Arsenal may be on the other side of Arsene Wenger’s golden era at the club, but the Gunners are still one of the most attractive destinations in world football.
Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko arrived from champions Manchester City in the summer of 2022 and helped Arsenal climb to the top of the Premier League before the first international break.
Sending £77 million (€86.3 million) to City for the two players represented a departure from recent tradition, as Arsenal lived frugally during the second half of the Wenger era as it struggled to pay off a move from Highbury to the Emirates.
This article takes a look at Arsenal’s top 10 transfers of the Premier League era…
10) Freddie Ljungberg – £3m from Halmstad, 1998
Wenger took the then unusual step of agreeing to buy Freddie Ljungberg without ever having seen him play.
The Arsenal manager was persuaded by a friendly match between Sweden and England to pay Halmstad £3 million for their star player.
The term “great player” is often used, but Ljungberg was certainly one.
He scored for Arsenal in two FA Cup finals against Liverpool and Chelsea, and in 2001/02, perhaps his best season, he scored important goals against Manchester United and Liverpool in the opening rounds.
He was a workhorse who made an art of getting into the box and became a cult hero among Gunners fans in 2007.
9) Robert Pires – £6m from Marseille, 2000
French international Robert Pires was bought from Marseille for £6 million in 2000.
He was signed as a replacement for Marc Overmars, another impressive reinforcement by the Gunners, who then moved to Barcelona for around £25 million.
Pires, a player who simply exuded class with the ball, suffered somewhat in his first year because of the league’s physical demands, but came into his own in his second year.
His popularity with fans grew thanks to his remarkable ability to save his best performances for the North London derby against Tottenham Hotspur, and he soon established himself in England.
Pires scored nine goals and 15 assists to help Arsenal defeat Man Utd and win twice as much as at home. It was the first of three consecutive years in the top league in which he was included in the PFA’s Team of the Year.
8) Gilberto Silva – £4.5 million from Atletico Mineiro, 2002
Although Brazil is renowned for its attacking talent, the creative players in Arsenal’s 2002 squad had the perfect anchor in the Selecao to allow the attacking players to blossom.
Gilberto Silva had just won the 2002 World Cup with his country when Arsenal beat a number of clubs to get his signature and take him to the Premier League.
Although Gilberto was a defensive midfielder, he could also participate in the attack because he was so talented.
Together with Patrick Vieira, they formed one of the best midfield pairs in Premier League history and led the Gunners to an unbeaten season in 2004.
7) Sol Campbell – free transfer from Tottenham Hotspur, 2001
Sol Campbell made a free transfer from Tottenham Hotspur to Arsenal in the summer of 2001, which remains one of the most controversial transfers of all time.
Campbell wanted to play Champions League football, so he decided to leave Spurs after turning down a contract offer and becoming the highest paid player at White Hart Lane.
He was actually brought in on the recommendation of some Arsenal players who had previously mentioned to Wenger that Campbell was one of their toughest opponents in the league at the time.
Spurs fans called him “Judas”, but it turned out to be the right move for Campbell who became one of the best centre-backs and won six major awards with the Gunners.
6) Mesut Ozil – £42 million from Real Madrid, 2013
Mesut Ozil is one of the few Arsenal players since 2010 who deserves to be called “world class”.
He is a talented teammate and created chances with ease and his lack of attacking talent is the reason for his lack of assists, although he did collect 78 during his time in North London.
It is rare for a player to live up to such high expectations, but Ozil was able to do so and even exceed them thanks to his class.
The memories of the Istanbul Basaksehir player who retired at the end of the season are tarnished, but his excellence will be remembered with greater joy in the years to come.
5) Robin van Persie – £2.75 million from Feyenoord, 2004
Robin van Persie was signed in the summer of 2004 as a long-term replacement for his Dutch compatriot Bergkamp.
Injuries and a silly red card against Southampton made his first year forgettable, but he eventually did well in an Arsenal shirt in the following seasons.
Van Persie came into his own after Thierry Henry’s departure to Barcelona in 2007, when he became the undisputed star up top.
He scored 132 goals in 278 Premier League games for the club, but was forced to move to new areas after Arsenal could not fulfil his ambitions and joined Man Utd in 2012.
4) Dennis Bergkamp – £7.5 million from Inter Milan, 1995
When Dennis Bergkamp failed to score in his first two months at Arsenal, where he arrived from Inter for £7.5 million, a huge sum at the time, critics were already out to get the Dutchman.
Fortunately, Arsenal showed patience and were rewarded tenfold, although Bergkamp’s talent did not fully emerge until after Wenger’s arrival in September 1996.
Wenger built his team on Bergkamp’s creative abilities and also managed to develop three devastating partnerships: with Ian Wright, then with Nicolas Anelka and finally with Henry.
His elegance on the ball was second to none and of course he was thinking about the goal against Newcastle.
3) Cesc Fabregas – free transfer from Barcelona, 2003
At the age of 16, Cesc Fabregas made the brave decision to leave Barcelona’s La Masia for Arsenal, and it paid off for both the Spaniard and his new club.
In the 2003/04 season, he became the youngest goalscorer in the club’s history and also the youngest ever. Unfortunately, he did not play enough games to win the Premier League trophy.
The following season he took advantage of injuries to key central midfielders to break into the team.
Fabregas is a creative genius and one of the best central midfielders to ever play in the English league, so his achievements certainly deserved a league winner’s medal, but unfortunately his achievements coincided with Arsenal’s collapse at the time.
2) Patrick Vieira – £3.5 million from AC Milan, 1996
When Wenger arrived at Arsenal in 1996, few people knew who he was, and they were even more confused when he signed for the first time. Patrick Vieira had been one of the last season’s in AC Milan’s reserve team when he moved from Caen. His talent was clearly overlooked in Serie A.
The new Arsenal boss saw an opportunity. The result was one of the most dramatic changes to the Premier League midfield in Premier League history up to that point.
Vieira arrived as an alien specimen. His tall stature and long stride, combined with his passing ability, were an unmatched combination of skills, and he immediately embraced all aspects of his new league.
Vieira won three Premier League titles and captained Arsenal in the 2004 season, and his feud with Man Utd’s Roy Keane has become legendary in English football.
1) Thierry Henry – £11 million from Juventus, 1999
Few would have predicted how the acquisition of winger Thierry Henry from Juventus in the summer of 1999 would transform Arsenal for the new millennium, but Wenger was certainly aware of the untapped potential that lay in the 1998 World Cup winner.
Henry’s arrival in England was not easy. He struggled to find form at the start of the season and only found the net in the season’s eighth away game at Southampton. But he never looked back after that. The goals and assists kept coming and so did the trophies.
Under Wenger, he went from being an inconsistent wing-back to one of the most feared strikers in Europe, winning two Premier League titles and two FA Cups during his time at the club.
He is arguably the best player in the club’s history.