Arsenal have been blessed with a dazzling array of world-class talent since the Premier League era began in 1992. Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira, Santi Cazorla, Tony Adams and Sol Campbell are among the titans of the game to ply their trade at Highbury and The Emirates. Yet we have also been lumbered with some absolute duds over the years, particularly in the so-called Banter Years between 2010 and 2015. These are the five worst Arsenal players during the Premier League era:
Arsenal have had some truly shocking centre-backs in the Premier League era, but Squillaci gets the nod ahead of Igors Stepanovs and Pascal Cygan in this veritable hall of shame. The Frenchman arrived with a big reputation and he was expected to shore up our leaky defence, but he proved to be an utter disaster. Peak Squillaci occurred during an FA Cup tie against Sunderland, when he came off the bench, banged in a horrific own-goal and had to be quickly substituted to spare further embarrassment. Unsurprisingly, very few offers for his services were forthcoming when Arsenal decided to jettison him out of the club, and he ended up moving to SC Batia, where he ended up playing in the fourth tier of French football.
The Moroccan striker scored 13 goals to help Bordeaux win the Ligue 1 title in 2008-09 and that put him on the Gunners’ radar. In classic Arsenal fashion, they waited another year to sign him on a free transfer rather than fork out a nominal fee for his services – despite being woefully short in attack – and expectations were high when he finally arrived. Yet he scored just eight times in 40 Premier League matches, and his spell in North London was characterised by missing sitters, slowing down Arsenal’s attacks and sparking fury among fans. Chamakh proved to be so bad that Olivier Giroud actually looked good when he arrived. Arsenal supporters had to watch Giroud go on epic goal droughts, play at a plodding pace and miss all manner of chances, but he was nowhere near as bad as Chamakh.
The Gunners went into panic mode after suffering an 8-2 drubbing at the hands of Man Utd in August 2011. Arsene Wenger responded by embarking on a spending spree that saw Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker and Andre Santos join the club. The first two signings worked out pretty well, but Santos epitomised a really tough spell for Arsenal. He looked way out of shape and his lack of pace and positional awareness saw him ruthlessly exposed time and time again. Van Persie’s goals helped Arsenal secure an improbable top four spot that season, before the Dutchman decided to abandon ship and move to Old Trafford. When Arsenal played Man Utd that November, van Persie was greeted as he scored against us, and Santos left fans totally outraged as he tried to swap shirts with his former teammate – at half-time. He recently revealed he does not regret it, but fans would never forgive him.
Almunia somehow managed to rack up 175 appearances for Arsenal in spite of the regular horror shows he delivered between the sticks. He joined in 2004, just after the famous Invicibles campaign, and he admitted his surprise at the news that Arsenal were interested in bringing him to North London. He served as understudy to Jens Lehmann for three years, before a bitter falling out between the two men.
Almunia eventually won the battle for a first team shirt in the 2007-08 season and he signed a new contract in June 2008, but things went rapidly downhill from there. His time as Arsenal’s number one was characterised by a string of horrendous blunders, and fans took to jeering him when he cost the team points. Wenger eventually piled humiliation on Almunia by bringing his old enemy, Lehmann, out of retirement to take his place in 2011, and he was then jettisoned out to Watford.
Arsenal fans were distraught when the club failed to spend a single penny during the summer of 2015. They finished second to Leicester in the 2015-16 campaign, but there was a nagging sense that they would have won the title if only the chequebook had been dusted off. Supporters were therefore excited to see the Gunners splash out £100 million on Granit Xhaka, Shkodran Mustafi, Lucas Perez and Takuma Asano when the transfer window reopened. Yet every single one of those signings proved to be an unmitigated disaster. Some supporters would say Xhaka was the worst signing, considering he cost £40.5 million and then spent his time giving away penalties, conceding possession and arguing with his own fans, yet Mustafi has been even worse.
He arrived at Arsenal as a German international with a World Cup winner’s medal and a £37 million price tag, so he was expected to sort out our long-standing defensive issues. Yet he has been utterly shambolic, frequently caught out of possession, weak in the tackle, ineffective at aerial challenges, often at fault for goals conceded and routinely booed by Arsenal fans. His latest embarrassment came in a 2-1 defeat to a poor Eintracht Frankfurt side, which saw manager Unai Emery sacked. This is the worst start Arsenal have ever had to a Premier League season – the football fixed odds prices show they are now huge underdogs for a top four finish – and Mustafi is probably the worst player in the squad.
Gervinho, Igors Stepanovs, Mikael Silvestre, Stephan Lichsteiner, Denilson, Park Chu Young, Stefan Malz, Amaury Bischoff, Alberto Mendez, Rami Shaaban, Kim Kallstrom, Christopher Wreh, Glenn Helder, Kava Diawara, Francis Jeffers, Richard Wright, Philippe Senderos, Yaya Sanogo, Johan Djourou, Emmanuel Eboue, Carl Jenkinson, Emmanuel Frimpong, Henrikh Mkhitaryan.