Spend Some Bloody Money – A Short History Of Arsene’s Signings Part One: 1996 – 2004


Patrick who?

In the first of a 3-part post, The Beck starts on a whirlwind tour de force of all the club’s Wenger-era signings before, in part three, asking the ultimate question; has Arsene Wenger lost the ability to sign players good enough for Arsenal?

In 1996 the first thing Arsene did as manager was to buy Patrick Vieira. Remi Garde joined on the same day as Vieira and that following winter a young Nicholas Anelka was signed, and later the same year John Lukic followed. Anelka and Vieira both had incredibly successful spells at the club but Lukic didn’t get to play much in his second spell at the club due to Seaman’s outstanding form and Garde was essentially a squad player.

In 1997, Arsene ‘gambled’ with a lot of low-fee signings – Boa Morte, Upson, Petit, Overmars, Grimandi, Manninger, Caballero, Wreh and Mendez.  Most ended up being squad players with Overmars and Petit playing the most games out of those signings and, with contributions from Gilles Grimandi, had the greatest influence.

In 1998 it appeared at first that Arsene had ‘gambled’ again with Kanu, Diawara, Luzhny, Obinna and Ljungberg, along with Vivas and David Grondin, a young left back from Saint-Etienne that in the end only made one league appearance for Arsenal.  Of those, Kanu turned out to be one of the most technically beautiful players we’ve ever had, another long legged mack daddy. Luzhny had solid seasons at right-back and Vivas spent more of his career at Arsenal coming off the substitute bench than actually starting. Ljungberg was just sensational and as a Norwegian, you don’t find me often very fond of Swedes (I drive a Saab and have Swedish friends and love IKEA and it drives me insane).

In ‘99 Arsene signed Thierry Henry and the 31 year old Davor Suker, who had had a very good record at Real Madrid and an even better one at Sevilla before that.  Sylvinho was added and Ashley Cole was upgraded to the first team set up.  Stefan Malz, a young left back from TSV 1860 Munchen was also signed.  He ended up making 8 appearances and was never again knowingly considered for the first team. Suker only stayed for the season, making 22 league appearances, scoring 8 league goals and ending it on a sour note when he missed the penalty versus Galatasaray in the 2000 UEFA Cup Final.

Ashley Cole went on to become one of the best left-backs we’ve seen (which we should look back on with pride, but …).

Thierry Henry – well the less we say about him the better – I’m not allowed to get turned on whilst writing a blog (first rule of Beck blogging).

In the summer of 2000 Arsene made a mistake in buying Jeffers (hindsight, hindsight – is a real bitch), but at the time he was the next Michael Owen.  The £ mis-spent on Jeffers helps one begin to understand why Arsene has subsequently proved so reluctant to spend big on apparent English ‘hype’ over the years.

That same year we also signed three players we will never ever forget: Wiltord, Lauren and Pires.

Along with Stepanovs (who was signed to cover for an injured Tony Adams), we acquired Guy Demel who never really made it at Arsenal but who later carved out a good career at Dortmund, Hamburg and now West Ham.

In 2001, Arsene went transfer mad.  For the price of an average Ferrari he bought Kolo Toure.  On top of that £162,000, he also purchased Edú, Tavlaradisi, Inamoto, Juan and Giovanni van Bronckhorst.

We also purchased, Sulzeer (Sol) Campbell for free, from the club that claims they’re better than us every year and yet somehow contrive to finish below us.

Juan never really played the left wing back position for us (but had a decent career at Flamengo) because van Bronckhurst was a really good Sylvinho replacement and Cole was just growing into a world class left back. I still don’t know who Tavlaradisi is, even Wikipedia refuses to tell me but we all know Edú, despite not always being in the first XI.  He was an incredibly gifted midfielder and helped us win the double that year; who knows what a career he could have had if not for the horrific leg injury.

