The Top 10 Debut seasons for Arsenal Players (Before Ramsdale)

Top 10 Debut Seasons by new Arsenal players by Dan Smith


Aaron Ramsdale is yet to lose as a Gunner.

Not just in terms of his saves, but his interaction with the fans, his leadership qualities, the way he speaks, etc, it’s hard to find one Gooner who hasn’t been impressed by the keeper.

If many are honest, their criticism towards the club for spending 30-odd million on a player with consecutive relegations on his CV.

Others question why such a fee when we already had Leno?

It’s hard to think of too many signings who so quickly have proved their doubters wrong.

In fact, you might be surprised to learn that even the most famous names in our history didn’t have vintage debut seasons.

Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp both started life in North London with goal droughts, Pires and Lauren needed a year to adapt to the physical nature of English Football, Freddie Ljungberg only scored once in his first campaign, etc.

Here are the top 10 Gunners Debut Season in date order…..

This will be a reflection of my age group so anyone who wants to add names to the comments feel free

Ian Wright – 1991-1992

Perhaps no player was prouder to put on the red and white shirt more than Ian Wright.

If your tired of years of our best talent wanting to leave, it’s refreshing to hear a time where someone would be so humble about representing the badge.

Listen to the striker tell tales about staying around David Rocastle’s house and not sleeping, instead just listening to stories about ‘ The Arsenal’.


Turning professional not till the age of 22, Wright took nothing for granted and aware that the step up from Crystal Palace had put pressure on himself to get his first goal quickly.

He would score on his first outing at Leicester in the League Cup and got a hat trick on his League debut.

He would go on to win the Golden Boot, a big part because he couldn’t accept Graham Taylor’s decision to not select him for Euro 1992.

This was the first of six consecutive campaigns he was our top scorer, for 8 years no one in our history had scored more than him.


Patrick Vieira 1996-97

An early sign of Mr. Wenger’s genius.

We now know that the Frenchman advised David Dein to buy the midfielder knowing he was about to join as manager.

In a random fixture against Sheffield Wednesday though, he was an unknown 20-year-old sat on the bench.

When Parlour came off injured the crowd were amazed how this unknown kid dictated the whole game, helping us win from a losing position.

He would then start every fixture until an injury that Christmas. Gooners were now realising what his teammates had just found out.

That despite his inexperience Arsenal had brought someone ahead of his time.

With a drinking culture in our dressing room, Viera embodied the ethos Arsene Wenger would set.

Meanwhile he had the physique and size where he could adapt to the physical nature of English Football straight away.

So, when the likes of Adams and Keown tried to ‘test him’ in training he immediately earnt their respect.

He would pass on those standards to what would become known as the French Connection.

It’s rare that a foreigner with zero affiliation with a club would become so infected in its DNA.


Emmanuel Petit 1997-98

In his first summer transfer market, Mr. Wenger used his knowledge of the European shop window to help change Arsenal’s image.

The manager had worked with Petit at Monaco where they lifted the French Cup together.

At that point Petit would transition from left back to centreback, and then midfield.

It was at Highbury where he was trusted to every week play as a DM, giving Vieira the license to stroll forward.

It became one of our most famous midfield partnerships and one you could argue we never replaced. Not just were they instrumental in us winning the Double but it culminated in them lifting the World Cup (Petit scoring in the Final).

He’s since said he regretted a move to Barcelona where he accused their coach of not knowing his best position.

A knee injury in Spain and at Chelsea meant he was never the same player we saw at Highbury.

There is a great story he’s told where he was talking to Spurs who paid for his taxi back to a London hotel to continue negotiations, but instead the taxi took him to Arsenal.

So, we got Petit, and Spurs paid for the fare.


Marc Overmars – 1997-98

For large parts of this season Overmars wouldn’t have made this list.

Many questioned Wenger spending 7 million for a player who had torn ligaments in his left knee, the consensus being he had lost the pace that made him the player he was.

By his first Xmas in England, his manager was having to remind the media he needed time to settle, such was the criticism of his performances.

The Dutchman’s form in fact would mirror that of our Double Winning team. Going off the boil in the winter but having an outstanding in run in.

His goal and performance at Old Trafford in 1998 will stand the test of time, as well as two goals the day we lifted our first Prem and the opener in the Cup Final.

Like Petit, he said he regrets his move to Barcelona where he was always on the fringes.

A knee injury forced him to retire in 2004.

Has earnt reputation as one of the best Directors of Football in the world due to his work at Ajax, a role he’s been linked with as part of Newcastle’s new set up.

Sol Campbell 2001-2002

As a free agent he had the pick of Europe’s best.

However, when his criteria were to win trophies but stay living in London, Arsenal became his only choice (this was before Chelsea were taken over by RA).

While all parties knew a Spurs captain joining Arsenal would be controversial, no one expected the level or scale of abuse he would receive.

Ironically it was his return to the Lane in the November of his debut season that he produced his first truly great performance as a Gunner.

That summed up the man’s mentality.

He was someone who could walk into our dressing room and be a leader from day one.

All that and you don’t even pay a fee!

How many players win a Double in their first season?

2 titles and 3 FA Cups.

