It took some time, but the Arsenal fans’ smiles are back as their team continues to perform well in the Premier League and League Cup. After a disastrous start to the season, many fans demanded the sack of manager Mikel Arteta, but the ship has since sailed.
Arsenal is on a nine-match unbeaten streak in all competitions, and the club’s new signings have boosted the team’s morale. Takehiro Tomiyasu has been solid in defense as a right-back and makes intelligent forward runs. Ben White has been a rock at the back, and his game reading has been spot on since putting the early jitters behind him.
Then there’s Aaron Ramsdale, who has been a rock in goal for Arsenal and has rightfully kept Bernd Leno out of the starting lineup. This has sparked debate about whether these players, based on their debuts, are the best in an Arsenal shirt.
Some Arsenal players shone in their first season.
Even though Arsenal has risen to sixth place in the Premier League, it is too early to draw such conclusions. However, it got us thinking and speculating about the past to see if any players walked into Arsenal and became instant hits.
Arsenal has been a magnificent club with many accomplishments over the years. They’ve had some true game legends wear the red and white jersey, and some made an immediate impact in their first season. On that note, here are the four Arsenal players who had the best debut seasons:
Number 4: Sol Campbell
The Sol Campbell transfer was one of the most contentious between the two Premier League clubs, if not the most contentious. The rivalry between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur in north London is one of the most heated in the Premier League. Arsene Wenger’s attempt to entice Campbell away from Spurs only strained their relationship.
The Englishman’s contract expired in 2001, and he joined the Gunners in search of Champions League football. Spurs fans were outraged by the switch and dubbed the defender “Judas.” One can imagine Campbell’s mental anguish as a result of all the backlash.
However, Arsenal’s new signing did not let the negativity around him affect his performance. In his first season, he appeared in 48 games across all competitions for Arsenal, winning the Premier League and FA Cup.
Campbell excelled in the air, both offensively and defensively, and his positional sense helped him mask his relatively poor distribution. As an athlete, he was an all-arounder, physically strong and imposing, with great pace and quick feet. Above all, he possessed exceptional mental fortitude, which was the driving force behind his successful tenure at Arsenal.
Number 3: Patrick Vieira
When Arsenal spent £4.82 million on Patrick Vieira in 1996, there was little doubt that they had made a wise investment. Arsene Wenger personally contacted the midfielder and prevented him from joining Ajax. On the other hand, the English media had no idea what kind of revolution Wenger and the 20-year-old Vieira were about to bring to Arsenal.
The France international came off the bench in a match against Sheffield Wednesday. He took over for Ray Parlour, who was injured. Parlour recalls being taken aback by Vieira’s performance and thinking the Frenchman was of a different caliber in his autobiography.
The future Arsenal captain started every game in his debut season, except a game around Christmas when he was suspended. He appeared in 31 games and scored two goals in the league. The 20-year-old was a fierce competitor who was not afraid to tackle his opponents.
Vieira was as good off the ball as he was on it, and a player of his caliber was desperately needed in that Arsenal team. He was, without a doubt, a gentleman. Arsenal’s progressive moves were fueled by his iconic jaunty long strides and endless reserve of stamina. His first season undoubtedly shaped his character and reputation for the future.
Number 2: Ian Wright
Some footballers are great goal scorers, while others are great goal scorers. Ian Wright, an Arsenal legend, was both, and he proved it in his first season. In 1991, he was signed from Crystal Palace for a then club-record fee of £3.60 million.
Arsenal were English champions then, and Wright’s hiring reflected their seriousness about competing in the Champions League. The Englishman’s ability to score goals was well known during his five-year stint with Crystal Palace, but he also won over fans with his enthusiasm for the game.
Wrighty understood what it was like to wear Arsenal colors and be a Gunner. He arrived with a reputation to uphold and expectations to meet, and he wasted no time.
Wright scored his first goal in his debut game, a League Cup match against Leicester. He scored a hat-trick on his Premier League debut for Arsenal against Southampton and was on a roll from there. In his first season, he scored 24 league goals in 30 appearances.
The Arsenal striker scored a hat-trick in the final game of the season, stealing the Golden Boot from Gary Lineker. Wright finished the season with 29 goals in the Premier League, five of which he scored for Crystal Palace.
There was never a moment of panic for the striker in front of the goal, who found a variety of ways to score. He had it all: a cheeky toe-poke, a smashing finish from outside the box, and a pompous chip to embarrass the keeper.
Number 1: Alexis Sanchez
The trajectory of Alexis Sanchez’s career since leaving Arsenal has been disappointing. The star forward left the club hoping to improve his reputation and play for a title-contending team. On the other hand, his individual performances have only regressed, and his stock has plummeted unbelievably.
Sanchez was lethal, entertaining, and decisive in an Arsenal shirt, and it all started when he joined the Gunners in 2014. Following a successful season with Barcelona, Arsene Wenger spent £35 million to secure the star forward’s services.
Sanchez got off to the best possible start. His first goal for Arsenal came in a 1-0 win over Besiktas at the Emirates, ensuring Arsenal’s place in the Champions League for the 17th consecutive season. His first Premier League goal came against Leicester City when he equalized.
The Chilean demonstrated that he was a big-game player who could keep his nerves under control even in the tensest situations. In Arsenal’s final third, the star forward was a breath of fresh air. In his first season, he led Arsenal to the FA Cup title, scoring in both the semi-finals and final.
He was physically fit, acrobatically strong, and technically skilled. In his debut season, the Chilean scored 25 goals and provided 12 assists across all competitions. His link-up play with Mesut Ozil became a ‘thing of beauty for Arsenal fans to witness.
Sanchez became the first Arsenal player since Thierry Henry to score 20 goals in his first season. When the season was over, the Chilean was named Arsenal’s Player of the Season, the PFA Fans’ Player of the Year, and a PFA Team of the Year member.