Throughout Arsene Wenger’s Seventeen year Arsenal reign, it is safe to say that the Frenchman has orchestrated some of the most brilliant transfers in modern Footballing history. However, at the same time, Arsene is no stranger to transfer flops. In fact, he is quite well acquainted with them.[quote_right]”[Arsene Wenger] has orchestrated some of the most brilliant transfers in modern Footballing history.”[/quote_right]
Taking a quick look through Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal Transfer History will highlight all of his transfer master strokes as well as his business blunders.
In light of Wenger’s unpredictable transfer antics, it would be wise to examine the very best and worst Arsenal defenders who he himself was responsible for.
Disregarding the players which he inherited, I’ve compiled the best Arsenal defenders under Wenger, along with the very worst from across the Wenger era, both on either side of the Footballing spectrum.
[title]The Best Arsenal Defenders Under Wenger[/title]
As mentioned above, in order to preserve justice to Arsene Wenger, I will only be including players who he has signed himself – not inherited.
When constructing the best Arsenal defence under Wenger, it is extremely difficult to look past the era of The Invincibles. However, it is important to note that whilst the following defence hold Arsenal’s best defensive record as a unit – each individual player is also the best we’ve had throughout Arsene Wenger’s time at Arsenal.
One can easily argue that the choices made above are obvious ones, yet that only solidifies the decisions made. This defensive back line is the obvious choice for a reason. During their peak, they were quite literally unbeatable.[quote_left]”Campbell & Toure made up one of the meanest defensive partnerships in the world at the time.”[/quote_left]
Jens Lehmann had his fair share of errors, yet pulled of a multitude of match saving stops throughout his Arsenal career. His commanding presence alone was enough to shore up any defence. Lauren was a consistent performer who was just as impressive going forwards as he was defensively. Sol Campbell & Kolo Toure made up one of the meanest defensive partnerships in the world at the time. Pace, power and aggression from both players ensured a tough challenge for any striker.
Ashley Cole, despite now being a target of hate, was a truly great Arsenal defender before departing for Chelsea. After rising through our youth system, Cole made 156 appearances for Arsenal, establishing himself as England’s first choice left back, and for good reason.
Total Transfer Fee Paid: £9,350,000
Honourable Mentions: Bacary Sagna, Gael Clichy
[title]The Worst Arsenal Defenders Under Wenger[/title]
Here is where it gets tough. Despite some truly spectacular signings, Arsene has also managed to conjure up an entire defence full of calamities – and then some.
As well as being dreadful as individual players, it is important to visualise such a backline actually appearing together. We were lucky enough to actually witness Arsenal’s best defenders under Wenger actually play together. When considering my choices for the worst defenders, try to visualise the same occurence.
Some may argue that Manuel Almunia’s inclusion is slightly harsh, but I feel that out of the Goalkeeper’s who appeared for The Gunners on a regular basis, he was quite simply the worst. Emmanuel Eboue was nothing more than a consistent calamity, who is befittingly followed by one of our most recent signings, Andre Santos. The latter is, despite the club’s best efforts, still an Arsenal player.[quote_right]”Igor Stepanovs’ legacy as one of our worst ever defenders will surely live on forever…”[/quote_right]
Igor Stepanovs made just seventeen appearances for Arsenal, yet his legacy as one of our worst ever defenders will surely live on forever. His ‘performance’ during a Manchester United thrashing was the low-light of his Arsenal career.
For those of you who have forgotten the comical escapades of Pascal Cygan, allow Massimo Maccarone to help you re-live Pascal’s defensive magic. Somehow, Cygan managed to make sixty three appearances for The Gunners before being sold to a surprisingly good Villareal side.
Total Transfer Fee Paid: £12,700,000
Honourable Mentions: Sebastien Squillaci, Phillipe Senderos
When comparing the two defensive selections above, the contrast is a stark one. Arsenal’s best defence under Wenger ignites pride in the hearts of all Arsenal fans, whilst the latter rekindles past nerves, anger and even laughter.[quote_left]”Arsene has preferred a more technical defending style over his proven system of domineering defenders who exert aggression and power. The results are unfortunately clear to see.”[/quote_left]
However, a more troubling contrast is the difference between the defence of The Invincibles, and the defence of today.
Arsenal’s current defence lacks the leadership and aggression which proved to be the foundations of the best defence the club has ever seen. Although none of our current defenders are in danger of rivaling the likes of Pascal Cygan, it is still a major worry that Arsene Wenger has failed to invest in a defender who can mimic the performances of Sol Campbell or Kolo Toure.
It seems that with the acquisitions of Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and to some extent Thomas Vermaelen, Arsene has preferred a more technical defending style over his proven system of domineering defenders who exert aggression and power. The results are unfortunately clear to see.
Regardless, Arsenal’s best defenders under Arsene Wenger were, as a unit, writers of history. Recreating the same defensive phenomenon will take any club decades of trial and error. Until then, we shall bask in their invincible glory.
Who were the best Arsenal defenders under Arsene Wenger? Who were the worst? Share your lineups in the comments section below.
Image: Ronnie McDonald