Hello all, assuming I’ve still got many years to run in my AM career I thought it might be a good idea to start an annual look at the players we brought in from previous years once some dust has settled and we’ve had time to judge the players on how they’ve performed for us. I’ve decided to look five years back each year as I think it’s only really fair to judge the players bought and sold with the gift of hindsight so I’ll be starting with the 2014/15 season. The squad at the time 2013/14 was the first year post Emirates move where we’d supposedly thrown off the financial shackles imposed on the club by the switching of stadiums, and it was the first time we’d had a negative net spend in three years. There was a lot of hype about a big money signing that summer and links to Suarez, Rooney and Higuain all quickly appeared. In the end however, the player we moved on was Mesut Özil from Real Madrid who found himself surplus to requirements once Gareth Bale was bought in. The season started promisingly with us blowing away a lot of teams with some of the best football the club had seen in years and we were seemingly in the mix for a title challenge. However as always injuries started to tell. Özil missed got a hamstring injury in March and ended up missing six league games. Aaron Ramsey who was our star player that year got a supposed small thigh muscle strain in December which somehow kept him out until April. Theo Walcott did his ACL in January and was out for the year. With our three in form players out for the crucial part of the season we collapsed in the league. We suffered some of the worst beatings of Wenger’s tenure. A 5-1 away to Liverpool, 6-0 away to Chelsea and 3-0 away to Everton. Still, we ended our nine year trophy drought by pulling off a dramatic comeback over Hull City in the final and securing top four once again. Most believed that with a bit of investment the club was on the verge of pushing on to the next level and becoming legitimate title contenders. Areas of need Going in to that summer there were quite a few areas that needed reinforcing due to imminent departures. In short they were: Goalkeeper, center back, right back, central midfielder, winger and striker Departures The needs that I mentioned above came about primarily because of the departures this summer: Lukasz Fabianski - Swansea - Free Bacary Sagna - Man City - Free Nicklas Bendtner - Wolfsburg - Free Thomas Eisfeld - Fulham - £1.35M Ignasi Miquel - Norwich - £1.71M Johan Djourou - Hamburg - £2.52M Thomas Vermaelen - Barcelona - £17.10M First off the good. The club did well to get fees for some elite banter players. £17M for a defender who can’t actually defend or stay fit is highway robbery. Eisfeld hasn’t played in a top flight since leaving us. Miquel and Djourou have both had starring roles for relegation candidates at Malaga and Hamburg respectively so it’s probably a good thing they weren’t kept on. However there were a few negatives, this summer continued the suicidal trend of letting players run down their contracts until they were either free agents or had to be sold for poor fees. We’d already done it in back to back years with Nasri, Cesc and RVP and now Sagna and Fabianski moved on for nothing. This practice is doubly unacceptable because not only do you not receive any money but you’re creating more positions of need to fill in one window. The Fabianski case went under the radar a bit at the time but is worth looking at again, seen by many in his final years to be deadwood he’s since gone on to be one of the most underrated keepers in the league, first at Swansea and now at West Ham. This stat from last season has him outperformed only by Alisson amongst PL goalkeepers which is incredible. The reason he never hit that level with us might be explained by an interview he gave with Szczesny after both left the club in which they were less than complimentary about Gerry Peyton, our then goalkeeping coach. Their stories paint him as a dinosaur who had no idea how to motivate or even coach them. This is a common failing with many of the Wenger era coaches and scouts. Guys who’d been around since before the Invincibles but ended up staying well past their sell by date. Poor recruitment and player development will kill any team and this was the year when things really started to go South. Arrivals With the many gaps in the squad, Wenger was pressed into spending £107M on new players. That was the second highest transfer spend total of Wenger’s Arsenal career eclipsed only by his final season. The five guys brought in by the club that summer were: Alexis Sanchez - Barcelona - £38.25M Calum Chambers - Southampton - £18.21M Danny Welbeck - Man Utd - £18M Mathieu Debuchy - Newcastle Utd - £13.5M David Ospina - OGC Nice - £3.60M Think it’s fair to say that’s a very mixed bag. Sanchez turned out to be an incredible signing and was arguably our best player in Wenger’s final years. In just 3 and a half seasons he racked up 60 league goals. He was named PFA fans’ player of the year and in the PFA team of the year for 2014/15. He was also Arsenal’s player of the year for 2014/15 and 2016/17. The others are harder to call, Chambers amazingly is still with the club considering all the adversity he’s face. He’s made a great start to the season and he may finally become a key player for us. However 18M is a lot of money and after a promising start in his debut season and a shock England call up his form plummeted and until this year he’s only really featured in games when there’s been an injury crisis. He’s had two season long loans to Middlesbrough and Fulham where he played well although both were relegated in his seasons there. It’s still very surreal that five years later we can’t accurately judge his true level but hopefully he can kick on for however long he has left at the club. Welbeck fell very much in the middle, he was hyped to be on the verge of a break through when he left Utd but it never really happened. His goal scoring record with us makes grim reading, he never once got into double figures in the league in his five years with us. He was very unlucky with injuries and missed huge chunks of games almost every year. He was a willing runner though, who contributed a lot in terms of pressing and selflessness, he also came up in big games with goals but for 18M in those days you probably want more than just a decent squaddie. On the sliding scale of mediocre signings, Ospina falls towards the bottom. He wasn’t a bad player but he was never going to be a long term solution in goal. Considering we only sold him this summer the amount of games he actually played for us is staggering. He only played 70 games for us, 41 of those coming