Granit Xhaka endured an up-and-down time of it at Arsenal and was often a divisive figure, but he knuckled down and was one their key players in his final season, in which Mikel Arteta’s Gunners were narrowly beaten to the Premier League title.
The 30-year-old started well, but soon the reckless cards and sloppy mistakes started to creep in, and Xhaka would often be the one to take the blame as the team suffered bad spells of form.
He briefly held the captaincy, but was stripped after swearing at his own fans, before rebuilding his deputation and eventually departing for Bayer Leverkusen as a popular figure that will be fondly remembered by many.
One thing’s for sure: Xhaka leaves much more of a positive legacy at the Emirates than the five other players that Arsenal signed ahead of the 2016-17 season. Arsene Wenger went on a spending spree that summer, buying six players for around £100million in total, the club’s biggest ever window at the time. But only one other alongside Xhaka remains at the Emirates. Here’s how they got on.
The most infamous name on this list, Mustafi arrived near the end of the window for around £35million from Valencia.
A World Cup winner with Germany, there was a lot of excitement at the arrival of Mustafi, who had forged a very solid partnership in central defence with Nicolas Otamendi on the Spanish east coast, and he initially started superbly, going unbeaten in his first 21 games at the club.
However, after an injury, things went downhill quickly for Mustafi. A series of calamitous errors followed over the next four seasons, in which time Arsenal’s defence became leakier than ever, before he was eventually released in January 2021.
The fact Mustafi made over 150 appearances for the club is a testament to how bad the defence has been over the last few years, and despite scoring in a North London Derby and at Old Trafford, Mustafi is not remembered fondly at all at the Emirates.
Mustafi has since suffered back-to-back relegations, having gone down with Schalke in 2021 before facing the drop with Levante the following year. Earlier this summer he signed for Greek club Aris.
The Japan international joined Arsenal as a 20-year-old in 2016, and many eyebrows were raised at the signing from the Japanese second division.
“Takuma is a talented young striker and very much one for the future,” Arsene Wenger stated.
“He has had an impressive start to his career in Japan and we look forward to him developing over the next couple of years.”
But Asano could not even be given a chance to prove himself, as he was denied a work permit.
A few loan spells followed before he was released in 2019, and joined Partizan Belgrade.
Wenger had some baffling signings over his 22 years at the club, and Asano is very much up there as one of the weirdest.
A 20-year-old centre-back from Bolton arriving for around £2million didn’t get the fans particularly excited at the time, but Rob Holding’s transfer to Arsenal has been fantastic value overall.
Still at the club, Holding became a reliable backup for William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes, and was often Mikel Arteta’s go-to substitute when trying to hold onto a lead.
With a terrific performance and a clean sheet away at Leicester on what was his second appearance for the club, Wenger lavished the defender with praise, whilst criticising those who questioned the signing.
“Nobody is speaking about the performance of Rob Holding today. You should be happy; he is English, he is 20 years old, but I’m sorry he didn’t cost £55m, so it cannot be good,” Wenger iconically ranted after a 0-0 draw at the King Power.
Holding is seen as one of the senior figures in the dressing room at the youngest team in the league, and with over 130 appearances and two FA Cups to his name, he is well admired by fans and team-mates alike. But it doesn’t appear as though he has a major role to play under Arteta this season and has been linked with a move away.
After Arsenal’s failed pursuit of Jamie Vardy, Wenger went to Deportivo La Coruna and brought back the Spanish equivalent.
Perez had scored 19 goals and notched up 11 assists in the previous campaign, and the striker was bought for around £17million.
Despite scoring a Champions League hat-trick in the group stage away to Basel, and a stunning volley away at Bournemouth, Perez was rarely trusted by Wenger and was loaned out the following season before being sold to West Ham for around £5million.
Perez ended his Arsenal career with seven goals and five assists in 21 games, and many fans feel he had more to offer the club.
Nowadays Perez is turning out for his beloved boyhood club Depor in the Spanish third tier.
— Hype Foot (@HypeFoot) January 3, 2017
Nigeria won the Under-17 World Cup back in 2015 with Victor Osimhen winning the golden boot and Kelechi Nwakali winning the golden ball, awarded to the best player at the tournament.
The two then embarked on very different career paths. Nwakali signed for Arsenal in 2016 from the Diamond Football Academy as a highly-rated prospect but never made an appearance for the first team.
“We identified Nwakali as a top player, he was the best player at the Under-17 World Cup,” Wenger stated before the arrival of the 17-year-old.
Loan spells followed his move, before eventually joining Huesca permanently. Still just 25, Nwakali has not delivered on his potential, whilst his former team-mate Osimhen is shining for Napoli.
This summer Nwakali joined Portuguese outfit Chaves.