Arsenal send plenty of players out loan, but very few come the other way on short-term deals. We’ve put our heads together to list all of the players we’ve signed on loan down the years, and rated their brief spells in North London.
We think we’ve got them all, it’s a surprisingly small amount, but if we’ve forgotten any please leave a comment.
Denis Suarez (Barcelona) – 2018/19
Arsenal negotiated with Barcelona for almost a month to work out a deal which would ensure there was no mandatory purchase clause for the midfielder. The 25 year old arrived at the end of January having played very little for the La Liga champions, and lacked the kind of match fitness that would see him competing for a place in the team.
He picked up a groin injury during a 12 minute cameo against BATE Borisov, and although he made two further substitute appearances, the injury worsened, meaning he never started a single game for the club.
He announced yesterday that his season was over, making it an unsuccessful venture all in all – especially as we had to pay to ensure the deal contained no purchase clause.
You can’t blame a player for getting injured but there’s no doubt this is one of the worst loan deals we’ve made.
Kim Kallstrom (Spartak Moscow) – 2013/14
Arrived in January 2014 to boost our midfield. Medical tests showed he had a broken bone in his back. Arsene Wenger pondered the situation, and said, “The transfer windows shuts in a few hours. It’s impossible to find a replacement. Either I take you or no one.”
So, he took him. The Swede made his debut as a sub in a 2-2 draw with Swansea, Arsenal chucking away a 2-1 lead with a last minute own goal from Mathieu Flamini, but his moment was to come in the FA Cup semi-final against Wigan.
Having just equalised, Kallstrom came on in the 89th minute for Aaron Ramsey, and when the game went into a penalty shoot-out, he stepped up and scored his spot kick, helping the Gunners into the final which we won against Hull to end the nine year trophy drought.
The veteran later described it as ‘the greatest 15 minutes of my life’, and you can read his account of it all in this fantastic piece. For that contribution alone, and how much it meant to him, he rates highly.
Emiliano Viviano (Palermo) – 2013/14
The Italian joined on loan from Palermo as back-up to Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski, but the Manuel Almunia lookalike never played a game for the Gunners before joining Sampdoria where he was a regular for four seasons.
All the same, he did give us a fun anecdote as explained by comedian Dara O’Briain in Arsecast Episode 317. As the compere of the Arsenal Charity Ball that year Dara had to auction off a goalkeeping masterclass, an hour on the training ground Szczesny, but more importantly the chance to play at the Emirates Stadium.
Viviano made the first bid!
Rating: 2/10 for the very self-aware comedy.
Thierry Henry (New York Disgustingly Sweet Energy Drink) – 2011/12
“He may be cast in bronze, but he’s still capable of producing truly golden moments.”
The iconic commentary that resonated so strongly when Thierry Henry returned to the club on loan, and scored that goal against Leeds United in the FA Cup. He’d come back on loan from New York Disgustingly Sweet Energy Drink during the MLS off-season, and thrust into a side that was still trying to find its feet again after the departures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, and the supermarket sweep end to the summer transfer window in which five players arrived.
The striker celebrated that goal like a fan, it remains one of the most well-savoured moments in the history of the Emirates Stadium. In seven appearances during his loan spell he scored twice more – against Blackburn and Sunderland in the Premier League – before heading back to the Big Apple.
Yossi Benayoun (Chelsea) – 2011/12
Signed from Chelsea as part of Arsene’s mad trolley dash in the wake of the 8-2 defeat to Manchester United, the Israeli went on to make 25 appearances scoring six times and making three assists. The experienced midfielder was a very useful addition to the squad as we rescued our season to snatch a Champions League place on the last day of the season. His highlight was arguably the late winner off the bench at Villa and he opened the scoring as we beat West Brom 3-2 at the Hawthorns. Many were underwhelmed by his arrival but he quickly won over the terraces even taking over the chant previously assigned to Samir Nasri.
Julio Baptista (Real Madrid) – 2006/07
Signed on loan from Real Madrid in a deal that saw Jose Antonio Reyes go the other way, we assumed Baptista was going to bring steel to our midfield during our debut season at the Emirates. After all, he’d long been a target for Arsene Wenger who wanted the barrel-chested Brazilian as a replacement for Patrick Vieira in the previous two summers. When he landed in England, we expected a box-to-box dynamism, instead we got was a striker who wasn’t very good at scoring goals. In 24 Premier League appearances he scored just three goals. In the Carling Cup it was a different matter. Playing alongside Jeremie Aliadiere he netted four times in a memorable 6-3 win at Anfield and twice in the 5-1 semi-final victory over Sp*rs. Unfortunately, the duo couldn’t repeat their feats in the final as we lost to Chelsea.
Baptista, much like Reyes, wasn’t favourably disposed to life in the UK. In one memorable interview he slagged off everything from teams up north (“I have counted their centre backs booting up to 30 long balls upfield per game”) and the weather (“We’ll get one day of sunshine for every 30 days of rain, and it is driving me to despair”) to the fact English football was too fast for him to even contemplate overhead kicks (“I am Brazilian and I enjoy playing the ball, making clever touches and taking bicycle kicks. Arsene Wenger does not forbid me from doing them, but the game is so fast I don’t even have time to think about them.””)
Unsurprisingly, we didn’t exercise our right to buy Baptista. He moved to Roma the following season and was on the losing side as we beat them on penalties in the Champions League. Now 37, he’s at Romanian side Cluj.
Mart Poom (Sunderland) – 2005-06
The Estonian was signed on loan as cover for Jens Lehmann and Manuel Almunia, and later signed a short-term permanent deal with the club until the end of that season. He never made an official appearance for Arsenal, but did make the bench for some Premier League and European games.
Fun fact: he sat right in front of me at the Champions League final in Paris in 2006 and we shared a ‘Ah bollox, this is not good’ look when Jens was sent off.
He’s currently the goalkeeping coach for the Estonian national team.
* Thanks to Martin Benson on Twitter for the clarity on this one.
Fabian Caballero (Cerro Porteño) – 1998-99
The Argentine striker only made three appearances, but in an FA Cup game against Preston at Deepdale, played a significant role in an Arsenal win. Not with a goal, but by flattening an opponent with an elbow to the face which allowed Emmanuel Petit to score in a 4-2 win for the Gunners.
He didn’t get the nickname Tyson for nothing. Went on to sign for Dundee, spending four seasons in Scotland, before playing for a host of clubs around the world including spells in Korea, Cyprus, Chile and Paraguay.
* Thanks to Gareth Williams in the comments for the reminder.
Jim Leighton (Man Utd) – 1990/91
The Scottish keeper somewhat bizarrely joined us on a short-term deal from Man Utd in 1991, but didn’t make an appearance. He hates Alex Ferguson though, and refuses to ever speak to his former manager again, so we’ll give him a point for that.