Season after season, it seems that Arsenal cannot seem to keep hold of their star players.
The start of the 2012/2013 campaign was no different. The loss of Robin van Persie and Alex Song opened up a big debate between football fans and pundits a like. Why are the Gunners just a feeder club for the 'big' teams, and can they still be considered a top club?
Off the top of my head, I can think of a big player leaving Arsenal every year from 2005. Patrick Vieira, Ashley Cole, Robert Pires, Thierry Henry, Gael Clichy, Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Toure, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Alex Song and most recently, Robin van Persie.
Granted, some of those players are a much bigger loss than others, but it still opens up a question, is Arsenal a middle-tier team for a player to just make a name for themselves, before moving on to bigger and better things?
All of the above mentioned players would not be where they are today without the help of Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. I think everyone who is reading this will agree with me when I say that before Arsenal, these footballers were average players who not many people had heard of. After they left north London, they all left a big hole in the Arsenal team and some still haven't even been replaced.
So what has happened from the team that went 49 games unbeaten? And what are the reasons for the top players leaving Arsenal every year?
Money has a lot to answer for. Ashley Cole, a footballer who has failed to endear himself to the everyday person, left Arsenal when they were at their best. He joined Chelsea because he got greedy and didn't like being on 'only' £50,000-per-week at Arsenal, instead opting to move across London to Chelsea, doubling his wages in the process.
Can you blame Arsenal for Cole's departure? I don't think so, no. Ashley Cole's wage demands were ridiculous and Wenger was right to let him leave.
A couple of years down the line, Arsenal lost threee massive players all in one transfer window. To make matters worse, they all left to join mega-rich Manchester City, having been taken over by Abu Dhabi billionaire, Sheikh Mansour.
Gael Clichy, Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor all agreed to move to the Etihad Stadium because of the increase in wages on offer. Nasri followed suit a few years later, despite only having one great season for Arsenal.
Then came the summer of 2012 and probably the worst betrayal of all. Going from hero to zero in an instant, Robin van Persie left Arsenal to join Manchester United.
Arsenal offered him a contract extension and were prepared to break their rigid wage structure in an attempt to keep RVP. However he chose to join United, who offered him a reported £250,000-per-week contract, shunning interest from the blue half of Manchester in the process.
So are we a feeder club? In my opinion, we haven't had an option but to sell the players we have lost in recent years. The majority seem more interested in doubling, and in some cases trebling their wage packets, rather than staying with Arsenal, building for the future and aiming to recreate the 'Invincible' team from the 2003/04 season.
The reason why we have been called a feeder club is because Wenger often turns to previously unheard of footballers before transforming them into world-beaters. Arsenal's policy of spend small sell big has served them well in the past, and they are one of the most financially well-run clubs in world football.
The issues I have with Arsenal, however, is that we always get praised for how we run our club. We aren't in debt, we spend what we have, we play football the right way etc etc. As a passionate fan of the club, I want to see trophies, I don't want to hear how we are making profits.
Are we a feeder club? I think you have to say that we are. But I think the criticism that Wenger and the board get is very harsh because they do not want to lose their top players, but nor do they want to give them more money than what they deserve. It's about getting the balance right between spending what you can afford and building a competitive squad.
Arsenal are still a big club with big opportunities, and even though everyone questions us, we always prove them wrong. Players come and go, but the name lives forever.
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