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29th Sep 2016

Our XI of Arsène Wenger’s worst Arsenal signings is truly shocking

We'd 8-2 be part of this team.

Tom Victor

To commemorate 20 years of Arsène Wenger at Arsenal, plenty of people have been compiling their best XI of players brought to North London by the Frenchman.

But here at JOE, we like to do things differently.

Sure, anyone can debate Bergkamp v Van Persie, or Čech v Lehmann, or Gervinho v Walcott Gilberto v Petit, but what about the worst players to rock up at Highbury or the Emirates Stadium during Wenger’s 1,000-plus games in charge?

Here are our picks for the worst XI of the Wenger era.

Goalkeeper – Jens Lehmann

Now we know what you’re thinking, Lehmann was a great keeper. And sure, you’re right – if you’re talking about his first Arsenal spell.

But Wenger’s decision to bring back the German international at the age of 41 was truly baffling…well, unless you look at it as one in the eye for everyone who questioned his reluctance to bring in experienced players.

Blackpool v Arsenal - Premier LeagueChris Brunskill/Getty Images

Right-back – Guy Demel

We considered putting Carl Jenkinson in here for BANTER, but he’s still at the club, and we don’t want to be made to look stupid when he enjoys a Coquelin-esque resurgence and leads England to World Cup glory in Qatar in 2022.

Instead, we’ll look at how Wenger signed a future Ivorian international and Bundesliga teenager before anyone really knew about him, but never used him and let him leave without putting up much of a fight. If that’s not on-brand for the Frenchman then we don’t know what is.

Ivory Coast v Portugal: Group G - 2010 FIFA World CupDemel telling Ronaldo “I did play for Arsenal, I promise” (Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

Left-back – André Santos

There was a little more competition for this place. Armand Traoré gets an honourable mention for the way in which Wenger shamelessly binned him off within 48 hours of that 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford, but instead we’ll go for the man who replaced him at the Emirates.

André Santos arrived in London with a reputation for a lot of things, none of them defending. He left with at least part of that reputation intact.

Arsenal FC v FC Schalke 04 - UEFA Champions LeagueShaun Botterill/Getty Images

Centre-backs – Igors Stepanovs and Sébastien Squillaci

Two players at opposite ends of the Wenger failure spectrum here. Stepanovs was plodding along nicely until he was thrown in at the deep end for a 6-1 humiliation at the hands of Manchester United, a result from which his Gunners career never really recovered.

Squillaci, meanwhile, was just consistently bad. Nothing special, just not possessing of any of the qualities needed of him. Strangely, both enjoyed considerably more success in Ligue 1. It’s almost as if…no, we won’t join those dots.


Right wing – Amaury Bischoff

Upon signing the talented young German, Wenger said of Bischoff: “Amaury is a young, promising player who we have taken a gamble on because he has been out for a long time.”

When Wenger cites your injury record and calls you a gamble, there’s a more than 25% chance that you’re legally dead.

Portsmouth v Arsenal - Premier LeagueBischoff staring into his future (Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Left wing – Ryo Miyaichi

Wenger’s signing of the Japanese attacking midfielder was the worst Ryo-based decision not involving Ryan Lochte and a story about an armed robbery.

Myaichi played just one league game for Arsenal before taking the path his career was always destined for – a spell on the bench of a Roberto Martínez team, before quietly slinking off to the German second tier.

Arsenal v Chelsea - Capital One Cup Fourth RoundJamie McDonald/Getty Images

Central Midfield – Junichi Inamoto and Kim Källström

Inamoto scored two goals for Japan at the 2002 World Cup, shortly after leaving Arsenal. That’s two more than he scored for the Gunners, but he’d have done very well to find the net at all in his *checks calculator* zero appearances.

Källström, meanwhile, took several weeks to even get on the field for Arsenal after arriving injured. Yet, unlike Bischoff, Wenger didn’t consider a guy who was literally physically incapable of playing football upon arrival as “a gamble”. The mind boggles.


Forwards – Christopher Wreh and Francis Jeffers

Upon arriving at Southampton, Ali Dia was described to manager Graeme Souness as George Weah’s cousin. He was just a chancer using the Liberian’s name, of course, but Weah’s actual cousin Wreh wasn’t a whole lot better at football, winding up at Bishop’s Stortford while still in his 20s.

He’s joined up front by ‘Fox in the Box’ Jeffers, whose only real similarity to the animal came from the fact that he sporadically showed up across London without anyone really knowing why he was there.