Inamoto and all the other youths at Arsenal hoping to start that year, such as Sidwell, Bentley, Ricketts, Thomas, Volz, Aliadiere, never quite made it. But it didn’t matter because we won the double.  Right?

In 2002, the only purchase I suppose many Arsenal supporters will want to remember well is Gilberto Silva. We signed Cygan from Lille and Warmuz from Lens.  Cygan became a decent squad player in the end, despite not being on the level of the other defenders.  Our squad was solid and although some might have called for more signings that year after just winning the title, Arsene went for low transfer expenditure that summer.

In 2003 Arsene went after Reyes and the fee at the time could have risen to £17m; at the age of 19 Reyes was a Spanish prodigy and we all expected huge things of him, partly because Arsene had by this stage raised our expectations by seemingly routinely turning players with potential into world class stars. Everyone saw that Reyes was special and he had a great touch and quality on the ball, but perhaps he missed that final hunger that does actually make you world class.

The other big summer signing of 2003 was Jens Lehmann.  He came in as an experienced goalkeeper from Dortmund and was an absolutely fantastic replacement for David Seaman.

Arsene signed a lot of youngsters that year – Clichy, Fabregas, Senderos and Karbassiyoon and upgraded a few from the Arsenal academy. Karbassiyoon had injuries and we nowadays see him all the time on Twitter, being the sociable scout he is. Cesc turned into Cesc and although they had personal errors in their games, both Senderos and especially Clichy, turned into quite decent players.  The former had all the qualities to become a world class centre back, but was perhaps too smart for his own good and not confident enough on the field, where it matters most.

In 2004 most of us weren’t ready from cleaning ourselves from all the orgasms we had from going unbeaten. This summer was different to other summers under Arsene as we made no high profile signing. (We don’t care right? We were winning, we trust/ed him).

But we HAD lost five big players in Bronckhorst, Kanu, Wiltord, Keown and Ray Parlou.  But both Parlour and Keown were ageing, especially Keown at 37. Bronckhorst’s departure to Barcelona (on a free) wasn’t the worst thing in the world because Ashley Cole was fantastic, and Gael Clichy wasn’t a terrible understudy.  Kanu and Wiltord were not seeing enough game time as Henry and Bergkamp had created a great partnership that year and decided to move on. With Reyes and a young van Persie, as well as a Bergkamp, it is understandable to see why we did not have any high profile signings at that time.

That season of 2004 we signed Eboue, Almunia, van Persie, and Flamini.  Lupoli was added for peanuts and a host of youth players were upgraded including Djourou, Larsson, Owusu-Abeyie, Connoly and Bradley.

Eboue turned out to be a great squad player but he never got rid of the personal errors in his game.

Van Persie turned out to be worthy of the Bergkamp tag at least until the promises of shiny tin cups and cash got to him. Now in the eyes of Arsenal fans he simply doesn’t exist.

(I decided this).

The Beck can be located on Twitter @The_Beck_

About ArsenalAndrew

Optimist and lifelong supporter of the finest football club the world has ever seen.

44 comments on “Spend Some Bloody Money – A Short History Of Arsene’s Signings Part One: 1996 – 2004

  1. “today i was talking with a lifelong supporter who was basically fed up and told me he wasnt giving any more money and obviously not renewing due to lack of transfers….

    i congratulated him and told him i wish others followed his example..”



  2. Quite timely Beck (Arsenal Andrew can’t steal your thunder). So unlike the fulminations of the noisy wordsmiths in the media, on Twitter and various blogs, AW does do transfers but rarely the expensive popular players that the media craves. Also evident is many of these transfers are simply to strengthen an already accomplished squad. Of the players you listed, some haven’t even made Wikipedia, while the Henrys, Vieras and Anelkas hog the headlines. We all know that during the past 8 years we have been net sellers rather than buyers as we struggled to pay for the stadium while the xfer market has become inflated by the oilers and oligarchs. Yet we are being led to believe that AW’s career defined by careful strategic purchases has suddenly gone 180 degrees. Such is the fickleness of the mind of many fans and those pretentious, conceited fools who crave their attention.


