Playing for Arsenal is not only a privilege, but it is an honour. Being accepted into Arsene Wenger’s family, and being afforded the opportunity to knock it with some of the most technically adept footballers on the planet - who wouldn’t dream of such an opportunity?
There are those however, who have yearned for this since they were young enough to kick a ball in a straight line. The Arsenal side of the late 90’s and early 00’s has much to answer for in increasing the club’s brand on a global scale, the French contingent who enjoyed much success over a five-to-six year period inspiring millions the world over.
But where Arsenal have failed however, is capitalising on their ability to weave into the hearts of these budding young talents. While Wenger’s beady eye, always on the search for a fresh pair of legs, is as watchful as any in the business, there have been many a time when his reluctance to pounce in the transfer market has let others profit from his indecisiveness. There have been a number of Arsenal fans who have gone on, or will go on, to achieve great.
You get the feeling that if things had worked out a little differently, and if a couple of these boyhood fans had realised their dream of being offered the opportunity of playing for the club of their youth, the Arsenal trophy cabinet might not have so many cobwebs on it.
Take a look at the ten boyhood Arsenal fans who the club should have signed.
10. Axel Witsel
“I’ve been an Arsenal fan since I was a kid, around 5 or 6 years of age. I love the club because there’s so much young talent. When they play well - it’s amazing. I think I’m good enough to play for Arsenal.” - Axel Witsel, December 2008.
What are you waiting for, Arsene? Axel Witsel is not just one of those footballers who caught a few Arsenal games on TV as a youngster and developed an admiration for Thierry Henry - the Belgian has regularly attended Arsenal games, even joining in the anti-Spurs songs with the match-going faithful. When a Tottenham fan asked him to sign for them, his indignant yet light-hearted retort was that he ‘wanted to sign for a big club’.
“I dream to play for Arsenal. If Man United, Chelsea an Arsenal want me, I’d go straight to Arsenal without any thought. Thierry Henry is my idol. I love this player because he has so much class. What I love most is the way he celebrates his goals. It seems he doesn’t care about his goal.” - Axel Witsel, December 2008.
The tough-tackling midfielder has been linked with Chelsea, Juventus and Everton this summer following a strong showing at Euro 2016, but should the Gunners look to bolster their midfield with the signing of the want away Zenit Saint Petersburg star, they would surely be in pole position.