Arsenal’s rebuild under Mikel Arteta has continued with the club’s capture of Gabriel Magalhaes, the Brazilian defender arriving in a big-money deal from Lille to strengthen the Gunners’ centre-back options.
The north London side are no strangers to purchasing players from France and have signed a succession of talents from Ligue 1 throughout the Premier League era, Gabriel becoming the 25th player to have crossed the channel to join the Arsenal.
Following the defender’s arrival we’ve decided to look at some of Arsenal’s best French imports, here are our rankings of the Gunners’ five best signings from Ligue 1:
Samir Nasri was regarded as one of the most promising young footballers on the continent following a series of starring displays at Marseille, the midfielder’s creativity and Algerian heritage earning the youngster lofty comparisons with Zinedine Zidane.
Arsenal won the race for his signature and Nasri moved to the Emirates to form part of a new-look side under Arsene Wenger, the playmaker’s effortless talents a key component of an emerging side in north London.
Thriving alongside the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie, Nasri produced a series of magical moments throughout a three-year spell with the Gunners, the twinkle-toed footwork of the playmaker almost symbolic of a fun but flawed Arsenal side.
His departure to Manchester City may have been acrimonious and he may have frustrated on occasion, but when peak-Nasri was in the mood there were few players who possessed such prodigious and mesmerising talent.
Arsene Wenger’s knowledge of the French market saw him turn to Ligue 1 once more following the departure of Robin van Persie, securing the signing of the bullish Olivier Giroud after the forward had helped Montpellier to a historic title triumph.
The France international was perhaps under-appreciated throughout his five-and-a-half seasons at the Emirates, despite racking up over a century of goals for the Gunners in all competitions and winning the FA Cup on three occasions.
The powerful forward was often criticised for a lack of goals but he represented the perfect foil when leading the attack, his muscular frame and deft footwork helping link the play with an abundance of creative talents.
Giroud produced some sensational moments including that scorpion kick effort against Crystal Palace, whilst his target-man talents were appreciated during some sensational team goals in an era in which Arsenal often blew hot and cold.
The early successes of the Arsene Wenger era at Arsenal were centred around a series of impressive French imports, with Emmanuel Petit forming one half of a formidable midfield pairing in the late nineties.
The Frenchman arrived from Monaco and formed a fine understanding with compatriot Patrick Vieira in the Gunners’ midfield, the duo complementing one another perfectly and driving the north London outfit towards a domestic double during the 1997/98 season.
Petit proved one of ‘Le Professeur’s’ finest additions and played a pivotal part in Wenger’s first great side, an intelligent defensive midfielder who was fearsome in the challenge and possessed the dynamism to dominate Premier League opponents.
He spent three seasons with Arsenal before moving on to Barcelona, later returning to the Premier League with a three season stint at Chelsea.
Brilliant player, brilliant business.
Arsene Wenger plucked a teenage Nicolas Anelka from Paris Saint-Germain for just £500,000, providing the youngster with a platform to flourish in the Premier League before selling him on for £22.3m a little more than two years later, the Frenchman becoming Real Madrid’s club-record signing.
During his time in English football a young Anelka helped Arsenal to a domestic double in 1997/98, before an exhilarating breakthrough season the following year, hitting 19 goals in all competitions to be named as the PFA Young Player of the Year.
Was Nicolas Anelka one of our smartest-ever signings? 🤔
🔴 90 appearances
⚽️ 28 goals
🏆 1998 Premier League winner
🏆 1998 FA Cup winner pic.twitter.com/2bIaJoRhGV
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) February 23, 2019
Tall, strong and lightning quick, Anelka was unstoppable during that second explosive campaign in north London, and later admitted he should never have left Arsenal after enjoying a nomadic existence at a succession of clubs.
A case of what might have been for both club and player.
Few would have expected Robert Pires to take the number one position in our rankings based on his first few months in English football, but the fleet-footed winger bounced back from a difficult spell in some style to write himself into Arsenal folklore.
Pires arrived from Marseille following the departure of Marc Overmars and struggled during his debut season in the Premier League, before flourishing following a period of adaptation to weave his magic on an all-conquering Arsenal side.
#OnThisDay July 3, 2000
Robert Pires joins Arsenal
🏆🏆 Premier League
🏆🏆 FA Cuppic.twitter.com/qpd6Q34Tqa
— Goal (@goal) July 3, 2019
The France international worked brilliantly in tandem with Thierry Henry and Ashley Cole down the Gunners’ left flank, Pires a pioneer for inverted wingers, cutting inside with devastating consequences on his right foot.
He was named as the FWA Footballer of the Year after helping Arsenal to a domestic double in 2002, before starring for the club’s famed Invincibles side who went unbeaten to win the title two years later.
Pires provided a sprinkling of stardust on the best Arsenal team of the modern era, scoring 84 goals in 284 appearances to be voted as the sixth greatest player in the club’s long and illustrious history.