Before Arsene Wenger, whilst still seeing out his contract in Japan, instructed David Dein to but Patrick Vieira Arsenal had not employed a Frenchman. In reality Paddy was the first and Arsene the second but since then our manager has frequently popped back to his homeland and returned with a bargain or two. We have had a few Top 10s on Gunners Town of late so we asked our very own Frenchman Vincent Fabre to look at all the players from France that have arrived in Wenger’s tenure and to select a Le Groove Top 10.
Here was the list he has to pick from:
Alliadiere, Anelka, Clichy, Coquelin, Cygan, Debuchy, Diaby, Diarra, Flamini, Gallas, Garde, Giroud, Grimandi,
Grondin. Henry, Koscielny, Nasri, Petit, Pires, Sagna, Sanogo, Silvestre, Squillaci, Sunu, Vieira. Warmuz, Wiltord
Take it away Vincent you have 17 to discard first……
Good afternoon fellow Gooners. Today, I’ve decided to give you my definitive Top Ten of French players in the Wenger’s era. To be honest, it was a very difficult task, even (or maybe specially) for a French fan. So I tried to select each player not only from the technical point of view, but also on the financial point of view. To be more clearer : my point was to bring the best deals made by Wenger with his French players. For example, a player with low cost who is a huge upgrade to the team will be on the top of my list.
10 – Francis Coquelin: The young Frenchman was the wonderful surprise of last season. Very few fans even remembered him in September 2014, when the player was loaned to Charlton. After 6 years, he was considered as a flop, but not for Wenger. The Boss was happy to give his chance to Coquelin in a middle of an injury crisis. He could have been put higher on this top ten, but I prefer to be cautious with expectations.
9 – Gilles Grimandi: Wenger brought Grimandi in his suitcase from Monaco, mostly to help a 19-years-old Vieira to settle in a foreign country. But Grimandi was more than a room-mate, and played his part of two league titles (97-98 and 01-02). Since his retirement, Grimandi has worked as a scout for the club which has benefit of his knowledge of French football
8 – Bacary Sagna: A true unsung hero arrived as a young unknown player from Auxerre, in a time where the fans didn’t feel the need for a change on the right-back position. However, Sagna fought hard to gain his place, even during difficult moments and the loss of his older brother. Wenger kept his confidence in his player and was rewarded in return with Sagna showing consistency and full commitment. He finally left with a Cup under his belt but hard not to feel his time with the club should have brought more silverware.
7 – Sylvain Wiltord: Sylvain came to Arsenal in a very strange way, in a middle of a mess with his former club of Bordeaux. But, despite a strange behaviour off the field, his contribution to the team spirit was priceless, in the two major League titles of 01-02 (and his goal against MU) and 03-04 (mostly as a deadly sub). He also played in both the 2002 and 2003 FA Cup Finals. the latter as a second half substitute. Sadly Wiltord was one of the players Wenger lost with his old rule of only offering 1 year contracts to players over 30.
6 – Nicolas Anelka: no other French players bought by Wenger can mix brilliance and frustration at the same time. Brought from PSG reserve team, the young gem became one of the deadly strikers of the League in less than one year. His potential was even better than Henry’s (according to Thierry himself), but his behaviour was definitely a problem. Still, he gave the Arsenal fans several moments of joy alongside Bergkamp and Wright.
5 – Laurent Koscielny: Brought from FC Lorient in 2010, Kos Zed Boss made his path to the top of the Premier League. Relatively (fully?) unknown, Koscielny was clearly a “do or die” prospect, even if his skills were acknowledged in France. Since, he has proved himself one of the best centre back in the League, with impressive pace and interception skills.
4 – Emmanuel Petit: The romance between Petit and Arsenal wasn’t the most peaceful of all times. However, he was certainly Wenger’s main man, maybe most important than Grimandi, who arrived at the same period. I put Manu in my top ten due to his incredible partnership with Vieira. Petit definitely allowed Paddy to play up on the field and to gain confidence. And Wenger spent a very long time to recreate the duet (with Gilberto) after Petit’s departure, which proves the main role he played in the team.
3 – Robert Pires: “Play him on the right, he’s a great player. Play him on the left, and he’s the best in the world”. This is no secret Wenger had a plan when he brought Bobby Pires to Arsenal. He was absolutely convinced the French guy, despite being frail, would be a major signing for the Gunners. In his early years, Pires was once told he will never make pro player because of his “duck feet”. The same feet he used as a weapon to give tons of assists and score wonderful goals, and which put him on the very top as World and European champion and as Arsenal legend.
2 – Thierry Henry: “Record breaker, history maker”. Talking about Henry and Arsenal can spend a very long time. But the most interesting fact is this move was considered by a lot of fans as a very risky one, assuming buying a player’s in disgrace with his club (Juventus) even while being World Champion is very debatable. But Wenger convinced the fans. And he also convinced the player, a natural winger, to become a striker. Success was on his way, talent will make the rest.
1 – Patrick Vieira: “With Patrick alongside you, you can go to war.” The famous Wenger’s quote about our former skipper is still vivid in fans’ memories. He’s my number one simply because he supported and represented this team during 10 magnificent years. Funny fact it is he may arguably be the best French move of Wenger’s era… made before Arsine was officially appointed as manager. For the record, it was a phone call from Le Boss which convinced Vieira to sign for Arsenal, when the player was about to take a plane to Amsterdam and sign for Ajax.
By the way here is something Dave tell’s me that did not make it into his book. On the 16th September , with the team struggling at home to Sheffield Wednesday, it was Assistant Caretaker Geordie Armstrong who turned to Pat Rice and said “Come on Pat get the big man on” – Thanks Geordie and the rest as they say, is history
To be fair, Wenger’s era has also known several flops. Without lack of respect for those guys, Squillaci, Silvestre, Warmuz or Alliadière, were terrible (in a wrong way) and who remember David Grondin ? The young lad came to Arsenal in 98, has only 4 games for the first team, and after a bunch of loans, was released for free to Dunfermline in 2003.
A special mention to Abou Diaby, who would have certainly been one of the brightest French players brought by Wenger. A special talent who’s carreer was unfortunately killed by injuries and bad challenges. Hard to consider him as a success, but I will never put him as a flop neither.
That’s all for me for today. Don’t hesitate to comment and share your opinion about this top Ten
Hi, my name is Vincent, I’m 37. As a French long-time fan of the Arsenal, my passion started in the mid-90′s. I’m living in Paris, but I’ve traveled several times to see games at Highbury and The Emirates, always sticking with the lads during good or bad times. I also blog in French about Arsenal FC at www.arsenal-fc.fr.
As a Frenchman, I’ve supported my national team “Les Bleus” since I was a kid. I follow the French Championship “la Ligue 1″ with accuracy.