ALL nine signings from the last two years of Wenger’s reign assessed fully

Wenger Signings: The Last Two Years

We’re a fan base who were often accused of getting on Arsene Wenger’s back too much when he was here. The sentiment from fans of other clubs is that he made us who we are, and we should just have been glad to have him until whenever he chose to retire. They’re also very keen to point out that he generally kept us within the top four, and that there were years that we were unlucky to miss out on major honors.

Personally, I don’t think we were really pushing for him to go that hard until his final two seasons. It was those two years that pushed us over the edge. It was those two years which saw us humiliated by larger teams, and nudged out of the Champions League running. And it was those two years that saw Wenger, a man who’d spend a career personifying himself as the man who never panics, start to make some strange moves in the transfer market.

His last two years in charge brought us nine notable new signings. Here’s how they stack up.

Takuma Asano – Bought from Sanfrecce Hiroshima, 3.5m, July 2016

This is a signing I’d describe as ‘peak Wenger’. It’s a striker nobody’s heard of, bought ‘for the future’ despite being 21 when we bought him, and he’s never played a competitive minute for the club. In fact, the only thing I can say about him with any confidence is that his name sounds like a famous song from the Lion King. We desperately needed a reliable new striker back in July 2016. Asano never looked likely to be the answer.

Asano in fact turned out to be so poorly thought of by UEFA and the Home Office that we couldn’t even get him a work permit. He’s spent his entire Arsenal career to date out on loan in Germany playing for Hannover and Stuttgart, where as a forward he’s racked up a miserable seven goals in 45 league appearances. “One for the future?” One for the bin, more like.

Granit Xhaka – Bought from Borussia M’gladbach, 40m, July 2016

I’m going to tread carefully on this and say that Xhaka has somewhat split the crowd since he arrived in London. We wanted a combative midfielder with leadership qualities, and we got one – when he feels like playing the role.

Whilst there are a number of Arsenal fans who’d like to see Xhaka given the armband permanently, there are an equal number who feel we’re yet to see the best of the enigmatic Swiss. Emery might just be the man to solve the problem.

Rob Holding – Bought from Bolton, £2.6m, July 2016

This is one that I’d like to apologize to Wenger about! Like Asano, Rob Holding seemed a textbook Wenger signing. Young, from a club a level beneath us, with no proven pedigree or reputation.

In the two years since, Holding has matured into a confident centre back who looks at home in the first eleven, and will probably go on to represent England. That’s the issue with signing kids, sometimes they’re great, sometimes they’re not. It’s like playing at a vip casino where you never know what’s going to come up.

Lucas Perez – Bought from Dep la Coruna, £17.5m, August 2016

Oh dear. This was where the rot seemed to set in. We’d been chasing a world class striker all summer, and had the door slammed in our face everywhere we looked. All we’d picked up was Takuma Asano, and he didn’t have a work permit. In what looked like panic then, and looks even worse now, we went for Lucas Perez.

Perez was 28, and coming off the back of a good season with Deportivo, but it was the only good season of his career in terms of goal to game ratio. He never looked like he belonged at Arsenal, and made only eleven league appearances. The next season he was back with Deportivo on loan, but couldn’t recapture his form. Now he suffers the indignity of playing for West Ham.

Shkodran Mustafi – Bought from Valencia, £35m, August 2016

When Wenger bought in Mustafi and Holding over the summer of 2016, he probably didn’t expect Holding to be the one who got the most love from Arsenal fans. However a recent poll suggested 82% of us would rather see Rob starting games than Shkodran.

Mustafi is a weird one. When you buy a German international centreback, you expect consistency and discipline. He doesn’t always demonstrate it. He’s also got a funny turn of phrase on social media which makes you wonder how committed he truly is. He’s another one worth keeping, but Emery is probably watching him very closely. Thumbs in the middle.

Alexandre Lacazette – Bought from Lyon, £50m, July 2017

Lacazette was supposed to be the player who turned Arsenal around. He ticked all the ‘textbook Wenger’ boxes – i.e. he was young, French and fast, and had a proven track record scoring goals in a competitive European division. Big things were expected of him in his first season. They largely didn’t come.

That may not have been his fault. The team seemed to be capitulating around him at times last year, and so far this term he’s looked a different player. Emery didn’t seem to fancy him at first, dropping him to the bench for the first three games of the season, but since coming back into the team he’s looked a sharper man.

Konstantinos Mavropanos – Bought from Giannina, £2m, January 2018

I think Arsene had just stopped caring at this point. A 20 year old Greek centre back who’d never even made the Greek national team? What chance was he ever going to have of establishing himself? Why did we buy him?