  3. Thanks Shotta; have been accused of worse.

    Agree, by the way.


  4. I wrote a very very long post for this originally, it’s been edited out to be digestible, I apologize for all the long blogs I write. 🙂


  5. Hello again, everyone.

    Good article, Beck – always refreshing to read research-based analysis. I gather there is more to come? What I glean from this is that there have always been flops, stellar successes and players who have fallen in between those two categories, but because we have never spent more than we can afford to lose, we have always been able to re-group. I will wait and see what the next two parts bring, but my hunch is that the ratio of flops has gone down a little in relation to the successes in the last six or seven years, but the “middling” category has increased in size. That probably doesn’t make statistical sense, but hey.


  6. It’s a three-part spectacular FunGunner.

    I’m contractually bound not to give away the ending but let’s just say your analysis is interesting.



  7. @ AA
    ha ha


  8. nice one beck thank you sir. loved your comment abotu how fans would care about @deadwood@ since doubles were won with ease …

    i thought we got lehman from shalke? uefa cup winners with jens?

    but shotta the stadium was no burden on arsenal’s strategy and plannings or even finances…. we coulda/shoulda spent regardless ..its what pro sports is all about.

    george does the pseudonym loomer mean anything to you?


  9. * wouldnt


  10. Very informative piece thanks. I suspect ‘Tavlaradisi’ is ‘Tavlaridis’ . The former Greek Under-21 international joined Arsenal from Iraklis Saloniki in September 2001 and made 10 appearances for the first team during his time at the Club.

    Click the links below for more information.




  11. Hunter

    Loomer is a lone voice on ACLF!!!!

    What’s happened to Swiss Harry?


  12. Fantastic Beck,looking forward to the next 2!


  13. I had not intended to break my holiday silence but your excellent piece is a special case – I look forward to the following chapters.


  14. Loomer was Nasri-Jones-Nasri,top man.He has been here once I think


  15. Thanks beck for educating us. From your post so far, it is clear that Wenger has had a consistent record in the success of the players he signed.


  16. After seeing Loomer’s posts on ACLF, i have been toying with the idea of giving him the link to this blog and risk getting banned in the process. I have been saving up on being banned from there for a big occasion (and go out in a ball of flames), maybe this is it. If he has been here, I will keep my powder dry.

    He holds his own there though. One day he correctly called them out saying that all they do is criticise the club and manager all day long. I thought that was spot on. Everyday, it is the same moan fest there. You can only grind the wheat so much!

    It is still sad to see his lone voice among all the criticism. How he bothers to keep going there is beyond me.


  17. Nothing has happened GP.

    You call it as you see it.

    I’m very much looking forward to the start of the season, can’t wait. Twas ever thus. I hate this f*cking interminable and soul sucking transfer window. I have my Arsenal back in a few days. Joy.

    It is not without trepidation though. I just feel there is an opportunity here that is in grave danger of being squandered, the initial promise of Ivan the terrible’s words has so far amounted to..zip. Nada. Nowt. And if this remains the case, and the wheels come off the trolley next season, and we find ourselves scrapping for 4th again (this is a talented and exciting squad, but it is painfully thin in depth, and only an injury or two away from trouble), I fear the backlash towards the manager will grow in intensity like never before. All the reasons I’ve already stated enough times on t’other site. It’s boring now, it’s all been said. Suffice to say I hope (pray) I’m wrong.

    You will never hear me slag off AW. Never. I bloody love the guy. Most of those who I talk too who have similar concerns to me love him just as much. Doesn’t mean I think he is immune from criticism. That’s something I don’t understand. No one ever should be.

    Anyway. We’ll see.


  18. Btw Beck Tavlaridis did have a decent career post Arsenal and he played a for French club Lille and I remember him as a right hooligan in CL ties against the Mancs

    Just google Greek Arsenal players and his full Wiki entry comes up


  19. Fantastic Beck. Just fantastic.

    That’s all.