in Cup competitions. After winning the first choice goalkeeping gig from Szczesny in the wake of his major fallout with Gerry Peyton, Ospina made 19 decent league appearances in his first season. After that chances were few and far between once Petr Cech was signed. In the next three years he only played 11 league games before being loaned to Napoli. His goal to game record considering he was playing for a “top club” isn’t the best. He conceded 76 goals in those 70 games with 27 clean sheets. How much of those goals were his fault is debatable as we were appalling as a defensive unit in his time with us. £3M isn’t a huge fee but once you include wages, signing these average players adds up and makes them hard to sell so you can bring in actual quality players. Ospina was a decent player but that’s all he was ever going to be and having him stuck round the club for as long as he did was criminal. Finally we come to Debuchy. In terms of Wenger signings this guy might be the pound for pound worst. He made 30 appearances total for us, and only 13 in the league. That’s £1M per league appearance. He was incredibly unlucky and suffered a terrible injury in his second month at the club and while he was out we saw the emergence of Bellerin who by season’s end had nailed down a first team position. The reason he was such a terrible signing was that we couldn’t move him on once Bellerin had become first choice. He was on first team wages which he wouldn’t get elsewhere and so we found it impossible to drum up any interest in him. This I think is the ultimate failing of the latter years of Wenger’s transfer policy. Buying average players for an average fee seems like a good idea in theory. You can address multiple needs in a single window like he did this year. However the reality is stark, with the massive inflation of PL wages in these years, the list of clubs who could match them became incredibly short. You’re then stuck with a filled squad space, paying wages to a non homegrown player who you’ll only be able to move on when his contract runs out. Debuchy wasn’t the first but unfortunately he wouldn’t be the last foreign journeyman to overstay his welcome. January The club made two signings in the January window that year. Gabriel Paulista - Villarreal - £13.50M Krystian Bielik - Legia Warsaw - £2.03M Gabriel was a like for like Vermaelen replacement. He was a massive liability. He showed some promise in his first few months at the club although this didn’t last. In the 2015/16 season he started four league games while Mertesacker recovered from an illness. This run culminated in him being goaded into a red card by Diego Costa in a 2-0 defeat away at Chelsea. It was clear this damaged Wenger’s faith in him as he didn’t start consecutive league games for another 5 months. He eventually won back his place that year thanks to Per’s abysmal form and Koscielny suffering a few knocks. The games he did play though were ones where we truly kissed goodbye to the title, including the away loss to Utd with a teenage Rashford up front, a home loss to Swansea, the Andy Carroll hat trick game and a home 1:1 draw against Crystal Palace. He was eventually moved on after another poor season becoming another clear example of the disastrous mid-level buys that Wenger seemed to love so much. Bielik though was a pretty resounding success as a buy. Despite only playing 2 first team games for the club he was sold at a 5M profit to Derby this summer. He had a great loan at Charlton last season after a difficult one at Birmingham but it wasn’t a bad bit of business at all by the club. Overall A pretty average window, losing two experienced players in Sagna and Fabianski for far less than their true value has to sting. Additionally aside from Alexis who in fairness to Wenger was an incredible buy, the rest were absolutely average at best with the possible exception of Chambers who still has time to change his story at Arsenal. Even with all the incomings all needs still weren’t really addressed this year as central midfield became a giant issue with Arteta and Wilshere suffering long injuries, which meant Flamini actually started a lot of games. The club solved this by recalling Coquelin from his loan in January and he made a decent makeshift partnership with Santi in the middle of the park. The team had a decent season in the end, they retained the FA Cup after beating Utd away and trouncing Tim Sherwood’s Villa in the final. In the league after a dreadful first half they rebounded well to finish third and briefly put some mild pressure on Mourinho’s Chelsea team in April and May. The Champions League was a disaster, after finishing second in their group behind Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund they got an incredible draw against a pretty average Monaco side. Arsenal bottled the first leg and ended up getting eliminated despite a second leg comeback. How could the club have improved? This is very much up to debate and is obviously I’ve got the gift of hindsight, but it seems this year the club wasted money on a lot of deadwood just to have some names on a team sheet. Ideally Wenger would’ve realised his coaching set up was damaging us and canned the likes of Peyton. With a proper coach if we’d extended Fabianski rather than waste money on Ospina who knows how good he could’ve been for us. Another failing of Wenger in the later years was ignoring talent from the lower leagues. If we’d have picked up say Kieran Trippier who had a great year in the league that year you’d have saved nearly all the fee you’d spend on Debuchy and/or Chambers. Also you’d have a home grown asset you could sell for big money down the line. Also considering the very good PL career he’s forged for himself, letting Hayden go without many chances was criminal. He might never have been good enough to be an ever present starter but considering the money we spent on Chambers I feel it was a massive mistake not bringing him along as a squaddie. So in this hypothetical scenario in which we’ve extended Fabianski, bought Trippier, given Hayden a chance and saved 35M by not buying Debuchy, Chambers and Ospina we could’ve picked up Idrissa Gueye considering the scouting presence we had in France at the time to fix the midfield. Then considering our Champions League clout we could’ve consolidated the remaining money into either a top shelf striker or defender negating the need to buy one of Welbeck or Gabriel. Again this is all fantasy, but it’s fun to speculate. I thank you, the reader If you’ve made it this far, sincerely it means a lot to me. I realise I’ve rambled quite a lot but I hope it’s been an enjoyable read and I look forward to writing another one next year.