In light of Alex Song’s surprise loan move to West Ham after a miserable spell in Barcelona, we look at how leaving Arsene Wenger’s stewardship is a decision that has back-fired for many!
The Frenchman has a reputation for scouting and nurturing young talent into top players. However, many have become superstars and decided to part ways with Arsenal in search of pastures new and perhaps more silverware, not to mention money.
Wenger is unique in the way he develops talent and many have struggled to deal with him not coaching them anymore, with him seemingly the main reason for a lot of mediocre players' top performances.
The atmosphere and way of doing things around Arsenal is radically different to most clubs in the way that it is more like a college than an intense club atmosphere, with Wenger trusting the players and treating them like men.
While this does not always work out, there are more than a few players that have seen their game, and subsequently their reputations, enhanced by the Frenchman's shrewd operating at crucial moments in their careers.
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Here are some of the more prominent examples:
In 2005, Wenger swooped for the relatively unknown Belarus player from the Bundesliga outfit Stuttgart. Over the next three years he would develop him from a nobody into one of the Premier League’s best midfielders, as he enjoyed three solid years at the club in which he endeared himself to the Arsenal fans.
However in 2008, he decided he wanted to make what he deemed a step up to Barcelona and joined them for €17 million. Unfortunately, he endured a horrible time at the Nou Camp and his career began sinking frighteningly fast, never getting anyway near the heights he achieved at Arsenal ever again.
He later admitted leaving the Emirates was ‘his biggest regret’ and now plays for Konyaspor in Turkey.
Samir Nasri may not have suffered the career fall that Hleb faced on leaving Arsenal, boosting his medals tally and bank account at Manchester City, but has failed to become the superstar he was on course to becoming at the North London club.
Yes he has done well at City but he undoubtedly had the talent to become one of the world’s best players and has never reached that potential or played to the level he did in his last season at the Gunners in his time at the Etihad.
He is convinced he made the right move but a number of average performances and extended spells on the bench may suggest otherwise. Ever since Arsene Wenger snapped up the wonder kid from Marseille in 2008, he had been touted for great things and progressively grew over the years he spent at Arsenal, hitting his peak in his final season in which he was one of Europe’s stand-out performers.
Although City’s money and project proved too much to turn down, and some will suggest the silverware he has won at the club was worth it, but you can’t help but feel it came at the expense of being one of the world’s best players. Has never performed as well as he did under Wenger.
At the time another unknown prospect, Mathieu Flamini joined Arsenal from Marseille in the summer of 2004 and after taking time to settle he became a key component in the side as he attempted to, fairing reasonably well, fill Patrick Viera’s considerable shoes.
In 2008 he reached what was to be his career peak as he became recognised as one of the world’s best defensive midfielders as Arsenal came agonisingly close to Premier League glory.
This status began to attract interest from the big fish in world football and eventually he joined AC Milan. He would spend five years at Milan in which he would disappoint, appearing to be a shadow of the player he was under Wenger as he was eventually released in 2013 having become something of a forgotten man.
However, Arsenal was always in his heart and in a shock move, a Flamini full of regret at leaving in the first place, joined them once more that very summer to reunite with Wenger.
Fabregas was signed from Barcelona at the tender age of 16 in 2003 and from the start Wenger could see he had acquired a special player. Over the years he would develop into one of the world’s best midfielders as began to tear up trees in the 2006/07 season before becoming the club’s captain in 2008.
For the next three years he captained Arsenal with distinction, performing superbly but eventually the lure of a home coming to Barcelona seemed inevitable.
In 2011, after years of speculation, he finally made the move back to the Nou Camp in what appeared to be the perfect move. However he would endure a tough time at Barcelona as not everything went to plan, as he faced a struggle to find top form and to break up the Xavi-Iniesta midfield monopoly which had been dominating Europe.
In the summer of 2013 he was heavily linked with Manchester United before this time round joining Chelsea in a return to English shores. Another player to struggle away from the man that made him but Jose Mourinho will be looking to change that after the Spaniard’s promising start at Stamford Bridge.
The before mentioned Alex Song was another completely unheralded player turned into a big name. When he first joined as a youngster from Bastia in 2006, he appeared to not be of Arsenal quality, although Wenger worked hard on him and by the 2011/12 season he had become an outstanding player as he and Robin Van Persie built a lethal partnership.
However, like the Dutchman, he would also leave the Emirates that summer as in a surprise move, he joined Barcelona for £15 million. However in two years spent in Catalonia he endured a torrid time, never looking good enough, as he struggled from the start.
A loan move to West Ham United has started out successfully, with some reports suggesting the Premier League bigger clubs, but the reality is that he know looks condemned to only ever being a starter at a mid-table club, at best.
The leader and main man for so much of Wenger’s time at Arsenal – who enjoyed nine wonderful years at the club which were laden with trophies, records and success. Viera really is an Arsenal legend but in 2005 having lead the club to FA Cup glory, scoring the winning penalty against Man United in the final’s shoot-out, he decided to look for a new challenge in Italy.
First he joined Juventus before having to call quits on a short career in Turin following the outbreak of the Calciopoli scandal. He then joined Inter where he started well, winning Serie A, before dropping down the club's pecking order as Robero Mancini neglected the midfield general.
After extended spells on the sidelines, he joined Man City on a short contract but by this point he was gone as a player. In 2011 he retired having had a wonderful career but still thinking of what could have been had he stayed just a few more years with Wenger at Arsenal.
To summarise with the lack of trophies and big names coming in at Arsenal the grass can seem greener elsewhere. However as many have found out, replicating the homely & warm atmosphere created at the Emirates in which to develop and cooperate as a professional is almost an impossible task.
Sometimes you don’t know what you have until it’s gone!