  20. This Article deserves more responses.


  21. What Mel & DC said

    Some kind of football inflation calculater was referenced in some recent posts over on 7am:

    Henry price 2013: £25-30 odd M
    Henry price when he was bought: £10M odd

    Gervais Price when he was bought: £10-8M odd
    Gervais price converted to about 2000 (Henry time) rates: £4M odd.

    The meme that AW has problems spending money seems to be at odds with the historical record.


  22. Half way through and the bullshit starts.

    Wankers. City fans, pay your own ways.


  23. While the above is still wank,
    This is what was supposed to have pasted.


  24. Harry,

    There are plenty of records here there and elsewhere of commentators on this forum being critical. What some here have found to be odd is the allegation that that is not the case, is spite of the record. It never happened!

    *”Supports Arsene, Not Arsenal”
    “Only local fans have opinions that count”

    Cut through it all and it is the same old rubbish, sorry to say.

    Any football fan that doesn’t want to discuss a game they’ve just watched and what happened in it, (like the mistakes that all managers make in every game) must be very boring to watch a game of football with. Not for me. I remember when the red mist would often descend as Eduardo was shunted out Left. That might have been an amazing team but I still knew better. Or not.

    One of Us once wrote a great post on AFCs transfer tactics from about 2010 onwards, Guerrilla transfers. The article wasn’t really appreciated but Carzola became the most obvious example that followed. And now Arsene Vulture swoops over the carcass of LFC. Maybe he’ll have to find a morsel elsewhere, maybe he will swing by later on after the other scavengers have scarpered.
    It makes sense to me, the focus on this player. Taking that 07/8 squad as a template you had three different styles of strikers, and like OOU in his recent Arsenal Vision post I’m not sure there are many players out there who can fill the third ‘style’ striker slot. And therefore, ignoring the other stuff, I think I understand why the club decided to go for a player who is banned for six games of the league season. The club has worked very hard to get into this position, last seasons efforts mattered because of the new TV deal and sponsors kicking in. In spite of Ivan’s click seeking announcement (heh! I bet Puma were happy) they can’t blow it all on a bundle of Downings* or Carrolls. Hulk for an easy £40M? I hope not.

    *LFC just made a £10-14M odd loss today as Downing moves to W.Ham.

    Time will tell.


  25. Good account of all the players that have come in and “made it”….or not!


  26. Finsbury,

    I was just responding to GP who seems so surprised that I’ve been (actually quite mildly) critical of the way this summer has panned out. I can’t always paint a smiley face on and pretend everything is hunky dory and going to plan, if I don’t feel it is. And at the moment I have misgivings. It shouldn’t be beyond the pale to express them. Doesn’t mean I’ve turned to the “dark side of the force” or whatever. I get the feeling some folks are still intent on fighting old battles, long after everyone has packed up their weapons and sodded off home.

    *”Supports Arsene, Not Arsenal”
    “Only local fans have opinions that count”

    Now you can never align me with those wankers. As I say, I wasn’t actually implying that no-one here is critical, or is allowed to be. Merely responding to a post of GP’s that I found curious to say the least.

    I don’t see the comparison with Looneypool’s glorious record of profligate spending on any old overpriced (and hyped) English tat. I kind of feel that is wilfully missing the point at this stage. The squad needed strengthening, Ivan announced to the world with a fanfare that now is the time, and here we are: a few days away from the start of the season. And, er. Well, quite.

    I totally agree about Suarez. I fully understand why Arsene has targeted him. Feels like “we” have made something of a ham-fisted attempt though, which has blown up rather spectacularly in our faces thus far. And I fear it’s been all eggs in one basket scenario. It may still work out as Liverpool will want shot once the sabre rattling has died away, I can’t see Suarez blinking first, and money is the only god here, regardless of whatever David Brent prattles on about. We’ll see.

    Anyway. No harm done. Time will indeed tell.

    As you were.


