Recently Arsenal have been plagued by having to sell their best players; Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri & Emmanuel Adebayor to name but a few.
Arsene Wenger’s solution to this has been to attempt to look for bargains and concentrate on developing products of their so highly regarded youth system. In essence this sounds like a great idea but can it actually work?
It’s no secret that their squads ever since ‘The Invincibles’ of 2004 have been getting progressively weaker.
The first main sale from that team was Patrick Vieira, leader and enforcer from central midfield. He left for £13.7million and was immediately replaced by Abou Diaby, designed as a like-for-like replacement for £2million.
This was the first of many instances where a quality player was sold and a younger, similar player brought in with a tidy profit taken. It’s very hard to argue that injury prone Diaby has lived up to the dizzy heights of Vieira.
Next to go was Ashley Cole for £5million + Gallas who was seen as a replacement for Sol Campbell who also departed.
Gael Clichy who’d been brought in the year before for £200,000 was seen as the man to take over the left back role left by Cole. Neither Gallas nor Clichy have lived up to the quality in their positions before them.
Robert Pires then departed for free and an almost identical player in both style and appearance in Tomas Rosicky was signed for an undisclosed fee.
Memories of Pires bombing down the wing before cutting in and curving a shot into the top corner are yet to be replicated by Rosicky. Also in that window the great Dennis Bergkamp retired.
Then the big one: Thierry Henry. He left for Barcelona for £16million and Eduardo joined from Dinamo Zagreb, to replace him for £7.5million who, despite possessing a certain poaching quality was nothing compared to the second highest Premier League goal scorer ever.
By now the trend had begun. People began to talk about the common theme as the great invincible team was being dismantled but no one with the power to put an end to the problem did anything and it has since spiralled out of control.
Alexander Hleb and Gilberto Silva were the next to go for £12million and £1million respectively. Wenger acted more drastically this time signing Samir Nasri for £12million and Andrei Arshavin for £15million, their record transfer at the time.
Jens Lehmann also left and is where their goalkeeping problems began with neither Lukas Fabianski nor Manuel Almunia stepping up to fill his shoes.
Their best player (Adebayor) and best defender (Kolo Toure) then left to Manchester City for £25million and £16million and have since failed to find any form but you wonder if they may have continued their brilliance at Arsenal.
Adebayor was not replaced and Thomas Vermaelen was brought in for Toure, which is a rare instance where this policy seems to have worked.
At this point I should mention is where I feel this policy became unsustainable and was also the same time where Wenger lost his touch with finding unpolished gems and began to make some blunders in the transfer market. They had a few great youngsters coming through in Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs.
In Cesc Fabregas they had the best player in the league at the time so Wenger’s mistakes were shoved under the carpet in a way.
Laurent Koscielny was signed for £8.5million, Sebastian Squillaci for £6million and Marouane Chamakh on a free. Koscielny has come under heavy criticism during his Arsenal career, Squillaci has been awful and Chamakh made a good start before completely dying away. Meanwhile Eduardo and Gallas left.
The now famous trophy drought had begun to take its toll on the quality players still at the club and became too much. After many years of quality service to the club Cesc Fabregas returned to Barcelona for £35million and after a stellar season Samir Nasri left to rivals Man City for £25million.
These, their two best players one of which was captain, had left a gaping hole in midfield. Wilshere and Ramsey were put under pressure to step up but Wilshere then suffered his horrific career stalling injury while Ramsey had never fully recovered after Ryan Shawcross’ aberration of a tackle on him. Clichy also left to City.
Mikel Arteta and Andre Santos were brought in and have fallen drastically short of their predecessors. Other poor transfers were made in Gervinho for £12.5million and Mertesacker for £8million, which confirmed my suspicions that Wenger was not living up to his talent spotting reputation.
That brings us to this season and Robin Van Persie (£24million) and Alex Song (£15million) who departed. Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and more recently Nacho Monreal have been signed.
While it is true they have scored more goals after RVP’s departure than before it’s hard for even the most ardent of Gunners to claim he is not miles ahead of Podolski and Giroud, his replacements.
Cazorla however has proved to be a real gem and his former Malaga teammate Monreal being signed for significantly below their values perhaps shows Wenger still has his touch with finding bargain signings.
In Santos, Squillaci, Chamakh, Park Chu Young and Gervinho he has signed five players who are far off the standard of players they should be aiming to bring to the club.
It is well documented that they have a huge sum of cash for Wenger to spend and perhaps the tying down of Walcott, Gibbs, Ramsey, Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Carl Jenkinson to long term deals shows a change to the quality of players leaving but it is now up to not only Wenger but Ivan Gazidis and Stan Kroenke who need to be prepared to loosen the purse strings and buy some world-class talent to bring a new era full of trophies to the Emirates.
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