Arsenal's new signing Thierry Henry didnt score but came very close on his debut for Arsenal against Leicester City at Highbury, London, August 1999.

Havertz next? 5 Arsenal stars that overcame slow starts to become club legends

Kai Havertz has made an underwhelming start to his Arsenal career, but he wouldn’t be the first big signing to blossom once those awkward first appearances have been forgotten. 

Havertz has struggled to produce performances worthy of his £60million fee in Arsenal’s first three fixtures – but the midfielder will be reassured to know that some United heroes have started worse and recovered impressively.

We’ve picked out five big Arsenal signings who overcame slow starts to become club legends. Don’t write Havertz off just yet…

Thierry Henry

Arguably the greatest player in Arsenal’s history, Henry didn’t hit the ground running after joining from Juventus in 1999.

The striker had endured a tough spell in Italy and the doubters began to increase in volume after a slow start saw him score just once in his opening 12 games.

Henry would later claim he had to be ‘re-taught everything about the art of striking’, but Wenger’s belief and persistence would pay off to the tune of 228 goals in 377 Arsenal appearances. Magnifique.

Dennis Bergkamp

Signed by Bruce Rioch for around £7.5million, there were doubts over the signing of Bergkamp after he’d flopped at Inter Milan – and they weren’t helped by the Dutchman’s career at Highbury beginning with a goal drought.

But Bergkamp was unfazed by the early criticism from the English media and kept on playing his natural game knowing full well it was only a matter of time before he started scoring.

Seven games into his Arsenal career, Bergkamp finally found the back of the net against Southampton. He ended his first Premier League season with 11 goals and would end his Gunners career with 120 goals in 423 appearances.

By the time of his final match in 2006, everybody had forgotten those initial underwhelming performances after years of Bergkamp’s artistry and sheer chutzpah.

READ: Bergkamp’s greatest first touch isn’t that one…or that one – it’s this one

Granit Xhaka

Forget a slow start, Xhaka arrived during a fallow period at Arsenal (forget all those FA Cups) and failed to win over the Emirates crowd for years with his reckless tackling and technical limitations.

Things looked to have reached the point of no return when the Switzerland international told Arsenal supporters to ‘f*ck off’ after being substituted in October 2019. Mikel Arteta spent the next two summer windows unsuccessfully trying to offload him.

But the midfielder blossomed into a club hero between 2021 and 2023, winning over his detractors with increased maturity and a string of whole-hearted displays.

It’s hard to remember someone’s reputation recovering so impressively.

Robert Pires

Like many new Premier League recruits, it took Pires – a skilful and creative player who was comfortable playing as an attacking midfielder or winger – time to settle in England.

The physicality of the game initially proved an issue and, in his debut campaign, there were flashes of brilliance without the level of productivity required for Wenger’s title challengers.

But the Frenchman was named PFA Player of the Year in 2001-02 after a number of spell-binding performances and a league-high 15 assists. He’d be named in the PFA Team of the Year for three successive seasons and go down as one of Arsenal’s all-time greats.

Robert Pires celebrates scoring for Arsenal in 2004.

READ: An ode to Robert Pires, the final hint of class that made Arsenal Invincible

Robin van Persie

Hard to remember now, but Van Persie’s debut season at Arsenal was defined by callowness, flashes of class and petulance.

Signed from Feyenoord in the summer of 2004, the forward spent most of his time on the bench and was sent off in a league match at Southampton for a wild lunge at Graham Le Saux.

In his match report for the Sunday Telegraph, sportswriter Clive White described Van Persie as ’21 going on nine.’

He’d end the 2004-05 campaign with 10 goals in 41 appearances, but Van Persie truly began to blossom as the decade progressed and he won the PFA Player of the Year award in his final season at the Emirates after scoring 30 goals and dragging an average Gunners side to third place.

READ NEXT: The 5 players Arsenal signed along with Granit Xhaka – & how they fared

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name Arsenal’s XI from Thierry Henry’s debut in 1999?