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Arsenal must remain focused


Five of Arsenal's most memorable recent January signings

Months after joining Arsenal in January 2006, Theo Walcott found himself on England's World Cup squad.
Theo Walcott was plucked from Southampton and has become a top player.

Arsene Wenger has often said he's not a fan of doing business in the January transfer window, when prices are inflated and few top players are available. And yet the Arsenal manager has often managed to find squad reinforcements he considered worth picking up midseason. Here's a look at some of Wenger's most memorable January signings -- for better or worse.

Theo Walcott

Walcott is one of many teenage prospects who have joined Arsenal in the January window but has gone on to become by far the most successful. The speedy forward signed from Southampton as a 16-year-old for an initial fee of £5 million that eventually reached £12m and had not even made a Premier League appearance before he was called up by Sven-Goran Eriksson to England's 2006 World Cup squad.

While he never played for the team in Germany, the expectation level was raised on Walcott to a level he has struggled to live up to since. Like so many other Arsenal players, his career has been hampered by injuries, but he has scored more than 80 goals in over 300 appearances for the team. At 26, many think Walcott's best years are still ahead of him -- if he can stay healthy, that is.

Abou Diaby

The towering France midfielder goes down as one of the great "what ifs" of the Wenger era, possessing an immense potential that was never fulfilled because of a never-ending series of injuries.

Signed from Auxerre in 2006, Diaby's physique and playing style drew frequent comparisons to both Arsenal great Patrick Vieira and current Manchester City giant Yaya Toure, but he quickly became more synonymous with the rehab room. The Frenchman had a promising first year at Arsenal until a crunching tackle by Sunderland's Dan Smith damaged his ankle so badly he needed three surgeries and an eight-month layoff to recover.

While he still showed flashes of brilliance on his return, Diaby's career was blighted by so many injuries he spent a total of four years on the sidelines before being released at the end of last season. He returned to France and joined Marseille, where he was quickly ruled out for the season because of -- what else? -- an injury. He's an Arsenal legend, but perhaps for all the wrong reasons.

Andrei Arshavin

Andrei Arshavin showed plenty of potential, but failed to make it count.

The Russian playmaker became Arsenal's record signing when he joined for £15m from Zenit St. Petersburg in 2009 after being one of the standout stars at Euro 2008. He initially lived up to the hype, scoring all four goals in Arsenal's 4-4 draw against Liverpool at Anfield and providing a creative spark in midfield. But he became increasingly inconsistent in later seasons, with fans often questioning his desire and work ethic.

He was loaned back to Zenit toward the end of the 2011-2012 season and returned to the Russian club for good in 2013. Aside from his four goals, Arshavin is best remembered at the club for his curious Q&A sessions on his personal website.

Emmanuel Adebayor

The Togo striker joined Arsenal for around £3m from Monaco in January 2006 and went from hero to villain among fans after leaving the club in 2009. Adebayor scored on his debut and quickly became Arsenal's leading striker in the absence of the oft-injured Robin van Persie, netting a total of 62 goals in 142 appearances for the Gunners. Highlights included the winning goal against Manchester United at Old Trafford at the start of the 2006-07 season, and his two league hat tricks against Derby in the following campaign, when he was included in the PFA team of the year.

However, he will never be remembered fondly at the Emirates after agitating for a move to Manchester City [which he eventually got for £25m] and then running the length of the pitch to celebrate in front of the visiting Arsenal fans after scoring against his former club.

Nacho Monreal

Monreal has gradually become one of Wenger's major January success stories. The Spanish full-back joined from Malaga for around £8m in 2013 and was initially used as a backup to Kieran Gibbs before forcing his way into a regular starting place with his consistent displays. Now considered one of the best left-backs in the Premier League, Monreal has also been used in central defence by Wenger when needed.

A solid defender who is rarely caught out of position, Monreal also has the ability to push forward and send dangerous crosses into the area. He has been one of Arsenal's most reliable performers this season, and is big reason why the Gunners are currently top of the Premier League.

Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him @MattiasKaren.


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