If Arsene Wenger were to make a list of what he loved most, the first would be “Arsenal Football Club” and “French Footballers” would be a close second. Few can doubt Wenger’s affinity and knowledge of players from this country, as he was born in Strasbourg, France, played amateur French football, and coached at Nancy and AS Monaco. With the ink barely dry on new club record signing Alexandre Lacazette’s new contract, it’s hard not to reflect on Arsene’s track record of signing Frenchmen.
Wenger’s early years were steeped in success due in large part to signing and developing French superstars. Everyone know the names of Vieira, Henry, and Pires and the careers that followed. In contrast, his recent record has not been great with the likes of Sanogo and Debuchy entering the forefront of my thinking.
Lacazette is the 28th French footballer signed during Wenger’s 21 year tenure that had at least a modicum of first team involvement. As we are currently linked with other young French talent like Mbappe and Lemar, I wanted to dig deeper and analyze each past signing to determine Arsene’s conversion rate (pre-Emirates vs post-Emirates). I had to know if the beginning stretch of years was truly more successful than recent years and what his total conversion rate truly is.
Every fan of football is going to have their own criteria by which they define a successful club career. I decided to determine a player’s relative Arsenal success or failure by analyzing two criteria which, both as I am aware, are subjective in nature.
- They played in a significant number of games for Arsenal
- They are generally held in high regard by our fan base due to current or past performances.
Here are all the French signings of the Wenger Era. Green denotes a successful club career and red is unsuccessful.
96/97 – Patrick Vieira, Nicolas Anelka, Remi Garde
97/98 – Emmanuel Petit, Gilles Grimandi
98/99 – David Grondin
99/00 – Thierry Henry, Jeremie Aliadiere
00/01 – Sylvain Wiltord, Robert Pires
01/02 – none
02/03 – Pascal Cygan
03/04 – Gael Clichy
04/05 – Mathieu Flamini
05/06 – Abou Diaby
____________________________Move to the Emirates___________________________________
06/07 – William Gallas
07/08 – Bacary Sagna, Lassana Diarra, Gilles Sunu
08/09 – Samir Nasri, Mikael Sylvestre, Francis Coquelin
09/10 – none
10/11 – Laurent Koscielny, Sebastien Squillaci
11/12 – none
12/13 – Olivier Giroud
13/14 – Yaya Sanogo, Mathieu Flamini
14/15 – Mathieu Debuchy
15/16 – Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Yasin Fortune
16-17 – none
17-18 – Alexandre Lacazette
Pre-Emirates conversion rate from 1996-2006 – 11/14 = 79%
Post-Emirates conversion rate from 2007-2017 – 6/13 = 46%
Total rate – 17/27 = 63%
The list above clearly shows how exceptional Arsene’s French transfer dealings were prior to the move to the Emirates (10 seasons) and how this proficiency dropped in subsequent years (11 seasons). More advanced opposition scouting networks and limited spending on transfers are just two of many possible reasons for his post-Emirates conversion rate.
I considered Remi Garde a success despite his relative lack of appearances for Arsenal (45 in total). He was a locker room and on-pitch voice of Wenger helping communicate his ideas thus assisting in making his managerial transition a success.
I included Flamini on this list twice. Many think back fondly, myself included, on his first stint with Arsenal. His role of solidifying the center of the pitch with the likes of Fabregas and Hleb contributed to a few fruitful seasons as well as a Champions League final appearance.
The signing of Alexandre Lacazette is exciting. He seems to have all the attributes to be that marquee striker Arsenal have been missing since RVP. He can combine to link play, make intelligent runs in the final third, and most importantly, score goals. We don’t know if Lacazette will be deemed a success down the road but we do know we are approaching the tail end of Arsene’s coaching career. One must wonder if he is aiming to finish it the way he started, with a French Revolution.
Follow me on Twitter @dfresh10