  27. Harry,
    I’m on the sunshine bus here, but I like the back seat, drinking cans of beer and playing music too loud.
    Of course Arsene makes mistakes. He just makes less of them than any other manager.


  28. Harry
    The only cock-up in the whole sorry Suarez saga is Pere Guardiola not properly reading the contract his Client signed. that being said, LFC will loose this one as they are not ‘acting in good faith’ at all.
    I don’t like the attitude of some that just throw £50m at the problem will sort it out.

    We can wait this one out. it is LFC’s shit-storm, not ours.


  29. I haven’t the foggiest DC. I would have thought Arsenal had some responsibility to, y’know, thoroughly check the “clause” before making the bid with the extra pound coin. Not being a legal eagle, or in full possession of the facts, I wouldn’t profess to know.

    Anyway, enough of him and Looneypool and all that depressing shit. We’ll see soon enough. All come out in the wash.

    Here’s to the weekend.

    Toodle pip.


  30. Cheers for the link Finsbury.

    There’s so much shouty rubbish out there in the blogsphere, that the real gold sometimes gets buried amidst the noise.

    Al’s perspective on Arsenal is always worth reading.


  31. Hi Swiss

    Sorry about my post. It just seemed quite a while since you posted anything on here. Just added two and two and got three. Really enjoy your posts on ACLF. I take a very similar view with you on the performance of AFC in this transfer window. They are certainly making us Gooners sweat. I am in the camp that believes we do need recruits.


  32. Harry
    the Jellystone Park Bear forgets that Arsenal can’t legally see the contract, they have to rely on the agent’s calling out the release clause. Which not illegal.
    Most players release clauses are known, because they want their agent’s to let it be known they can be bought, same for clubs – sometimes the clause is public to ward off predators. see Messi’s €250m clause.


  33. Harry, I understand your mis-giving a, but if anyone has f@ked up, it’s Ivan. Who goes around bragging about how much money they have before going shopping? The seller sees you coming and adds £10m to the price just before you sign on the dotted line (Higuain). So you switch targets because an agent leads you to believe there is a release clause, which it turns out there isn’t. I’d be sacking him pronto if that’s his idea of earning his 20%! Then you end up mired in the gutter with loud mouthed no marks who like to wash their dirty laundry in public. It’s a very unedifying business and people casually suggesting you pay any amount are totally divorced from reality and unaware of just how obscene it is to throw that kind of money away when you have to earn every penny as opposed to having easy access to the ill gotten gains of your average robber baron.

    I don’t like it, but I see how the club is caught between a rock and a hard place and have to buy an expensive toy for the brats to stop them having a tantrum.


  34. GP
    I’d be a hypocrite if I said I didn’t want a few more players to come in.
    They have to be the right players at the right price.
    I trust Arsene to know what he wants, I have a bit less faith in others in Arsenal to make that happen for him.
    So far though, I see nothing that worries me.
    If Suarez says on Friday that he really meant he wanted tom play in the Europa league, and his comments were misunderstood…. we’ll that would push me over the edge.


  35. Passenal
    Your post > my post.

    Also LFC sell Downing at a £15m loss, hahahah.


  36. Perez,
    Now that was a bit weird.


  37. GP..

    Not a problem! I’m fairly balanced in my views, or at least I try to be. As i say, you just have to call it as you see it. I’m more often wrong than right, so pay not the slightest bit of attention to anything I say!

    Passenal. I think there is definitely an ugly reality here (and I don’t mean Luis or Rooney), but this is what we have been slowly and patiently building toward, to able to slug it out with the big boys as it were. And yes the market prices have become so obscenely inflated (FFP? okey doke), that I actually feel for Arsene in a way. He’s a moral man, and It’s not an edifying spectacle to watch from the sidelines, let alone participate in. This is where we are though. If he doesn’t spend it to strengthen, and we are out of the title race by christmas, then questions will be asked.

    And you are right about Ivan the terrible.

