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Arsene Wenger’s first 10 signings as Arsenal manager and where they are now

Arsene Wenger’s long reign at Arsenal came to a slightly ugly end in 2018 but after an incredible 22-year service at the club, he left as the Gunners’ most successful ever manager.

Wenger won three Premier League titles at Arsenal including the famous invincible season during the 2003/04 campaign, and won a staggering seven FA Cups during his time in north London.

Since Wenger was appointed in 1996, the Frenchman signed some of the greats, as Robin van Persie, Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Patrick Viera and Robert Pires all were brought in during his tenure.

Wenger made 126 different signings during his time at Arsenal, and 222 different players featured for the Gunners during the Frenchman’s 22-year reign, but not all of them were success stories.

Here Mirror Football look at the first 10 signings Wenger made after joining Arsenal all the way back in 1996, and see where they are now…

Nicolas Anelka

Nicolas Anelka was Arsene Wenger’s first signing in 1996



Nicolas Anelka was Arsene Wenger’s first official signing at Arsenal, as the then 17-year-old arrived from Paris Saint Germain £500,000 in 1996.

This was the just the start of Wenger’s ability to spot young talent, as the youngster scored 23 goals in 61 Premier League games over the next two years at Arsenal.

Anelka left Arsenal in 1999 to join Real Madrid but also had spells at Liverpool, Manchester City and Bolton back in England, with his best career spell falling at Chelsea between 2008-2012.

Following retirement, Anelka had taken on several coaching rules and in February of 2021 he became the sports director of Hyeres FC.

However, he departed three months later with no first team game taking place during his tenure due to the pandemic.

Marc Overmars

Marc Overmars starred at Arsenal for three seasons


Press Association)

Marc Overmars signed for Arsenal from Ajax in 1997 and went on to make 143 appearances for Arsenal in all competitions between 1997 and 2000.

The Dutchman helped the club win the Premier League and FA Cup in 1998, and joined Barcelona in 2000 where we spent four years with the Catalan club.

Overmars finished his career in Holland with Go Ahead Eagles, and has remained in the country as Ajax director of football, taking on the role in 2012.

The Dutchman was linked with a return to Arsenal as he was reportedly offered a role in the clubs hierarchy, but signed an extension at Ajax which expires in 2024.

Gilles Grimandi

Gilles Grimandi followed Arsene Wenger from Monaco to Arsenal



Gilles Grimandi followed Wenger from Monaco and signed for the Gunners in 1997, and enjoyed two league and cup doubles during his time at Arsenal.

The Frenchman spent five seasons at Arsenal, before finishing his career in America with Colorado Rapids, although Grimandi almost instantly quit due to family reasons.

Grimandi returned to Arsenal in 2006 as a French-based scout for the club, helping Wenger discover talent such as About Diaby and Bacary Sagna.

The Frenchman left his role in 2019 to become technical director at OGC Nice, joining former teammate Patrick Vieira, but Grimandi resigned by mutual agreement only seven months later.

Emmanuel Petit

Emmanuel Petit helped Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side to Premier League glory


Shaun Botterill /Allsport)

Emmanuel Petit was another former Monaco player that followed Wenger to Arsenal, and helped the Gunners win the double during his first season after signing in 1997.

Petit joined with Overmars that year, and followed him in 2000 as Barcelona raided Arsenal for the talented pair, although the Frenchman’s career in Spain only lasted for one season.

The midfielder returned to England and opted to join London rivals Chelsea, but Petit was forced into an early retirement in 2005 after he couldn’t recover from knee surgery.

Petit often appears as a football pundit on French TV, and sometimes makes guest appearances as an analyst in the UK.

Matthew Upson

Matthew Upson struggled to break into the Arsenal side



Matthew Upson joined Arsenal from Luton Town in 1997, but the exciting young defender was handed the impossible task of dislodging Tony Adams and Marin Keown from the starting line-up.

Upson went on to show his promise as he left the club in 2003 and went on to make over 250 appearances in the Premier League, enjoying his best spell at West Ham between 2007-2011.

The former England defender announced his retirement in 2016 joined back up with West Ham as a coach to assist in the development of their academy players.

Upson now makes appearances as a pundit and features for broadcasters such as BBC, ITV and Sky Sports.

Luis Boa Morte

Luis Boa Morte struggled at Arsenal but still made a name for himself in London



Luis Boa Morte arrived from Sporting Lisbon in 1997 but failed to make an impact under Wenger, so was sold two years later to Southampton.

The winger found his feet at Fulham after a breakthrough loan spell in 2000, and then spent a further six seasons at the club on a permanent basis.

Boa Morte then joined West Ham, arriving with former teammate Upson, and spent four seasons at Upton Park before a brief stint across a number of foreign leagues, eventually retiring in 2013.

After retiring, Boa Morte went back to Portugal to pursue a coaching career, and after partnering up with Marco Silva the former Fulham star now finds himself back at Craven Cottage as a coach.

Alberto Mendez

Alberto Mendez was one of Arsene Wenger’s worst signings



Alberto Mendez was signed as a bit of a wildcard from non-league German side FC Feucht in 1997, and the move ultimately turned out to be a bit of a flop.

The German only managed 11 appearances for Arsenal across all competitions over the course of five seasons before joining Spanish side Racing Ferro in 2002.

Mendez later returned to his native Germany as he remained in the lower leagues, before announcing his retirement in 2010.

The German tried to embark on a managerial career and joined Bavarian amateur club FC Amberg as a coach in 2011, but was sacked in 2013 despite considerable success overall with the side.

Alexander Manninger

Alexander Manninger was a no.2 to David Seaman



Alexander Manninger was signed by Wenger in 1997, but was only really used as a back-up to David Seaman during his time years at Arsenal.

The Austrian went on to have quite a respectable career despite being used as a no.2 for the majority of his playing days, which lasted 22 years as he enjoyed spells in Italy, Spain, Austria and Germany and England.

Manninger was incredibly brought back to the Premier League in 2016 as he signed a short-term contract with Liverpool, but the move was primarily for fitness reasons, and the Austrian retied in 2017.

The former goalkeeper was a carpenter before playing football, and after hanging up his boots he has been focussing on his work in furniture and real estate.

Nelson Vivas

Nelson Vivas signed for Arsenal in 1998



Nelson Vivas impressed in his native Argentina before joining Arsenal from Boca Juniors in 1998, and the defender went on to make 69 appearances for the Gunners before joining Inter Milan in 2001.

The Argentine spent the last year of his Arsenal career at Celta Vigo in Spain, and his European stint ended in 2003 after a poor run in Italy, Vivas went back to see out his playing days in South America.

Vivas retired at Quilmes in 2005, and he became their manager eight years later but was involved in an assault with one of the club;’s supporters and was forced to resign.

However, it’s not worked out too badly for the Argentine, who now works as an assistant to Diego Simeone at Atletico Madrid.

Freddie Ljungberg

Freddie Ljungberg signed for Arsenal in 1998 and became a legend

Freddie Ljungberg joined Arsenal in 1998 and went on to became a legend at the club, winning two Premier League titles and three FA Cups throughout a nine-year spell with the Gunners.

The former winger spent one season at West Ham following his exit in 2007, and then spent some time in America, Scotland, Japan and India as he saw out his career, but was back at Arsenal before long, as a coach.

Ljungberg returned to Arsenal as a coach in 2016, and has managed the under-15s side before moving up to the under-23s set-up.

The former Arsenal star was appointed as interim manager when Unai Emery was sacked, and was then kept as the first-team assistant coach by Mikel Arteta when the Spaniard took charge.

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