Arsene Wenger.

Arsene Wenger's first 10 transfers for Arsenal show he was a genius ahead of his time

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Over 20 years ago, a little-known Frenchman arrived at Highbury to take over a sleeping giant of English football, Arsenal.

Arsene Wenger was that man's name and he has cemented himself as a club legend ever since.

On April 20, he announced he would be stepping down as Arsenal manager at the end of the season.

When Wenger first arrived at the club, though, his wise investments transformed Arsenal into a heavyweight team almost overnight - could his successor do this again and reinvigorate the club.

We take a look back at Wenger's first 10 signings for Arsenal to see just how revolutionary he really was.

Remi Garde - Strasbourg, Free Transfer, August 1996

Garde was already 30-years-old when he arrived at the club, but he was intended to act as cover more than anything else. The six-time French international ended up retiring three years later because of a knee injury and has gone on to manage Lyon, Aston Villa and Montreal Impact, his current employers.

Remi Garde of Arsenal

Patrick Vieira - AC Milan, £3.5m August 1996

The Arsenal No. 4 became one of the greatest midfielders to ever play the game, no doubt. After being misused in Milan, Wenger quickly made him a vital part of Arsenal's spine and he enjoyed a glorious nine-year tenure with the club. He won two separate Premier League and FA Cup doubles on top of being an integral member of the famous 'Invincibles' of 2004. Sold to Juventus for £13.75 million in 2005.

Steve McManaman

Nicolas Anelka - PSG, £500k, February 1997

The price tag for this deal is obscene. After arriving as a little-known prodigy from France, Anelka would score 23 goals in 61 Premier League games over the next two years and play a vital supporting role in Arsenal's 1998 double-winning side. Sold to Real Madrid for £22.3 million in 1999.

Arsene Wenger and Nicolas Anelka

Matthew Upson - Luton, £2m, May 1997

Upson only made 57 appearances in six years for Arsenal - many of which were at left-back - but he was one of Wenger's better English finds. After departing Arsenal for £3 million, Upson went on to win 21 caps for England - scoring against Germany in the 2010 World Cup - and made over 250 appearances in the Premier League.

Matthew Upson

Alex Manninger - Graz AK, £500k, June 1997

The Austrian goalkeeper had 16 clubs during his career including Juventus and, lastly, Liverpool. However, Wenger signed him as a backup to David Seaman at the time and he became quite the fan favourite with his 64 appearances in four years. Sold to Espanyol for £960,000 in 2001.

Alex Manninger

Emmanuel Petit - Monaco, £2.5m, June 1997

The French midfielder formed a formidable partnership with Vieira at the heart of Arsenal's midfield and there was no battle that duo could not win. Petit had a decorated career with Monaco, Barcelona and Chelsea and apart from the 1998 double, he also won the 1998 World Cup alongside Vieira, too. Sold to Barcelona for £7 million in 2000.

Emmanuel Petit

Gilles Grimandi - Monaco, £2.5m, June 1997

Much like Garde, Grimandi was a backup utility player for Wenger, but he saw plenty of gametime because of his versatility. He won the double with Arsenal in 1998 and 2002 making a surprising 114 appearances for the club in the process. Grimandi departed after the second double to sign for Colorado Rapids in the MLS, but never played a game before retiring. He is now Arsenal's chief scout in France.

Gilles Grimandi and Patrick Vieira of Arsenal with the FA Barclaycard Premiership trophy

Luis Boa Morte - Sporting Lisbon, £1.75m, June 1997

The Portuguese winger failed to make a senior appearance for Sporting before Wenger noticed his talents. Although the forward is more identifiable with Fulham and West Ham, his two-year spell with Arsenal was fruitful. The 28-time Portugal international won the 1997-98 Premier League title with the club and was sold to Southampton for £500,000 in 1999. Although he was the first player in this list Wenger didn't make a profit on, he did later when his move to Fulham netted the Gunners £1.7 million.


Alberto Mendez - FC Feucht, Undisclosed, June 1997

Well, not everyone on this list is a success! The German midfielder was plucked from non-league football in his homeland and went on to make 11 appearances for Arsenal - four in the Premier League - over a five-year period. After he was released, he never even played in the top-flight in Germany and meandered around the lower leagues again.

Alberto Mendez

Marc Overmars - Ajax, £7m, June 1997

What a signing this was! Overmars' blistering pace was a real game-changer for Arsenal, but he wasn't plucked from obscurity like the rest. Overmars had won the Champions League with Ajax in 1995, but a cruciate knee injury had put him on the shelf for eight months. That made him a risky deal for Wenger, but it paid off big time as he was instrumental in the 1998 league and cup double, famously scoring the winner at Old Trafford to put one hand on the league title. Sold to Barcelona for £25 million in 2000.



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