ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger has made it clear he wants to build the club’s future on a base of home-grownplayers, and this summer alone has secured goalkeeper Richard Wright from Ipswich, defender Sol Campbell from arch-rivals Tottenham and forward Francis Jeffers from Everton. Yet the Frenchman had few qualms about spending œ8.5million on Rangers’ Dutch international Giovanni Van Bronckhorst.
Arsenal beat Chelsea in the race to buy the stylish midfielder, and while his arrival was inevitably overshadowed by that of Campbell, Van Bronckhorst may yet prove to be Wenger’s shrewdest capture to date.
The presence of compatriot Dennis Bergkamp at Highbury was a key factor in Van Bronckhorst opting to leave Scottish football and make the move south. ‘I spoke to Dennis a few times and he was very keen on me coming here,’ he says. ‘I have made no secret of the fact that I’m a big fan of the Premiership, and Arsenal are one of the great teams in the world.’
Van Bronckhorst is prepared for the challenge of Premier League football, saying: ‘The last three years have been the best of my career but this was the time for me to change direction. I won the championship and lots of prizes in Scotland, and now I want to do the same with Arsenal.
‘There is great ambition here,’ he adds. ‘You can see by the signings the manager has made this summer that we can mount a big challenge for the title next season.’
The controversial capture of Campbell transformed what looked like being a gloomy summer at Highbury into a triumph for Wenger, and Van Bronckhorst appreciates the importance of the deal.
‘Campbell is one of the main players in the England team and he is a great signing,’ he says. ‘I played against an England Under-18 side that included Campbell and he was so big and intimidating, even at that age. He has grown into an even better player and must be one of the best defenders in Europe.’
The future of Patrick Vieira, however, is still in doubt, although Van Bronckhorst is hopeful he will remain with the club, adding: ‘I’d love to play alongside Vieira this season.’
Should Van Bronckhorst’s wish be fulfilled, Arsenal’s standing among Europe’s elite may be set for a rapid rise.
Club Arsenal (Eng)
Born February 5, 1975, in Rotterdam
Previous clubs Feyenoord, RKC Waalwijk, Rangers (Sco)
International debut August 1996, v Brazil
International caps 21 (2 goals)
Honours Scottish League 1999, 2000; Scottish Cup 1999, 2000; Scottish League Cup 1998-99