• Stephen Broekhuizen

Arsenal's 10 Greatest Ever Transfers: Ranked

The transfer window is in full swing, and as usual Arsenal are linked with a whole host of players, including Dušan Vlahović, Bruno Guimarães & Salomon Kalou.

Ok, maybe that last one isn't true - but in that spirit, here's what I consider to be Arsenal’s best ten transfers of all time.

I don’t include the likes of Cesc Fàbregas in this list - just those players who were already playing first team football when they joined the club. I imagine a lot of people will disagree with my picks, and I sure hope so - because are we really on the internet if people don’t argue with each other?

10. Brian Talbot

Talbot joined Arsenal in January of 1979 for £450,000 from Ipswich. In a time when players were less well protected by the officials he was something of an iron-man, rarely missing a game due to injury, including playing 70 matches in the 1979/80 season - a game total that would force most modern players to retire, I’d say. In total the midfielder played 327 times for Arsenal, scoring 49 goals in that time. Talbot, who had won the FA Cup with Ipswich in 1978, became the first player to win consecutive FA Cups for different clubs when he scored as part of Arsenal’s famous 3-2 win over Man United in 1979. While Arsenal would lose the 1980 FA Cup final, it was his goal that saw off Liverpool in the semi-final. He may not make everybody’s list, but that knack for getting important goals and his consistent availability put him ahead of some more well-known names on my list.

9. Lee Dixon

I had to have one of Dixon or Winterburn on the list really and went for the right back who, when he joined from Stoke, was brought in the fill the void left by Viv Anderson moving to United in January 1988. Dixon was part of that famous back four at Arsenal and was equally good going forward as he was defending. He's also a much better player on the ball than he gets credit for sometimes - just look at that pass to Smith in the lead up to the famous second goal at Anfield in 89’. In total Dixon played 616 times for the club, scoring 28 goals, and during his 14 years at the club he won 4 league titles, 3 FA Cups, 1 League Cup, 3 Charity Shields and the European Cup Winners Cup. For me, he will always be the first name I think of when I see a number 2 shirt for Arsenal.

8. Alan Smith

Smith arrived from Leicester City in 1987 and didn’t have the best first year in the Arsenal jersey. That season aside he was immense for the club and is still criminally underrated by people when they talk of the best league strikers. Good with his head and good with his feet, he had a great first touch, and could hold up play to bring others into the game - the likes of Paul Merson being a beneficiary of this. Smith played 347 games for Arsenal and scored 115 goals in that time, twice winning the Golden Boot. He won two league titles, an FA Cup, a League Cup and got the winning goal as his side beat Parma 1-0 to win the European Cup Winners Cup. It is almost a pity we can’t reverse time - he is exactly the sort of forward the club could use right now.

7. Cliff Bastin

Bastin was originally spotted by Herbert Chapman who was watching a match between Watford and Exeter. Originally there to keep tabs on a Watford player, it was the 17 year old Cliff Bastin at Exeter who caught his eye, and he signed him at the end of that season. Bastin enjoyed a career most players even today would dream of. He signed for Arsenal in 1929 and played until the outbreak of war. He did play 7 more games without a goal after the war, and an injury the final season before the war robbed him of more playing time, as he was only 27 in 1939. His total tally of 178 goals made him Arsenal's all-time top goalscorer from 1939 until 1997, when his total was surpassed by Ian Wright. In 2005 Thierry Henry passed each player's totals, and so Bastin is Arsenal's third-top goalscorer of all time. Bastin's record of 150 league goals for Arsenal stood for slightly longer, being equalled by Henry on 14 January 2006 and surpassed by him in February of the same year. Impressive from Bastin, but more so given he was a left winger and not a striker. In his career he won 5 league titles and 2 FA Cups. By the age of 19 he had won a league, an FA Cup and been capped by England; still the youngest player to achieve all three. His 150 goals stood as a record until broken by Ian Wright in 1997, and later they were both passed by Thierry Henry in 2005, his record of 150 league goals was eventually passed by Henry in 2006. Bastin simply had to be included in the list.

Fun fact: During the war (he was excused service due to his poor hearing) Italian propaganda claimed he had been captured during the battle of Crete.

6. Freddie Ljungberg

Putting Freddie here might be more of a personal choice as I just enjoyed watching him play so much. Freddie, who cost just £3million, to me became an instant favourite when he scored seconds into his debut against United. The runs he would make for the likes of Bergkamp to play him in were so good but seemed so natural - he was just always in the right spot. In his 9 years at the club, he played 328 times and scored an impressive 72 goals. He won two league titles and three FA Cups with Arsenal. He was an underwear model, he had crazy red hair, he helped bring Saka into the first team, he swore on Match of the Day; honestly, what’s not to love?. As an added note, I still maintain we would have won the UEFA Cup in 2000 had it not been for his rib injury ruling him out of the final.

5. Ian Wright

It took all of £2.5million to bring Ian Wright to Arsenal from Crystal Palace. Wright brought an excitement to the team, and despite competition with Alan Smith and Kevin Campbell at first, in his seven years at the club he scored 185 goals in 288 appearances. He was more than a goal scorer though - he was great for the other players in the squad and his energy, excitement and his love for playing football was infectious. He did win a league title, two FA Cups and a league cup with Arsenal, but sadly at the time his suspension for the Cup Winners Cup final meant he didn’t get a medal - but he had played a huge part in the club getting there.

And who remembers the famous Nike slogan of the 1990’s “Behind every great goalkeeper there’s a ball from Ian Wright”? Great stuff.

A legend of the club in every sense of the word.

4. David Seaman

Signed in 1990 for a then record fee for a goalkeeper, £1.3million, Seaman went onto have a wonderful career for both club and country... the odd lob aside. He came in despite John Lukic being extremely popular which was a touch ruthless by George Graham - but that is what made him a winner. Seaman won the fans over quickly though, as Arsenal won the league in his first season. He played all 38 league games, conceding only 18 goals and keeping 23 clean sheets. In all he made 564 appearances in his 13 years at the club, where he won 3 league titles, four FA Cups and the European Cup Winners Cup. His FA Cup Semi Final save is still one of the greatest I have ever seen; he was such a calming presence at the back and organised everything to perfection.

3. Patrick Vieira

Vieira signed for Arsenal in 1996 for £3.5 million after Ajax had failed to agree terms with the player (or so the story went at the time), otherwise he might have swapped Milan for Amsterdam rather than London. Vieira would become our captain, the centre piece of the Invincibles side and some still say we have never really replaced him, which almost 17 years later seems a bit crazy. In his 9 years at the club Vieira would win 3 League titles and 3 FA Cups, playing 406 times and scoring 33 goals. He simply was exactly what we needed to be able to compete with United at the time, and who didn’t enjoy seeing him and Roy Keane fight it out? A World Cup and European championship winner with France as well, he had some career. Now, with the job he is doing for Palace in the Premier League, surely a return to Arsenal down the line cannot be ruled out.

2. Thierry Henry

Possibly should have been number one but it was a tight call for me, and I decided to put him number two. Arriving as a wide player from Juventus for £11 million or so in 1999, he would become a central striker and end up as our all-time leading goal scorer and four-time Golden Boot winner. There were a few seasons in the mid to early 200s when there was no doubt Henry was the best player on the planet by some distance. In all, during his time at the club, he got 228 goals in 387 appearances. He won two league titles and 3 FA Cups. His pace and strength must have made him unplayable for most defenders at the time. The way he would glide across the pitch and could almost beat defenders without doing anything was a joy to watch - only Cruyff, I think, could do this as well as Henry. He is simply one of the best to ever play the game and the fact we got to enjoy him at Arsenal for as long as we did make us very lucky indeed. Like Vieira, he too was a World Cup and European Champion with France. Deserving of his statue at the ground. I am sure most people will disagree with me and put him at number 1.

1. Dennis Bergkamp

Arriving in 1995 for a fee of £7.5 million from Inter Milan, Dennis Bergkamp simply transformed the club. Suddenly people across Europe sat up and took notice, and the old "Boring Boring Arsenal" label would be gone forever. He just made football look easy. It was like he had eyes all around his head and he just knew where people were instinctively. He is the most technically gifted player I have ever seen, he made everyone around him better and anytime you see his old teammates talk of him they all adored playing with him. If he played in the Middle Ages, he would have been done for witchcraft such was the way he saw a forwards' run before the forward even knew he was going to make it. In 11 years at the club, he played 423 times and scored 120 goals, I don’t think they kept stats for chances created in those days, but I imagine in his time at Arsenal it must have been around 7.5 million chances created - one for every pound we spent on him. There or thereabouts anyway. While what Henry did was amazing and was almost without equal, Bergkamp was the first piece in the puzzle that changed the club dynamic that Henry would later benefit from. I swear, being half Dutch, he is not top just for that goal against Argentina in 1998 - although it didn’t hurt his chances. But given I’m also half Irish, the Henry handball may have helped him bump up the list too.

I am sure many people will disagree with that list completely, and maybe want players like Robert Pires, Jens Lehmann, Sol Campbell, Robin Van Persie (although I hope no one does), Kolo Toure, Gilberto Silva, Nigel Winterburn, Steve Bould or whoever else on the list.

Tweet me your list, see what you come up with.

I hope that in 15 years’ time the top three places are filled by the players we sign this January - or maybe even from last summer.

Just not Salomon Kalou.

- Stephen Broekuizen (@jsbroekhuizen)