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Arsenal’s top 10 record signings – How did they fare?

Once a club renowned for keeping their wallets closed, Arsenal have not been averse to splashing the cash in recent years.

Following last season’s near miss in the title race, the Gunners are doing all they can to close the gap between themselves and Manchester City.

They are currently England’s top spenders this summer, with the signings of Declan Rice, Kai Havertz and Jurrien Timber racking up over £200 million worth of transfer fees.

Rice, in particular, arrives with a lot of pressure. At an estimated £105m, he becomes the club’s all-time record transfer and the second-most expensive Premier League signing ever.

How will he do at the Emirates Stadium? Only time will tell, but perhaps he can take some inspiration from many of Arsenal’s other most lavish signings.

10) Shkodran Mustafi – August 2016 – £35m

Looking for encouragement? Yeah….best to keep scrolling, Declan.

Shkodran Mustafi came to Arsenal from Valencia as a highly-regarded and reasonably young centre-back. He was also part of Germany’s World Cup-winning squad of 2014.

His early performances were encouraging, but his popularity soon dwindled. He quickly developed a reputation for being rash and error-prone, most notably misjudging a long ball to allow Sergio Aguero to open the scoring in the 2018 League Cup final.

Mustafi’s contract was terminated after four-and-a-half years. It’s safe to say he was not a hit in north London.

9) Granit Xhaka – May 2016 – £35m

Granit Xhaka’s time at Arsenal can only be described as turbulent…to say the least. He came in from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2016 – in the same summer, the Gunners reportedly pulled out of a deal for N’Golo Kante, who later signed for Chelsea.

The Switzerland international soon forged his name as one of the league’s biggest hotheads. A collection of cards and a fiery clash with his own supporters caused him to fall out of favour with Arsenal fans.

The incident led to him being stripped of captaincy just over a month after being handed the armband.

The appointment of Mikel Arteta was something of a turning point for the midfielder. Having been heavily linked with moves away, the Spaniard brought him back into the starting line-up and saw promising results.

After all that drama, Xhaka ended his time with Arsenal on a somewhat positive note, missing just one league game and scoring a career-best seven goals as his side finished second.

8) Alexis Sanchez – July 2014 – £35m

Now THIS is more like it.

Alexis Sanchez was signed off the back of three strong years at Barcelona and a fine showing at the World Cup.

He wasted no time making an impression, hitting 25 goals in his debut campaign. This included a wonder strike in the 4-0 FA Cup final victory over Aston Villa, as well as a brace in the semi-final.

The Chilean continued to be world-class with the London outfit, scoring 47 in all competitions across the next two seasons.

Among these were two more crucial goals on their road to FA Cup glory in 2017, notching in the semi-final and final against Manchester City and Chelsea respectively.

Despite his stellar performances, there is still a bittersweetness about Sanchez’s time at Arsenal. With just six months remaining on his contract, he departed to Manchester United in a swap deal for playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Having once been one of the division’s standout players, they will have been disappointed not to see a bigger return on the winger.

7) Mesut Ozil – September 2013 – £42.5m

If you think Xhaka was divisive, wait until you hear about Mesut Ozil.

The German was undoubtedly one of the most technically gifted players to ever grace the Emirates turf. And, at times, he would display his talent to its fullest, and it was a true privilege to witness.

But the former Real Madrid man was a flawed genius. He regularly came under fire for his work rate and body language, while often failing to consistently reproduce his best stuff.

Ozil’s peak in an Arsenal shirt undeniably came in the 2015/16 season. His side competed for the title, and he was the main man, registering six goals and 19 assists – just one short of the Premier League record.

His closing years at the Emirates were unfortunately rather bleak. Injuries, loss of form and gradual decline led to a reduction in his game time.

He was eventually frozen out completely, all while on a contract worth an estimated £350,000 per week.