    So Liverpool have made another audacious and cunning loss. How not to run a football club. Suarez odds on again? we’ll see.

    Night all.


  38. Swiss,
    The only way we will be out of the title race by Christmas with the players we have now, is that we will have it so sewn-up it won’t be a race anymore.
    Anybody new – ever Gustavo or Suarez would be cherries on top of the cake to push on for a really good CL campaign.

    Of course, a couple more injuries and we are buggered., but luckily enough Arsenal players don’t get injuries…. oh…wait.

    Ivan’s ok – at least on the money side of the business, it’s not his Job to be ass kissing some of the ‘fan’ base. Personal 1 to 1’s with Peter Wood, FFS.


  39. Its nice hear.


  40. Nice post Beck, looking forward to the later parts.

    Wooooo…. 4 days to go. Chap at work today, a Villa Fan, will be at match on Saturday. FWIW he is bricking himself at being well and truly thrashed and said he would have preferred almost any other team but us away as a start to the season.

    So many more positives out there if one talks to folk who aren’t gooners.


  41. My problem with the criticism of our transfer activity is that often people pretend like we aren’t trying. We have clearly tried this summer. We have been in for Gonzalo Higuain and the player wanted to come to us but Napoli came in and paid more than what we valued the player at. And we are now in for Suarez, and we have bid an amount that’s more than twice the club record, the player wants to come but his club won’t sell.

    Now people might criticise Arsene (or whoever has the final say on those matters) for not going out and just splashing the cash. If we offer 20 million and Napoli go in with 30, why not just spend 40 on the player? But that’s part of our philosophy, if you want it or not, we are not going to pay unreasonable amounts and we are not going to overpay for players. Higuain is a fantastic player, but is he worth close to 40 million?

    While our core is good — good enough to beat any team in the league — our squad depth is lacking in some areas and a world class player would never go amiss. And the club has clearly identified those potentials for improvement and is trying hard to make it happen. This is enough for me personally to be satisfied with the club’s business. It would’ve been a different story if the club wasn’t trying in the transfer market, but when have we NOT tried? We tried with Xabi Alonso, Pepe Reina and Juan Mata, just to mention some more recent and high profile examples of players we were in for but couldn’t close the deal for whatever reason.


  42. DC & Pass right on, testify brothers & sisters if a few more fans thought like that there’d be a lot less wailing & gnashing of teeth, big ups to EVIL from your comments surely people will remember we have always been used as a scouting network by the nouveau riche and not so nouveau, how many times has daddy bigbucks gazumphed the arsenal, sometimes I wonder if agents attach our name in order to initiate a run on their players.


  43. @evil

    Not to mention all those clubs who usually get the players we want are almost always in massive debt. Italian serie a teams finances are horrible, so are spanish la liga teams finances right down to Real Madrid & Barcelona. The funny thing is we don;t need to wait for Fifa or Uefa financial fair play to get these finances in order, the Euro is going to do it for us. A country can’t be asking for a 100 billion euro bailout when known state funded institutions like Barcelona and Real Madrid waste 50 and 80 million on football players, I don’t think the germans are going to like that especially since they are the ones forking out cash to keep this euro afloat.

    There is already evidence of the screws being tightened in spain, why is it taking so long to get gareth bale, if they are even going to get him, don’t they still owe tottenham for modric? No wonder spanish players for the first time are leaving spain in large numbers, they aren’t getting paid. I’m looking at Barcelona & Real Madrid & thinking what if all the cushy loans given to them were renegotiated or even recalled (which is a possibility) will they be financially stable.

    A lot is going to happen in football, the bubble is definitely going to burst, what makes me sure it’s going to burst soon is even Manchester United can’t afford to buy players in this market. Last season Fergie was complaining about the cost of lucas moura, this season Moyes hasn’t been able to add players, Funny it’s not just Arsenal struggling even the really big clubs are struggling, the difference is you don’t hear about it everyday on radio, tv or in the papers


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: