Arsenal have boasted some of the greatest players in the world over the Premier League era, from the likes of Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry to Bukayo Saka today. They’ve also had a few no-hopers in that time.
It’s always worth keeping the perspective that the worst player to represent Arsenal is still better than 99.999% of everyone else at football, and some that weren’t quite good enough for the Gunners went on to enjoy perfectly solid careers elsewhere.
With that said, Arsenal have had some pretty rubbish players by their own lofty standards. We’ve taken a look at seven that didn’t cut the mustard but still left us smiling.
A strong challenger to Gervinho for the title of ‘most perplexing haircut in Arsenal history’, Chamakh’s record for the Gunners wasn’t as disastrous as you might remember. Fourteen goals and 10 assists in 67 appearances is a vaguely respectable return.
But the striker, who retired in 2016, just looked so unconvincing. And even he was humble enough to recognise he wasn’t fit to lace Van Persie’s boots when it came to Arsene Wenger’s choice of who started up top.
“I wish I had more time to play at Arsenal,” Chamakh later recalled.
“With the system of one up front there was no comparison between him [Van Persie] and me.
“I respect the choice of the manager, but I didn’t really have my chance. I may have been too stubborn to want to stay too long at Arsenal.”
When the absolute pinnacle of your career comes in the Emirates Cup, it’s probably fair to say you’re not a world-beater.
Still, Sanogo – currently turning out for Armenian club Urartu – will always have that one glorious afternoon against Benfica. No one can take that away from him.
It's #EmiratesCup day – so let's throw it back to the 2014 edition ⏪
When Yaya Sanogo scored FOUR against Benfica 😱 pic.twitter.com/dU3Fi9ekpS
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) July 28, 2019
Hale End graduate Frimpong brought some joie de vivre to the Arsenal dressing room. That infectious exuberance – he even coined his own catchprase, ffs – probably eclipsed his actual footballing ability.
Given that oversized profile, we’d forgive you for misremembering his influence. He only actually made six Premier League appearances for the Gunners, one of which saw him dismissed in a 2-0 home defeat to Liverpool.
Really, we just feel sympathy for Frimpong due to much of a dick Samir Nasri was to him.
“When the game ended, we were in the dressing room and I expected Wenger to be really angry,” Frimpong later recalled in an interview with The Telegraph.
“He was actually very calm, but for some reason Nasri came in and he was like: ‘We lost the game because of you’. I was a young guy, didn’t really know what I was doing, and was devastated. I felt like I’d let everybody down and he was really blaming me, so I really didn’t like him.
“He always had a go at me if I gave the ball away in training and even said to me once: ‘I could buy you if I want’. To be honest, he probably could have done at the time, but still.”
Routinely cited as one of Arsenal’s worst-ever signings, and certainly one of the weirdest, the story goes that the Latvian defender was only signed by Wenger as a result of a wind-up on Martin Keown taken a bit too far.
“A few of us were on the bench watching as he played in this trial game. Stepanovs is out there and every single pass he made, the boys started applauding, just because we knew Martin [Keown] would be getting a bit steamed up by it,” Ray Parlour explained in his autobiography.
“Dennis Bergkamp was sitting behind Arsene and kept doling out these compliments about this defender. ‘Great header! Unbelievable tackle’
“Igors kicked this one ball 20 yards away from where it was meant to go, but it still went to one of our players so we all stood up clapping. Martin’s muttering: ‘He’s not that good.’ He started to point out where he missed a tackle or a header.
“When we got back to the training ground at London Colney a week later we had a surprise though. Igors was sitting there. I said: ‘What are you doing here?’ ‘They signed me. Four-year contract.’”
As a result, Stepanovs has two FA Cups and a Premier League title to his name. Fair play.
The face of Arsenal’s early 2010s banter years, there was something almost endearing about how hopelessly out of his depth Santos looked for Wenger’s Gunners. We reckon there needs to be some kind of investigation into how he earned 24 caps for Brazil around that time.
We visited his restaurant in Sao Paulo a few years back, and, well…
Having signed for what was a considerable fee back in 2001 – £8million – there was much expected of Jeffers, who arrived off the back of showing plenty of promise for boyhood club Everton.
He made one appearance in Arsenal’s 2003-04 Invincible campaign – 13 minutes in the Charity Shield, in which he was sent off for kicking out at Phil Neville – and failed to score a single goal that year back on loan at Everton.
Described by Wenger as a ‘fox in the box’, Jeffers was anything but. He scored just four Premier League goals for the club and was horribly exposed as not at their level, realising all of our very worst imposter-syndrome nightmares in front of our eyes.
“I was out partying, living life, tossing it off in training because I always thought I wouldn’t play Saturday anyway,” he told the Independent in 2014. “Now, I look back with a lot of regrets.
“That is where I should have been putting it in more. Wenger gave me a fair crack of the whip. I haven’t got a bad word to say about him. He tells you how it is, one of the only managers I played for who did.”
Can’t help but respect that honesty and self-awareness.
One of the most satisfying names to say in football, Aliadiare graduated from France’s famous Clairefontaine academy and continued his development as a teenager at Hale End, winning the FA Youth Cup alongside Steve Sidwell, Jermaine Pennant and Rohan Ricketts.
The striker broke through to eventually make over 51 appearances amid a series of forgettable loans away.
But he only scored one Premier League goal for Arsenal and keeping faith in the academy graduate to start the 2007 League Cup final against Chelsea – ahead of club captain Thierry Henry, no less – remains one of Wenger’s most infamously controversial decisions.
Aliadiere never quite delivered on the faith he was shown, but he has nothing but gratitude for the opportunities Wenger gave him.
“Arsene will always be like a second father to me,” he later recalled. “He took me when I was 16. He took care of me for many years.”