ISL 2017/18: 7 Indian Super League stars who had played under Arsene Wenger at Arsenal

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Arsene Wenger
Srijon Choudhury

Arsene Wenger, a name synonymous with Arsenal, announced his resignation this week, after being with the club for around 22 years. A lot of people have fallen in love with the Gunners because of Arsene Wenger, and his contribution to football is right up there at the top of the list.

He will be most remembered for the 2003-04 'Invincibles' season, when the Gunners won the Premier League without losing a single game. The Frenchman also won two more Premier League titles in 1997-98, and 2001-02. He also has the record of winning the most number of FA Cups as a manager, with 7 titles to his name.

Wenger, as a manager, has the reputation of building superstars, rather than buying them, and has produced or fine-tuned more than a few top-notch footballers during his tenure at Arsenal.

He is also one manager who has consistently praised leagues like ISL, MLS, and the Chinese Super League as these leagues give players a chance to keep playing the beautiful game even after they are past their prime for European football.

On that note, let's take a look at some of the ISL stars, who had previously played under Wenger.

#7 Graham Stack (Kerala Blasters)

Graham Stack
Graham Stack

The former Kerala Blasters keeper joined Arsenal in 1998 as a youngster and was promoted to the main team in 2000. However, he was soon loaned out to Belgian club Beveren. After completing his loan term, he came back to Arsenal and made his debut for the Gunners in the League Cup in 2003, as he went on to play all the five games in the competition. He even scored in a penalty shootout against Rotherham United.

The English keeper, who had also won an FA Cup at Arsenal, later went on to join the ISL side Kerala Blasters in 2016, as a player-cum goalkeeping coach. Graham Stack made seven appearances for Kerala Blasters during the season, and had a big impact in keeping the scores respectable.


#6 Jermaine Pennant (FC Pune City)

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Jermaine Pennant

Pennant joined Arsenal as a youngster from Notts County in 1999. Arsene Wenger had big hopes from the speedy right winger, but somehow his Arsenal career never got off properly. He was loaned off to Watford, Leeds United, and Birmingham City, during his tenure at Arsenal. He managed to play just 12 games for Arsenal in the Premier League, and scored three goals.He once held the record of becoming the youngest ever player to debut for Arsenal.

The English winger joined FC Pune City in the 2014 ISL season, in what was a last minute addition for the Stallions. He managed to make just seven appearances for Pune in the ISL, but failed to live up to the expectations. He left the club and went on to join Wigan Athletic.

#5 Mikael Silvestre (Chennaiyin FC)

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Mikael Silvestre

Mikael Silvestre is a legend at Manchester United legend and had made a big name for himself playing for the Red Devils. After seeing out his contract with Manchester in 2008, Silvestre took Arsene Wenger’s proposal to join the North London side.

The Frenchman made his Arsenal debut against Everton in the Premier League in 2008, and went on to score his first goal for the Gunners in the fierce North London Derby against Tottenham Hotspurs. Silvestre was released by Arsenal after the end of the 2009-10 season.

He was one of the first names to be signed by the ISL for its inaugural edition and was subsequently signed by Chennaiyin FC. He had a memorable time for the Super Machans, as he guided them to the semi finals in their very first season. Silvestre played 14 games for Chennaiyin and even scored a goal for the Marco Materazzi coached side.

#4 Andre Santos ( FC Goa)

Andre Santos

Arsenal bought Andre Santos from Fenerbahce for a sum of €7 million. He came to Arsenal with big hopes, but could never really settled down at the North London club. During his two years at the club he could manage only 25 appearances, and scored just three goals for the Gunners. After his contract with Arsenal ended (which also saw him spend a year on loan at Gremio), he signed for the Brazilian club Flamengo.

In September 2014 FC Goa announced that they had signed the Brazilian midfielder, for the 2014 ISL season. Santos had a fruitful spell under Brazilian Coach Zico, making 12 appearances for the club, getting four goals and three assists during his tenure in the ISL.

He was one of the best players in the league that season. helping Goa qualify for the playoffs, and missed out on a final berth after being beaten by eventual champions ATK. Interestingly, Santos, who played as a fullback for Arsenal, was often used as a forward by Zico at FC Goa.

#3 Nicolas Anelka (Mumbai City FC)

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Nicolas Anelka

The world admires Anelka today, and a lot of it has to do with his time at Arsenal, and the way Arsene Wenger moulded him and helped him transform from a boy to a man. He was one of the first young French signings by Arsene Wenger, after he signed the 17-year-old boy from PSG for around half a million pound.

It was his second season at Highbury, that saw Anelka come into the spotlight. He finished as Arsenals highest goal scorer in the 1998-99 Premier League season. Anelka is recorded at number 29 in the top 50 Best Arsenal players of all time. He left Arsenal to join Real Madrid for a sum of €22.5 million in 1999, and it showed the capability of Wenger in terms of doing business, as under him the club’s profits also rose.

In 2014, Mumbai City FC announced that they had signed Nicolas Anelka. In his first season in the ISL Nicolas played seven games and scored two goals. He returned to Mumbai City FC the next season, as a player-manager, but mostly donned the gaffers jacket. In his entire spell in the ISL, Anelka played 13 games for the team from the maximum city and scored just two goals.

#2 Freddie Ljungberg ( Mumbai CIty FC)

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Freddie Ljungberg

Freddie Ljungberg is one of the best examples of Wenger's talent-spotting abilities. The Arsenal boss had him scouted for over a year before signing him from Halmstads BK. Ljungberg was also on the radar of Barcelona, and Chelsea, but Arsene and Arsenal scooped in like an eagle to get their man before the other clubs could make a move.

Ljungberg settled into the North London side almost immediately, as he scored on his Arsenal debut against Manchester United. His best form was probably seen in the 2001-02 season when Arsenal won the Premier League and he was one of the stand-out performers for the team. He was a vital member of the Arsenal invincibles side of 2003-04, and the only thing that hampered his Arsenal career was his frequent injury layoffs.

Ljungberg came back from retirement to play for Mumbai City FC in the ISL, during its inaugural edition, but his time on the pitch was very limited, due to his constant injury layoffs. In total, he managed four appearances for Mumbai in the 2014 ISL season and failed to score any goals.

#1 Robert Pires ( FC Goa)

Robert Pires
Robert Pires

Arsene Wenger singed Robert Pires from Marseille for £6 million in the summer of 2000, after some of his players left. Pires turned out to be one of the best signings Wenger ever made, as he went on to spend six seasons with the club, and played 189 times for the Gunners, scoring 62 goals.

The start to his Arsenal career, though, wasn’t smooth, as he took a season to settle into English football. He was in sublime form from the 2001 season and had a stellar role in helping Arsenal win the trophy that season. Pires' combination with countryman Henry was one of the main reasons Arsenal finished the 2003-04 season unbeaten. Pires, and Henry, scored a total of 52 goals combined that season. He has been voted as the sixth greatest player of all times for Arsenal.

In 2014, Pires singed for FC Goa, and had a great effect on the team, as he helped the youngsters in the dressing room, and during practice sessions. His time on the pitch, though was cut short due to fitness issues, and he managed to amass only a total of 8 appearances for FC Goa, he did score a goal in the ISL, though, against Delhi Dynamos.

Edited by Soumo Ghosh
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