Lifting the title at the Lane.

Greatest player Spurs produced!


Jens Lehman – 2003 -2004

How can you do better in your debut season then play every game of a Prem campaign where your team doesn’t lose a single game?

In fact, the keeper would have to wait 15 months till he tastes a League defeat in England.

Looking back, he had the perfect personality to replace a legend like David Seaman.

The self-confidence not to be intimidated by who was before him, the German would even clash with his own teammates with his demeanor.

He’s the type of personality our dressing room has been lacking for years


Bacary Sagna 2007-2008

Since we were last champions, this season was one of the closest we have come to ending our drought.

Sagna debuted in a young squad who were five points clear at the top of the table that January.

At that point he had set a record for 17 games unbeaten in an Arsenal shirt.

They just needed a few more senior players to help them deal with the crucial moments of games and seasons to get them over the line.

The example often given is how the team fell apart after Eduardo broke his leg at Birmingham

Where the pressure of a title run in got to others, never our right back who was rewarded with a place in the Team of the Year

Arsenal’s French manager Arsene Wenger (R) and Arsenal’s German midfielder Mesut Ozil smile as Arsenal players celebrate their victory over Chelsea in the English FA Cup final football match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley stadium in London on May 27, 2017.
Aaron Ramsey scored a 79th-minute header to earn Arsenal a stunning 2-1 win over Double-chasing Chelsea on Saturday and deliver embattled manager Arsene Wenger a record seventh FA Cup. / AFP PHOTO / Adrian DENNIS / NOT FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING USE / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Mesut Ozil 2013-14

After making a mess of getting Suarez (the whole 40 million plus one-pound fiasco) our owner was under pressure to spend some money, spelt out to him by fans in attendance for a 3-1 home defeat to Aston Villa.

After years of watching us sell our best talent the announcement of Ozil excited the fanbase.

He had a reputation for being the King of assists, something he did in his very first game at Sunderland while involved in all three goals on his home debut.

There would be accusations that he would go missing in the big games – 6-3 at Man City and 5-1 at Liverpool, and a consensus that he needed better players around him.

In truth he never shook that opinion.

Yet in his first campaign for us he got 13 assists and 7 goals in 40 games while helping us end a 9-year trophy drought.


Alexis Sanchez 2014-15

Not just his goals but his work ethic endeared himself to fans so quickly.

Years later it seemed to alienate him with the dressing room.

Wherever younger players should have followed his lead, or he could have been more of a leader remains debatable to this day.

He had a winner’s mentality which might explain why his form dipped in the winter when he realised, we would not be sustaining a title challenge.

Did refind his mojo in the run-in scoring at Wembley in both the FA Cup Semi Final and Final.

With 25 goals, the manner of how we won the Cup and ended the season, many Gooners had high hopes for the following season.


Mustafi 2017-18

Not writing this to wind anyone up but remember this is based on their debut season, not what comes after.

The defender has the record for not losing in his first 18 games as a Gunner.

An injury that broke up his partnership with Koscielny was largely seen as how we went from 2nd at Christmas to finishing 5th.

When he recovered, he took a while to refind his form.

Strangely Mustafi seemed to do better in the big games.

His first season saw us finish 5th and lift the FA Cup.

Given the current fanbase reaction of being 6th, this isn’t too bad…


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Watch The Just Arsenal Show 3 on YouTube – Dan Smith gives his opinion on why we are known as Banter FC

Tags Alexis Sacnhez Ian Wright Jens Lehmann


  1. Brian Marwood in 1988-89 season.
    Anders Limpar in 1990-91 season
    Both left wingers and both had a huge impact.

  2. Mustafi surprised me but it was as you said – a debut season
    Vieira and Petit were a fantastic pairing. Just fantastic
    Ian Wright was peerless and I missed the energy and desire shown by Sanchez. A good read Dan

  3. How about the 16-years-old Fabregas? He was highly energetic and worked so hard in his first two EPL games, before becoming slower in the same season

    Smith-Rowe’s tactical awareness and energy reminds me of the young Fabregas. Hopefully he can keep his high intensity this season

    1. Fabregas played a couple of League cup games in his first season
      Can’t just count 2 league cup games

  4. What of Nacho Monreal. Played his first game the day after joining, with virtually no training with his new team mates. And, boy, did he hit the ground running!

  5. Yes, I well remember a time – ludicrous as it now seems – when the likelihood of Mustafi becoming a key player was generally thought true by most Gooners. It did not last long, needless to say!
    Interesting article DAN.

  6. Mustafi was a revelation… I enjoyed watching his passion.. Sadly he was never the same after the injury.. but he wasn’t as bad as he was often seen

    Secondly I think Aubameyang should be mentioned

  7. I know this is Dan’s opinion; however the non appearance of Dennis Bergkamp, who scored 11 goals in 33 games, including the winner against Bolton Wanderers to get Arsenal into the UEFA Cup appears strange.
    Stuart Pearce famously said that Dennis Bergkamp was a waste of money and wouldn’t make it in England, when he failed to score in his first few matches.
    Ian Wright rates Dennis Bergkamp the greatest signing Arsenal has made or ever likely to make.

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