In fairness to him, he made three appearances under Wenger and looked pretty handy, but it’s easy to do that when you’re 5-0 up against Burnley. He’s yet to make a single first team appearance under Emery, and hasn’t even featured regularly for the reserves. I think that says it all.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan – Bought from Man Utd in a swap deal, January 2018

Not many of us wanted to see this deal go through at the time, because it meant losing Alexis Sanchez. Sanchez may have wanted out, but he was also the best player we had at that time. How quickly things change.

Mkhitaryan may only have shown us glimpses of what he can do so far, but his developing partnership with Aubameyang gives me plenty of reason to be hopeful. Probably more hopeful than Manchester United fans are about what they got in return.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Bought from Borussia Dortmund, £56m, January 2018

Oh Arsene. You saved the best for last. Knowing his time at the club was running out, and he’d probably only get to make one more major signing, Arsene bought us a present for the future. The striker we’ve needed for years.

His goal to game ratio is sublime, he creates as much as he scores, and he already looks like he’s been part of the Arsenal team for years. This is the signing that we hope Emery has sent Arsene a thank you card and a basket of flowers for. If we’d got him a season or two earlier, though, Wenger may never have had to go at all!

Updated: October 19, 2018 — 2:21 pm


  1. Lacazette, Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan are good purchases, whereas Holding and Mavropanos still have to prove themselves

    I wish Arsenal can trade Mustafi and Xhaka with better CB and CM, but I guess Emery gives them this season as the last chance or sold to the highest bidder

    There are rumors that Wenger would go to Bayern Munich or Barcelona. If that happens, their highly established systems could make Wenger win another major trophy again

    1. Xhaka plays much better next to Torreira.
      So many people on here was saying we needed a DM to play alongside him, BM fans was saying that he had a DM next to him for them, Wenger didn’t get that mobile DM to compliment Xhaka.

      I hope Xhaka keeps improving and converts doubters into fans 🙂

      I doubt him at times but I try to remember that Wenger misused him and we should judge him on how Emery gets him to perform.

      1. Let’s see whether he can score or assist from set pieces against Leicester

        His dead ball talent is his only prominent skill

        1. That’s better Gotanidea, stick to articles like that but you must remember Mavropanos and Holding are young and the future.

        2. his passing in the final third is underappreciated

        3. Only? How about his possession keeping skills, arsenal are the team with the 6th highest no of passes this season but xhaka is the midfielder with the second highest no of passes second only to jorginho, the benefits of his long passes and ball switching skills can be overlooked at times, and pls don’t gimme that piece about side and back passes, against Watford alone, he completed 99 passes, about 66 were forward passes and over 30 in the final third

      2. He plays better when next to Torreira but quite frankly is not the man to take Arsenal forward if we want to win things.Xhaka,from an objective point of view is an ok player.He’s not the special kind of talent we should be wasting time on.I’m hoping we can sell him and Mustafi after this season because they do not have the class and quality Arsenal seek.I just hope Emery will be ruthless.I look at Xhaka and all I see is a normal DLP who’s being overhyped because of decent passing.

    2. not convinced about the miki transfer, but i’ll support him nonetheless and a big fan of our young greek, sokratis might help his development into a future star, he’s got it all as physical attributes big, strong, brave he might even surpass holding if given game time, don’t write him off!

      also he’s not a wenger signing he’s the diamond eye’s discovery give credit where it’s due!

      1. Mavropanos is injured… The author made it seem like he’s not playing because he’s not good enough. He should be back next month.

        1. Exactly right re Mavropanos. Also Wenger restricted Lacazette’s opportunities, until his niggling knee injury got the better of him. When he returned following rehabilitation after his operation he was firing on all cylinders.
          Perez like Podolski always looked dangerous and scored some fine goals for Arsenal, when Wenger gave him game time.

          1. Also as stated above, Xhaka always played with a specialist DM when he plays for Switzerland and for previous clubs in Germany and Switzerland. He has never been the DM, Wenger tried to make him. His performances have greatly improved when played along side Torreira.

    3. Jonathn Tah for CB and Youri Tielemens CM

  2. Kind of have to agree with everything said. Good article and well said. My only disagreement is with mavro, I still think he is a good buy and will be one for the future.

  3. Lest you are unaware, Mav is currently injured and has been for some time.I have every confidence in him and Holding forming a great partnership in the years ahead.As for Mustafi who is the prime example of Wenger’s decline, I doubt it any Club would pay more than £10m for him.Having visited Valencia fairly recently i can tell you their supporters could not believe their good luck when Arsenal bought him for £35m..That says it all.

    1. As usual Grandad, good article and I thoroughly agree with you.

    2. Grandad,I would echo Kennys praise of your post. I rarely disagree with anything you post. Presumably there must have been something at sometime on which we disagreed but at my age I have forgotten when. Probably though we never have disagreed on anything important.

