It has emerged that, in 2015, Arsène Wenger cleverly turned down the chance to buy Virgil van Dijk for just £6m, fearing that the Dutchman’s arrival would kill Nacho Monreal’s blossoming centreback career.
Heading into his mid-thirties, Monreal is now on the cusp of completing his first whole season in his new position, proving Wenger was right to reject the 26-year-old specialist who recently signed for Liverpool for £75m.
But this isn’t the first time that Wenger has shown this sort of foresight.
In 2008, Wenger made the astute decision to stick with Denilson rather than pay an extra £3m to sign Xabi Alonso from Liverpool when the player was open to a move and Liverpool were open to selling.
Denilson, of course, went on to have a career that Alonso could only have dreamt of, racking up zero European trophies before finally sealing the move of a lifetime to Sao Paulo when he was still only 23.
Alonso, meanwhile, moved to Real Madrid where he had to be make do with a poverty haul consisting of one La Liga title, two Copa Del Reys, the Spanish supercup and, of course, the Champions League. He then moved to the relatively unknown German side, Bayern Munich, where he again struggled, winning just three leagues, an FA Cup and the German supercup in his three year spell in Bavaria.
Gareth Barry was another that Wenger could have been tempted into signing that summer. But the Frenchman stuck to his guns, saying at the time, “I have been criticised for not hiring Xabi Alonso or Gareth Barry. But if I signed them, I would have killed Song, Diaby and Denilson.”
While Barry was wasting his time winning the league and FA Cup with Manchester City as they turned English football on its head, Denilson’s crablike tendencies scuttled into Arsenal club legend. Alex’s Song’s illustrious career took him to Rubin Kazan, a side currently electrifying mid-table in the Russian league.
Abou Diaby, meanwhile was such an exceptional human specimen that he didn’t even need to play football to continue being a part of Arsenal’s squad.
For most managers, those examples alone would prove sound judgment, but this doesn’t even scratch the surface of Wenger’s list.
Mark Schwarzer was allowed to remain at Fulham because they were demanding an obscene £5m when they knew all too well that Arsenal had no need for a keeper, such was the reliability of Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski.
Arsenal were willing to pay £2m for the Australian. They were so confident this price would eventually become acceptable to Fulham, that when it was rejected the first time Arsenal saw no need to improve on it and bid the same amount again.
In front of Arsenal’s imperious keepers, Wenger was offered the chance to purchase Gary Cahill in 2011, but Bolton cheekily believed him to be worth more than the £7m Arsenal were willing to pay. In the end, Wenger made the right call once again, opting to stick with Sebastien Squillaci, who played once in the league that season, defying critics who didn’t think he could play at all.
But Arsene Wenger’s genius is not confined to the defence. Up top, he was offered Didier Drogba for £100,000 when he was still at Le Mans. Drogba appeared to take the rejection personally, going on to score 13 goals in 15 games against Arsenal while at Chelsea.
Zlatan Ibrahimović, David Silva, Dele Alli, Cesc Fabregas (the second time), Dimitri Payet and Gareth Bale are all players Arsene Wenger rejected, while there are a host of others he scouted but refused to move for.
As Wenger often says during the transfer window, it is very hard to find players on the open market who improve on what you already have.
Given Arsenal finished fifth in the league last season, sit sixth this having conceded 20 goals while losing a quarter of their games, the Arsenal boss will once again struggle in January to improve his side.
When everything is going so perfectly, why would he want to risk upsetting that?