Some people theorised that his comments denouncing the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in China, which Arsenal publicly distanced themselves from, led to his omission from their squad. He later moved to Fenerbahce on a free transfer in January 2021.

6) Gabriel Jesus – July 2022 – £45m

Possessing a fine young side but lacking a striker, manager Mikel Arteta opted to reunite with Gabriel Jesus at the Emirates.

The forward’s first season at Arsenal was fairly mixed. He produced an admirable return of 11 goals and six assists from 26 league appearances, having missed a significant chunk of the campaign through injury. Meanwhile, his creativity, hold-up play and pressing all drew praise.

However, some people criticised the Brazilian for being too wasteful in front of goal. His 11 goals came from an expected goals value of 14.

The jury’s still out on Jesus. If he can find that clinical edge, he could be a world-class striker. If he doesn’t, however, he could find himself replaced.

5) Thomas Partey – October 2020 – £45m

Thomas Partey was an impressive coup for Arsenal. At a time when they were struggling in the league, the capture of the Atletico Madrid man showed that they still had plenty of muscle in the transfer market.

The Ghanaian’s first two seasons in England were hampered by injuries, limiting him to 41 league starts.

Last term, he gave us a glimpse of his best stuff. Having kept fit for most of the year, he played a key role in the Gunners’ title challenge.

However, his performances dipped towards the end of the campaign, contributing to his team’s drop-off.

When fully fit and in form, Partey is clearly a good player. He’s yet to fully justify his transfer fee, but he should keep his place in the starting XI for next season.

4) Alexandre Lacazette – July 2017 – £46.5m

As one of Ligue 1’s most prolific goalscorers, Alexandre Lacazette came to the Emirates for a then-club record fee. And expectations around him were ramped up to the max when he netted just two minutes into his debut.

From then on, he was a respectable player but was never able to hit the heights he reached at Lyon. He ended his time at Arsenal with 71 goals in 206 appearances, contributing to an FA Cup win in 2020.

But he offered more than just goals. For a while, his partnership with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was one of the deadliest strike duos in the league.

While the Gabon international was the leading marksman of the side, he benefitted greatly from the work of Lacazette.

3) Ben White – July 2021 – £50m

Of the names on this list, Ben White is the most recent signing. He was recruited from Brighton & Hove Albion two years ago, signing for £50m – a fee that raised a few eyebrows at the time.

Since then, he’s been almost ever-present, missing just six league games in that time frame. He started as a centre-back but played most of last season on the right side of the defence.

£50m is still a huge price tag to live up to, and you can question whether he’s been worth it. But White has been solid for Arsenal so far.

2) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – January 2018 – £56m

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Arsenal career is an amalgamation of those of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.

At his peak, Aubameyang was a shining light in a difficult period for the Gunners. He bagged 70 goals in his first two-and-a-half seasons in all competitions, winning himself a Premier League Golden Boot in 2019.

His greatest contribution to the north Londoners – and possibly the peak of his career – came during the 2019/20 FA Cup campaign.

Arsenal defeated Manchester City 2-0 in the semi-final, then beat Chelsea 2-1 in the final. Aubameyang scored all four goals.

But, much like Sanchez and Ozil, his spectacular stint came to a disappointing end. Question marks arose over his attitude, leading to a feud with manager Mikel Arteta.

He was removed as captain and was eventually allowed to leave on a free transfer to Barcelona.

1) Nicolas Pepe – August 2019 – £72m

Before Rice, Nicolas Pepe was Arsenal’s record signing. He signed four years ago, arriving from Lille for around £72m.

How did he do? Does Rice have big shoes to fill?

Well…no, is the answer. Pepe often showed flashes of brilliance but was miles off ever living up to his transfer fee. In 80 Premier League outings, he scored 16 goals and recorded nine assists.

The Ivorian will return to Arsenal this summer, having spent last season on loan at Nice. However, his chances of ousting Bukayo Saka from the starting line-up look slim.

It’s probably best for him to move on.

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