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Soccer-Wenger's three best and worst signings at Arsenal

Reuters

March 20 (Reuters) - Arsene Wenger has signed more than 100 players at a cost of over 400 million pounds ($665.11 million) during his 18 seasons with the English Premier League club.

Here are three of his best and worst deals.

BEST

1. Patrick Vieira, 3.5 million pounds from AC Milan, August 1996.

Wenger only joined the club in September 1996 but he had already begun recruiting players and his first set the tone for a decade of success.

On August 14, Vieira joined Arsenal, along with compatriot Remi Garde, to zero fanfare with little known about the gangly, young Frenchman born in Senegal and who had barely featured for AC Milan in his one season in Italy.

However, he quickly demonstrated his powerful, box-to-box abilities and he flourished in the centre of the midfield before reaching new heights with the arrival of compatriot Emmanuel Petit the following season.

A creative midfielder who could score goals as well as break up play, he succeeded Tony Adams as the club's captain and skippered 'The Invincibles' side to the Premier League title by going undefeated in the 2003-04 season.

Having been linked with numerous clubs, he eventually left Arsenal after nine years, 406 appearances, 33 goals, three league titles and four FA Cups.

His final act was to score the winning penalty in the 2005 FA Cup shootout victory over Manchester United - Arsenal's last trophy.

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2. Thierry Henry, 10.5 million from Juventus, August 1999

Eight games had gone by without Henry scoring with fans questioning his arrival before the young Frenchman came off the bench to replace Nwankwo Kanu and notch a curling right-footed winner from 25 metres at Southampton - the first of 228 goals he would score for Arsenal.

Many of those goals came from Henry pulling away to the left of the pitch and using his searing pace to get in behind defences as his talents and animated personality on the field helped endear him to fans upset at the loss of Nicolas Anelka.

Henry was at his prime during the Invincibles campaign, where he had risen to become the team's penalty taker and set-piece specialist. He was routinely Premier League top scorer and considered one of the best strikers in the world.

He assumed the captaincy upon Vieira's departure, but could not add to his two League titles and three FA Cups as Arsenal lost the Champions League final in 2006 to Barcelona, the club he joined a year later.

He returned to Arsenal for a brief cameo in January 2012 on loan from New York Red Bulls, scoring a last minute winner against Sunderland in his final Premier League appearance, adding to his elevated status at the club.

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3. Sol Campbell, free transfer from Tottenham Hotspur, July 2001.

Campbell was a revered pillar in the Tottenham backline and his dominant displays had made him an England regular.

So Wenger's ability to pinch their arch rivals' greatest asset for free was arguably his greatest transfer feat.

Campbell, whose contract had run down, made the shock announcement that he was joining Spurs' loathed rivals at a news conference.

Some journalists had arrived expecting Wenger to announce a deal for goalkeeper Richard Wright only to be greeted by Campbell.

The defender won the double in his first season at Arsenal and then helped the Invincibles win the title in 2004 at Spurs, whose supporters labelled him 'Judas' for making the move.

He was a central figure in Arsenal's run to the final of the 2005/06 Champions League but suffered personal problems during the campaign.

He left the stadium at halftime of a league match against West Ham United after asking to be substituted but returned weeks later to score for Arsenal in their first Champions League final which they lost 2-1 to Barcelona.

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WORST

1. Franny Jeffers, 8 million from Everton, June 2001

The young Everton striker was dubbed the "fox in the box" by Wenger after the Frenchman made him his second most expensive purchase at the time but an ill-fated spell and subsequent struggles elsewhere proved he was more flash in the pan.

Injury and a lack of form left Jeffers stuck on the sidelines and he made only 39 appearances, 26 as a substitute, before returning to Everton on loan in August 2003 and then joining Charlton Athletic permanently the following year.

He managed just eight goals and was sent off in his final appearance for the club in the Community Shield loss to Manchester United.

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2. Park Chu-young, 4 million from AS Monaco, August 2011.

The South Korean striker was on the verge of joining Lille before supposedly taking a phone call from Wenger who convinced him to sign before the transfer window shut. It was probably one of the costliest calls Wenger ever made.

Having just been thrashed 8-2 by Manchester United, Wenger needed recruits and Park was one of five players signed in the final two days of the transfer window.

The South Korean international scored a winning goal against Bolton Wanderers in October 2011 but that League Cup strike has been his only one for the club, who farmed him out on loan to Celta Vigo and then Watford after making only seven appearances.

Although it was a relatively small transfer fee, some media reports claim he commands a weekly salary of 50,000 pounds, making him one of Wenger's worst, and most bizarre, acquisitions.

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3. Richard Wright, 6 million from Ipswich Town, July 2001

When Wright signed for Arsenal he was one of the brightest young goalkeepers around and declared he was not going there to sit on the bench and play understudy to club great David Seaman.

Having punched the ball into his own net against Charlton then allowed a soft goal to Gus Poyet in the North London Derby, Wright was left fighting even to make the Arsenal bench.

He left to join Everton after only one season and 22 appearances, conceding defeat to Seaman and never returning to his early Ipswich highs.

- - - - ($1 = 0.6014 British Pounds) (Reporting by Patrick Johnston; editing by Toby Davis)

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