Who is Arsenal Football Club’s worst ever signing? This question was posed to me the other day and it certainly does make you think.
Now “worst signing” can boil down to a variety of reasons: it could be the transfer fee paid, it could be because of the lack of production on the pitch or it could simply be that the player was not well-liked. Although the latter is injust.
When talking about the club’s worst-ever signings, a few players immediately spring to mind: Andre Santos, Park Chu-Young, Shkodran Mustafi, Gervinho, and Marouane Chamakh (although I did feel he was rather serviceable only to be usurped by Robin van Persie). These, of course, being the more modern additions.
Given that each of the players mentioned above can be seen as Arsenal’s worst-ever signing, there is one name that isn’t there. That is Willian.
Who is the worst signing in the history of Arsenal Football Club? Where do Willian, Mustafi, Gervinho, Park, Andre Santos and Igor Stepanovs fit in this list?
The length of the deal plus the yearly wage of around £10m a year, coupled with the severe lack of contribution on the pitch all makes for grim reading for the Brazilian. He was atrocious. Thankfully he left with dignity and humility, so credit to him.
So let’s talk about the worst signings that were mentioned above. First, there is Andre Santos. Not much good can be said about the Brazilian as he was signed to play as a left-back on deadline day. It was a position which he never really was comfortable with; his yearning to get forward left Arsenal exposed at the back countless times.
Arriving in the transfer window with Arsene Wenger panic buying Per Mertesacker and Yossi Benayoun, Santos was nearly always the worst player on the pitch. A left-back should have pace; he didn’t. A left-back should have good positioning; he didn’t. And going forward he was not the best either. It all made for a dreadful Arsenal career and who can forget when he swapped shirts with Robin van Persie at halftime? Yuck, just yuck.
For Park Chu-Young, you will likely never find a more head-scratching signing than the South Korean. Having been mildly well rated in France’s Ligue 1, the striker did score on his club debut against Bolton but he never really got going. His quality and lack of minutes saw him leave the club with just 10 appearances to his name. A truly bizarre signing that we still don’t know how or why it happened. He memorably thought news of his signing was a wind-up and left his Lille medical without explanation. He wore the No. 9, for crying out loud.
Marouane Chamakh can consider himself rather unlucky, to be honest. Signed in 2010 as a free agent from Bordeaux, the striker had a good start to his Gunners career as he scored 14 goals in his 67 games for Arsenal.
However, the striker became the fall guy for Van Persie’s rise to superstar and found his game time extremely limited. He scored twice in Arsenal’s incredible 7-5 win over Reading in extra time of the League Cup but thanks to RVP, he was shunted out the door in 2013.
Then there was Gervinho. Arsene Wenger signed the Ivory Coast international from a Lille side that has bucket loads of talented players like Yohan Cabaye and Eden Hazard. Wenger signed the wrong player, this despite Hazard labelling Gervinho as the best player he’d ever played with.
Initially signed as a replacement after Samir Nasir ripped Arsenal hearts out by joining Manchester City, Gervinho never got his Arsenal career going. Just 11 goals in his 69 appearances for the club is further proof that the step up from Ligue 1 to the Premier League is vast. Much like Willian, Gervinho was far too hit and miss – more miss, though.
Lastly, there is Shkodran Mustafi. Signed from Valencia for a huge £35m fee in 2016, the German center-back was always good for a few high-profile errors during a game which often led to goals.
Never really nailing down a starting spot due to his constant errors, questionable positioning and mental lapses, he was finally released in 2021 as the German was often the one the finger was pointed at when Arsenal lost (most of the time fully justified).
They are just some of the players who severely underwhelmed during their time in north London but other players deserve a mention.
Players like Yaya Sanogo, Oleg Luzhny, Mikael Silvestre, Igors Stepanovs, Lucas Perez, Sebastien Squillaci, and Francis Jeffers are all ones who had forgettable times for Arsenal and were moved onto other clubs. Nicolas Pepe sneaks his way into the list for many supporters. Others dispute that heavily.
While certain names have been forgotten about or left off the list, one thing is for certain, Arsenal now how to get a signing wrong. Hopefully, after the Willian debacle, Mikel Arteta will not follow suit and make another questionable signing. Never say never, mind you.
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