pitch has been underpinned by his ability to find and develop world-class players from around the globe, often for unbelievably low sums.
1. Patrick Vieira
It’s not often a manager gets 10 truly world-class years out of a player and still sells them for a profit at the end of them.
Yet that’s exactly what Arsène Wenger got from Patrick Vieira, having purchased him from A.C. Milan for £3.5 million in 1996 before offloading him to Juventus for £13.5 million a decade later.
What Vieira offered Arsenal in his tenure as midfield general was invaluable. His strength and power dominated the midfield, and he was a key component at the heart of the legendary Invincibles.
Vieira was Arsène’s first Arsenal signing, and after 10 years and seven trophies with the club, his hero status is well and truly secured.
2. Cesc Fabregas
Having signed on a free transfer from Barcelona in 2003, the 16-year-old Cesc Fabregas was thrust into first-team action almost immediately and never looked out of place.
His calmness on the ball and ability to change the game with a killer pass was obvious from the outset, and inspired Wenger to build his team around the Catalan midfielder.
Cesc finally left Arsenal after playing 300 games for the club and was forced to move to his boyhood club, Barcelona.
While his departure left a nasty taste in the mouths of many Arsenal fans, his contribution to the team during a tough post-invincible transitional period was unquestionably huge.
3. Mesut Özil
Mesut Özil’s inclusion on this list may come as a surprise to some Arsenal fans, but his class on the pitch and the timing of his arrival meant he couldn’t be left off.
The transition to a new stadium in 2006 brought with it a new age of relative frugality for the club, and the trophies dried up as a result.
After seven barren years, the Arsenal faithful were beginning to lose their patience and the atmosphere around the club started to sour.
Özil’s signing for the considerable sum of £42.5 million in 2013 signalled the start of a new era for Wenger, and Arsenal and the fans started to believe again.
Özil helped end the club’s dry spell by lifting the FA Cup in his first season.
4. Sol Campbell
Sol Campbell’s signing on a free transfer from Arsenal’s bitter rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, is one of the most infamous and vitriolic in footballing history.
After putting the acrimony of crossing the North London divide behind him, Sol became one of the most important players of the Invincible squad.
Sol’s immense physical prowess combined with his brilliant reading of the game made him one of the finest centre backs of his generation.
5. Thierry Henry
While the inclusion of the other names on this list may be debated well into the night, the addition of Thierry Henry cannot be questioned.
With 228 goals and 80 assists in 377 games, Henry developed under Wenger into possibly the finest striker of the Premier League era.
His explosive power and pace combined to ensure he will go down as a legend in the annals of Arsenal folklore.
Arsène Wenger is one of the most important figures in the history of Arsenal Football Club, having led the team to unprecedented success while heralding in a new era of financial stability and ever increasing revenue.
The fact that this list could have easily contained a dozen players from the past 20 years is the true testament to Arsène’s legacy, and Arsenal fans must be giddy with excitement for the future that, thanks to Wenger, looks brighter than ever.
Written by Lee Drake
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