It’s fair to say that Arsenal wouldn’t be the club they are now without Arsene Wenger’s influence upon arriving in London back in October 1996.
The Frenchman was certainly viewed as a left field appointment, having recently managed in Japan, yet this didn’t deter him one bit as he built a dynasty which established the Gunners as one of the finest teams in England.
Three Premier League titles – including one unbeaten season in 2003/04 – and seven FA Cups still doesn’t seem enough for a manager who rejuvenated a stagnating club and with a bit more luck here and there, they may have won a European trophy or two.
Post 2005, Arsenal’s performances dipped and this was due to losing players such as Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, and Robert Pires among others, while recruitment was often underwhelming as Wenger failed to adequately replace them.
He did have some near misses in the transfer window however, as the former AS Monaco coach could’ve signed Lionel Messi and Gerard Piqué while even coming close to signing future Chelsea legend Didier Drogba, something that still hurt when he spoke in 2014.
He said: “I would have loved to have managed Didier Drogba, for two reasons.
“One, I missed him when he played at Le Mans in France, not even in the top league. I knew there was a good player there and I missed him. And secondly, because he hurt us so much in big games that all this pain would not have happened.”
These signings could have taken them to the next level, but perhaps Wenger’s biggest regret would be failing to sign a defender who would go on to become a Premier League legend – Vincent Kompany.
Did Arsenal nearly sign Vincent Kompany?
Following their first trophy-less season since 2001, Wenger was looking to bolster his squad during the 2006 summer transfer window and apparently, young Belgian defender Vincent Kompany was earmarked as a future star.
The centre-back eventually moved from Anderlecht to German side Hamburg for a fee of just £5m that summer as the Gunners missed out and Kompany’s agent, Jacques Lichtenstein, claimed that Arsenal had been in contact regarding a potential move.
He said: ”Arsenal were interested in Kompany.
”Wenger made it clear that he wanted to sign Kompany to replace Sol Campbell, if he would leave the English giants.”
What might’ve been for the north Londoners had they managed to lure the defender to the club, especially considering his future impact in the English top-flight.
What happened to Vincent Kompany?
Campbell had been at the Gunners since joining from Tottenham Hotspur in 2001, going on to make 211 appearances across all competitions while winning two league titles and three FA Cups, emerging as a reliable force at the heart of the defence for Wenger.
He finally departed London during the summer of 2006, however, and joined Portsmouth and this left a big void for the Frenchman to fill. There is no doubt Kompany would’ve filled this for the foreseeable future had he chosen Arsenal instead of Hamburg, and it’s safe to say he turned into a better defender than the Englishman.
The then 22-year-old joined Manchester City in 2008 amid their recent takeover and the future looked bright for a club who had last won a top flight title in 1968 and it wouldn’t take him long to make an impact.
Over the next 11 years, Kompany would establish himself as not only a City icon, but a legend of the English game as he set the standard for their success under Roberto Mancini and Pep Guardiola.
How many trophies did Vincent Kompany win at Manchester City?
The Belgian went on to make 360 appearances for City during his spell in Manchester and this figure would’ve been much higher had he not missed around 180 games due to several injury issues during his 11 years at the club.
His performances on the pitch when he was fit and healthy however were a joy to behold, as the defender oozed confidence and was like an immovable object which defenders hated facing.
Having won the FA Cup in 2011, he was installed as the new captain of the club as they sought further glory, and it didn’t take long for the former Anderlecht starlet to catapult City into a new era.
The 2011/12 Premier League season will go down as one of the finest on record, especially for its dramatic finale which saw Sergio Aguero net in the final seconds to secure all three points against QPR and this was the first of four league titles Kompany would win.
Overall, he won 12 trophies during his time at City before ending an 11-year association at the end of the 2018/19 campaign, and he was praised by Sky Sports’ Adam Bate for his contributions over the previous decade, saying: “He leaves English football as a true Premier League legend.
“There was no self-indulgent farewell tour. Certainly no documentary to announce the decision. Not for him the spectacle of being chaired from the field for a drawn out substitution.”
High praise indeed and it’s evident that Kompany – who was dubbed “one of the best centre-backs the Premier League has ever seen” by pundit Jamie Carragher – ended up becoming a better defender than Campbell while winning more silverware in the process.
His ascent from promising young player to arguably one of the best in his position across ten years speaks volumes regarding his attitude and his career might’ve been even had he remained fit for the vast duration of it.
Wenger certainly had a transfer howler back in 2006 when it came to signing another defender to replace the departing Campbell, missing out on Kompany for just £5m, and he turned into a Premier League legend.
The Belgian is now currently managing Burnley in the top flight having led them to promotion last season and his managerial career certainly looks like it could be as promising as his wonderful playing career.
Wenger missed out on a few players who ended up shining elsewhere during the latter years of his stint managing Arsenal, but considering the success Kompany went on to have in England from 2008 to 2019, this may have been one of his biggest mistakes.