Here’s a fun fact: the first person to score a Premier League goal against Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal was Vinnie Jones. While the Wimbledon midfielder and future Juggernaut didn’t score many, it was he who broke the seal for English league football in November 1996’s 2-2 draw at Selhurst Park, following clean sheets in Wenger’s first three fixtures.
Three months later, Vinnie popped up again. Having caused mirth in the Highbury tunnel with his foul-mouthed call to arms, Jones volleyed home the only goal as the Dons beat their high-flying hosts 1-0.
Why did Jones pick on Wenger? Was the infamous hard man bullying the nerdy new kid in glasses, and did he later feel so guilty that he’d pretend to be an Arsenal fan in U.S. Sherlock-up drama Elementary? Or was it just the start of a bizarre trend that has seen Wenger’s Arsenal let in goals from Premier League players not known for owning a pair of shooting boots?
Darren Carter. Ionel Ganea. Danny Fox. They all found the Gunners’ net in Premier League encounters, as did a selection of striking flops and plenty of players who simply scored rarely – Owen Hargreaves, for one. Andreas Lund and Andrej Kramaric each scored one of their two Premier League goals against Arsenal, and it took David Healy less than a minute on debut.
Some players even seem to save them up. Arsenal were the opponents for all three of Sam Clucas’s Swansea goals to date. Three of Younes Kaboul’s 12 Premier League goals came against them, and for three different clubs, while Daniel Cousin shot down the Gunners for two of his own four.
And then there’s this lot below. No fewer than 15 – fifteen! – players scored their only Premier League goal against Wenger’s Arsenal. That’s an average of one every season-and-a-half, although it’s a trend that is increasingly popular among millennial footballers: three cases in the first 13 years of the Frenchman’s tenure were followed by 12 in the last eight.
Was Wenger unlucky that these players all chose Arsenal as their only victims? Judge for yourself.
Lee Briscoe (Sept 26, 1998)
Briscoe’s excellent strike came with classic Barry Davies commentary: “Briscoe… yes!” – followed by 20 seconds of silence, allowing viewers to hear the Hillsborough crowd celebrate an 89th-minute winner over the reigning champions. It’s hard to imagine a commentator taking this approach now.
Sadly, Briscoe’s only Sheffield Wednesday goal was somewhat overshadowed by Paolo Di Canio pushing over referee Paul Alcock in the same game. Briscoe would later score a few for Burnley outside the top flight, where there were no tempestuous Romans to upstage him.
Agustin Delgado (Nov 23, 2002)
Enner Valencia wasn’t the first Ecuadorian forward to swap Mexican football for the Premier League only to leave his goals behind. Delgado is La Tri’s all-time top scorer, yet his three years with Southampton – amid the distractions of Ecuador’s first World Cup, his own injury woes and a spectacular falling-out with Saints manager Gordon Strachan – brought only one league goal.
That goal did help Southampton to beat the Double-holders 3-2, mind. The Premier League don’t even attribute the goal to him, but we’re feeling generous.
Nourredine Naybet (Nov 13, 2004)
At White Hart Lane for his only north London derby, the Moroccan defender gave Spurs a 1-0 lead shortly before half-time. They lost 5-4. That escalated quickly, as the meme insists.
Naybet did score another goal against Arsenal, albeit while playing for Deportivo. Wait, this is definitely Naybet and not Nayim we’re talking about, right?
Danny Pugh (Feb 27, 2010)
After a five-year amnesty for Wenger, Pugh was the first in a deluge of players who wanted the Arsenal boss to have a front-row seat for the only goal in their respective Premier League careers.
The Stoke midfielder opened the scoring – from a Rory Delap long throw, naturally – but Arsenal triumphed 3-1 in a game remembered for the horrific injury to a 19-year-old Aaron Ramsey after a foul by Ryan Shawcross. In touching tribute, Stoke fans have booed Ramsey in every meeting since.
Gonzalo Jara (Sept 25, 2010)
In his right-back days, a younger Jara got his name on the scoresheet as Roberto Di Matteo’s West Brom took a 3-0 lead at the Emirates, holding on to win 3-2. Sticking to the late-era Wenger brand, Arsenal made this bafflingly easy for him.
Arsenal no perdía v WBA desde 2010, cuando cayó en Emirates por 2-3, con este gol de Gonzalo Jara November 21, 2015
Cheick Tioté (Feb 5, 2011)
Wenger was on the receiving end of perhaps the Premier League’s best and most famous strike from a one-goal man. Tioté played in 138 top-flight matches for Newcastle, 10 of them against Arsenal, and his only goal was a superb volley in the 87th minute to seal a ridiculous comeback.
