5. Sol Campbell
Talk about instant impact, Sol Campbell came, Sol Campbell made the centre-back position his own, Sol Campbell won the FA Cup and Premier League double. Such was his importance to the Arsenal defense that he made 147 appearances in his first three seasons at the club, averaging 49 games a season.
What makes the transfer extra special was the fact that he was poached from long-standing rivals Tottenham Hotspurs in a move which laid down the marker for the best team in North London for the next ten years. Campbell was a replacement for the ageing Tony Adams and boy did he repay the faith put in him.
Campbell was absolutely a beast as a centre half, forming a destructive partnership with Kolo Toure, terrorising opposition strikers and ensuring Arsenal was one of the best defensive unit throughout his time at the club.
In the end, age and injuries caught up with the invincible, but the former Spurs man ensured his name would be written into the history books as the man who saw some sense and went Red.
4. Cesc Fabregas
Arsene Wenger always had an eye for talent, signing some of the biggest stars in their teens. One such prodigy was Cesc Fabregas, who arrived from the world renowned La Masia in the summer of 2003. Like a string of his previous signings, there were a few doubts about the quality of the diminutive spaniard, but he moved quickly to quell them all.
Fabregas was 16 when he was signed straight into the Arsenal youth squad and within a year, he had left his B team days far behind, becoming a regular starter alongside the likes of Gilberto Silva and Robert Pires. He was the second youngest Champions League scorer and Arsenal’s youngest Premier League scorer. Fabregas’s run in the first team was helped by injuries to Gilberto Silva and Patrick Vieira.
After Vieira’s departure, Fabregas took over his role, famously scoring against Vieira’s Juventus in the Champions League en route to a historic run to the final, cut short by his ex-team. Fabregas had been a rock in the middle of the park who was one of the toughest captains Arsenal have ever had, given his diminutive frame. He will surely be a masterclass which Wenger would ave rued to lose to FC Barcelona in his prime.
3. Robert Pires
Robert Pires was one of those touch and go signings who could have ended up at either Real Madrid or Juventus, but ultimately landed in the red half of North London. Pires was a proven performer in the French League, with his stints at Metz and Marseille making him one of the hottest Left sided winger in French League.
Wenger had a proven track record of bringing in some of the best French talents to Arsenal, with Petit, Vieira and Henry already justifying his returns on French investments. Moreover, with France in the midst of a Golden generation nationally, it was only wise to sign a proven National star. After half a year of settling in and indifferent form, Pires came into his own at Arsenal. He embraced the North London heat with a terrific goal against Tottenham Hotspurs in the FA Cup semi-finals.
In his second year at the club, he scored some iconic goals and assisted some incredible team efforts, leading the assists charts in the Premier League and rightfully winning the FWA Footballer of the Year, as Arsenal romped to the Premier League title. He was also awarded Arsenal’s Player of the season award, trumping the likes of Henry and Vieira.
Pires was an ever-present in the Arsenal team post a horrifying injury which forced him to miss the World Cup, and he was also an invincible. It is fair to say that Pires’s 6 years at the club were a huge hit. He was a player signed in his prime by Wenger, one who justified the money paid to get him to Arsenal and was a sure-shot return on the investment and some more.
2. Patrick Vieira
Arsene Wenger’s first signing at the club, Patrick Vieira arrived from the reserves of AC Milan. If there was ever a player who could be worthy of a Paul Pogba-esque fee in the 90s, it was Vieira. The frenchman was a powerful presence in the middle of the park, driving Arsenal forward. This did not make him shy away from his defensive duties, as he was the screen which protected the Arsenal’s defence from potential counter-attacks.
Vieira was with Arsenal for 9 years, playing 279 Premier League and becoming an invincible at Arsenal. He formed a formidable partnership in the middle of the park, first with Emmanuel Petit and then with Gilberto Silva. Vieira was a true leader, both on and off the pitch, a quality which had seen him on the wrong end with the authorities on more than one occasion.
Vieira was very close to joining Manchester United on the back of an average season, with the transfer saga stretching throughout the summer irked by United approaching Vieira behind Arsenal’s back. In the end, Vieira was named the club’s vice captain and a successor to Tony Adams, which proved enough to secure his future at the club. In the end, it proved to be the right decision as he went on to captain Arsenal in the invincible’s season, securing his place in the club’s and Premier League’s history.
1. Thierry Henry
Thierry Henry has arguably been one of the best player to ever grace the jersey, scoring match winning goals in some of the biggest matches for the club. He has always performed at the big stage and still holds the record for the most Premier League goals for the club. Henry was a record-breaker, world-beater and all-conqueror.
What made him a masterstroke signing by Arsene Wenger was because the Professor was the one who realised Henry’s potential as a finisher, converting him into an out-and-out striker from a left sided winger. The move was very controversial, with Henry struggling to find goals in the beginning. The £11M fee looked a huge waste of money as he was signed to fill in the boots of the departed Anelka.
In the end, the record books were full of Henry’s name, as he did the unthinkable and quickly made the striker’s position his own. He scored 30 goals or more in 5 consecutive seasons, almost breaching the 40 goals mark in the invincible campaign. It was his class and constant threat in front of goal which made Arsenal a force to be reckoned with.