  4. Hmmm.
    It looks like the article has totally ignored how Sven came in and it was Sven and Gazidis doing transfers since Sven came, Wenger kept on the outside.

    Wenger said he already knew about Mavrop prior to Sven joining but he never got Arsenal to bid for him, we bid and got him thanks to Sven.

    It was no secret that Wenger wanted Martial as part of the Alexis deal, it was Sven who wanted Mkhi and it was Mkhi we ended up with getting.

    Wenger said we already had a top WC CF in Laca when linked to Auba, Sven and Gazidis spent all window in Germany haggling over Auba which left zero time for a CB which Wenger was saying he wanted… Admittingly it looked like Wenger wanted Evans which eeeeeek! but still, Wenger wanted a CB and Sven wanted Auba. We have Auba and not Evans, Wenger was not listened to. Emery shouldn’t be sending Wenger the thank you card but to Sven.

    I defended Wenger a LOT yet I am pointing out how Wenger is not to thank for the good points here, I have said for years that the signings are not down to Wenger soley and we seen that when Sven arrived, at least a lot of supporters did. Seems some will ignore what has happened to continue to believe that the head coach is the CEO as well.

    1. Yep, none of those three final signings were Wenger. It was obvious. Mislintat raved about Mavropanos to Gazidis and has been signed for the future – currently injured and also being slowly nurtured into PL life. Aubameyang was obviously a massive coup for us given our lack of CL football and the club were right to pursue him as a marquee signing for us, especially given how Laca hadn’t exactly set the world on fire over the second half of last season. Mkhitaryan again a Dortmund player with so much to offer and an immediate understanding with Auba, traded against a bad tempered extortionately paid player past his best in Sanchez. None of it was Wenger.

    2. Signs of a rapprochement between you and me Midkemma, after your fine post. I hope we can now be more friendly and I will certainly try. We are both keen Gooners and bad blood between us is not a good idea is it. Agreed? I have said some harsh things, I admit, in anger and want a new start if you agree.

  5. Mavropanos has been injured all season so your remark about him is stupid. He is very promising

  6. Mavropanos is highly rated and you must have missed his performance against United. He obviously is rated by Emery too, otherwise why did Calum go on loan and Mavropanos left in the squad? He’s currently injured hence why he has not featured…

  7. Sorry to go off topic but something has to be done about these international breaks. With another one coming up on November 11th this will be the fourth one this season with only 9 games played so far. Whatever is matter with the old system when they played one international in midweek and no break in the football calendar.

    1. I agree Kenny. Not really off topics if an injury effects the team efforts in EPL and other comps.

    2. Can’t stand the international break Kenny… why so many??? 😩

      1. Sooooooo boring without Arsenal matches
        And worry about injuries too

    3. Oh Kenny. Your comment is nectar to my ears. How I also hate these awful international breaks. BTW, I don’t think nectar is actually good for your ears at all but please excuse the pedant in my silly brain!

  8. Holding was an excellent signing for the price. He is a decent back up CB. Hopefully he will improve

    Aubameyang, And Lacazette excellent signings. We needed them sooooooo bad but Wenger got them too late to save him.

    Mkhitaryan is a good signing.

    Bad Signings
    Xhaka for £35 million – not worth the money
    Mustafi for £35 million – not worth the money
    Asano- I don’t see a future for him with us

    Perez. In hindsight a bad signing because Wenger hardly used him and wasted his talents. Treated him badly (like Podolski)

    Mavrapanos??? Too early to tell but def worth a gamble for only £2 million

    1. Perez came @ a time Sanchez was @ his peak, it could have bn very difficult to bench Sanchez for Perez, how did Wenger wasted his talent? Alcacer never had playing time @ barca Buh he’s killing it for dortmund, daz d way to make a statement, poldoski? We all saw it panned out, when he went to inter Milan he could have proved a point,could have judged asano if he was given a work permit, watched him @ d Olympics, dude has it in him, sometimes how a player performes is determined by the plyting environment and the style adopted by the coaches, I have never seen a coach that gets it 100% when it comes to signing of players, Buh Wenger was an absolute genius in spotting talents!

      1. Podolski??? What else does he need to prove after playing for Germany? He didn’t do so well for Bayern Munich, he was young, but he did well for Koln prior and after…he was doing well for us, if used the right way, same with Arshavin, Vela, Park-Chu Young and Perez, players thrive off confidence, Wenger misused a lot of this players or didn’t even use them in the least possible games. The one or 2 time Park Chu played, he wasn’t awful…he looked better than Sanogo, who Wenger played against Bayern!

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