There’s no excusing Arsenal’s laxity in losing the four-goal lead they’d held for nearly half of the match, from the 26th minute to the 68th. But when someone thwacks home this peach for the fourth and final goal of his career, you know, too, that it’s just not your day.
Tragically, Tioté passed away last year after collapsing in a training session with Beijing Enterprises. He was 30 years old.
Samba Diakité (March 31, 2012)
The Malian midfielder’s sweetly-hit strike was doubly valuable: it gave QPR a 2-1 win that’d prove vital in their relegation escape, and – despite his seven bookings in nine games and a red card on debut – it probably contributed to his loan being turned into a four-year contract that summer.
In those four years, Diakité made 16 appearances in all competitions.
Sylvain Marveaux (Dec 29, 2012)
In December 2012, Newcastle’s Marveaux punished Wenger with a goal and an assist, no less. Admittedly it would’ve taken a serious effort to miss his opportunity to make the score 2-2, but his cross to Demba Ba for 3-3 was nothing short of delightful. Then Arsenal won 7-3.
A side note: on 82 minutes, with his team playing 4-4-2 and losing 4-3, Alan Pardew brought on a striker for a central midfielder. Five minutes later his team were losing 6-3 – so he brought on a defender for a winger. This man was tipped to manage England.
Antonio Luna (Aug 17, 2013)
‘Tony Moon’ rounded off Aston Villa’s 3-1 win in north London on the opening day of the 2013/14 season. The result enraged Arsenal supporters, presumably because they’d let a Paul Lambert side score three goals away from home.
The Spaniard’s goal also set off a chain reaction of unlikely scorers finding the Arsenal onion bag. A few weeks after Luna failed in his apparent attempt to miss a one-on-one, Stoke’s Geoff Cameron netted the first of his two goals in what is now 168 appearances; then Swansea’s Ben Davies scored the third of only six in 153 appearances; then to top it all off, Wenger’s men drew with West Brom thanks to...
Claudio Yacob (Oct 6, 2013)
The defensive midfielder has scored two goals in six years at West Brom: the opener in a draw with Arsenal and an equaliser against Manchester City in this season’s League Cup (although City won 2-1).
Luna, Cameron, Yacob. At this point, Wenger must’ve asked his defenders if they were playing an elaborate practical joke.
Lewis Grabban (Nov 29, 2015)
While Grabban’s Carrow Road equaliser against Arsenal was undeniably well-taken, we’re not sure it was enough to justify Bournemouth paying £8m for the bearded striker, 18 months after they’d sold him to Norwich for £3m.
He subsequently played 18 Premier League games for Bournemouth and scored in none of them.
Cuco Martina (Dec 26, 2015)
Less than a month later, the Premier League’s fifth Curaçaoan player laced home this underrated wondergoal to send Southampton on their way to a 4-0 pasting of Arsenal. Christmas is over, losers.
By this point, Wenger was evidently cursed.
Borja Baston (Oct 15, 2016)
In their seven years as a Premier League outfit, Swansea’s misadventures in the transfer market have brought them such misfiring strikers as Itay Shechter, Alvaro Vazquez, David N’Gog, Marvin Emnes, Nelson Oliviera, Eder, Alberto Paloschi and Borja Baston. Eight signings who’d end up with six goals between them across 110 top-flight appearances.
Most of those were on loan, but Borja Baston cost Swansea a club record £15.5m after hitting 18 goals for Eibar in his first La Liga season. Though a tap-in at the Emirates added hope to expectation, it proved to be his only goal in 18 league and cup matches.
Jesé (Aug 19, 2017)
This season, Mark Hughes’s Stoke beat Wenger’s Arsenal 1-0, with two-time Champions League-winner Jesé scoring on debut and looking like a potentially brilliant loan signing.
Truly, it was a different time.
Lewis Dunk (March 4, 2018)
Who needs Aubameyang and Ozil when you have Shane Duffy and Dunk? The two centre-halves combined to put Brighton ahead after seven minutes as Petr Cech claimed a high ball against Duffy with as much authority and conviction as his pink kit would allow. Arsenal lost 2-1: a fourth straight defeat.
On the plus side, Wenger’s successor can’t inherit his bad luck with have-a-go heroes.
Get the best features, fun and footballing frolics straight to your inbox every week.
Thank you for signing up to Four Four Two. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.