In the last four years Arsenal have sold some quality players including two club captains and if the board had opted to persuade those players to stay the Gunners could be in a very different situation to the one they find themselves in.
On Sunday Arsenal fans will have to endure one of the most painful and humiliating experiences they’ve ever had to face at the Emirates when their former captain, Robin van Persie returns to the club after recently having been crowned league champion with Manchester United.
Arsene Wenger has insisted that Arsenal give the champions a guard of honour, as they did the same for the Gunners in 1991 and also out of respect for Van Persie and his United team.
Van Persie is without a doubt one of the players that could have made the difference for Arsenal in 2012/13 and in future years. The Dutchman was injured for much of his time at the Emirates and only fully realised his potential in the 2011/12 season when he helped Arsene Wenger’s side secure a third spot in the league.
However, he isn’t the only one that is missed in the Gunners’ ranks and, had Arsenal held on to those stars, this season could’ve turned out much differently and Wenger could just as easily have lifted that trophy on May 19.
Here is a look at the Arsenal team if the board hadn’t allowed star players to leave over the course of the last four seasons – and still have purchased the additions that feature in the present team.
Goalkeeper | Wojcech Szczesny
Although the young Pole put on a few shaky displays this season, he is still tremendously talented and deserves a starting berth. He is very young and could still mature into one of the best stoppers that Arsenal have seen.
Right back | Bacary Sagna
The Frenchman have endured some injury niggles in recent times and hasn’t been on his best form but, when Sagna is at his best, there are very few right backs that could compete.
Centre back | Kolo Toure
Although 32-years-old, the Ivorian is very experienced at club and international level. He was solid at the back for the Gunners and a good leader. If Toure didn’t make the big-money move to Manchester City he could have been one of Arsenal’s legends.
Centre back | Laurent Koscielny
The Frenchman has again proved his worth this season. Although having a somewhat shaky start to the season, Koscielny has been turning in consistent performances of late. Being one of the fastest defenders in the league, the French international can keep up with and cover the fastest attackers.
Left back | Gael Clichy
Another Arsenal defender that opted for a move to Manchester City. The left back has pace, skill, good crossing and goal-scoring ability and if he had stayed he could’ve been an Arsenal great.
Defensive midfield | Alex Song
Arsenal have missed Song’s presence in front of the back four this season. He is a good holding midfielder and also threatening in attack with the ability to provide dangerous through balls to his forwards.
Song transferred to Barcelona but has spent much of his time at the Catalan club warming the bench.
Central midfield | Cesc Fabregas
The former captain was absolutely invaluable to the club and when the Spaniard left for his childhood club Barcelona, he left a gaping hole in Arsenal’s midfield and in the hearts of Arsenal fans. His playmaking ability, creativity and capacity to find the goal is sorely missed.
Central midfield | Santi Cazorla
If Arsene Wenger could have held on to the star players that left for greener pastures and still have acquired Santi Cazorla, there wouldn’t have been a much better midfield in the Premier League this season.
The little Spaniard’s passing is immaculate and he is at the heart of Arsenal’s creativity. He doesn’t seem to have a weak foot and can produce a powerful shot off both.
Left wing | Lukas Podolski
Although the German hasn’t been afforded much playing time recently, Podolski is always a threat to defenders. His pace, agility, trickery, and striking ability are qualities that Wenger needs to make use of. In combination with Robin van Persie, Podolski could’ve been deadly.
Striker | Robin van Persie
What is there to say about the Dutchman that every Arsenal fan isn’t painfully aware of? He scores when he wants to – as the Emirates crowd used to chant. Van Persie probably played the biggest role in Manchester United’s success this season and could just as easily have done it for Arsenal had he stayed.
Right wing | Theo Walcott
The young England international has blistering pace but has also improved remarkably in his finishing and passing. Despite his recent dip in form Walcott remains Arsenal’s top goal scorer with 18 so far this season. Walcott used to have a very effective understanding with Van Persie and the two formed a lethal partnership.
On the substitutes bench:
(Nacho Monreal; Carlos Vela & Samir Nasri not included in squad)
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