Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger came under intense criticism this summer prior to the arrival of record transfer Mesut Ozil after several years of selling their star players.
Ashley Cole to Chelsea £5M (2006)
The Blues man has had an extremely successful career for both Chelsea and England domestically, continentally and worldwide and can probably be considered one of Wenger’s worst sales of his tenure.
However, now 32, ‘Cashley’ has lost his edge after being one of the best fullbacks in the world for around a decade. This season, Kieran Gibbs has looked in fantastic shape after several seasons of injury struggles and setbacks – he has a long way to go to genuinely replace Cole as he was eventually intended to.
He cost Arsenal nothing as he is an academy graduate in Cole’s model and he’s valued at £9.7M now at the age of 24. He’s now got the experience, the fitness and the technical quality to compete with an aging Ashley Cole for the first time in his career – he’s not all that far off and Cole is now valued at just £7M.
Alexander Hleb to Barcelona £11.8M (2008)
This one’s a no brainer – in retrospect, Hleb would probably consider leaving Arsenal the beginning of the end of his career. He never really made the grade at Barca and made just 19 appearances in four years in which he was loaned out to various clubs including Birmingham City before permanent transfers to Krylia Sovetov Samara and BATE Borisov. Hleb is now valued at £1.3M
Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey is probably the most dangerous and complete midfielder in the Premier League at present after arriving for just £5M to join the academy, he is now valued around £11.5M with his stock sure to sky-rocket after an impeccable start to the season as top goal scorer at the club. Academy starlet Jack Wilshere cost nothing and is valued around £29M and his two goals on Tuesday against Marseille show just how much ability he has even at the tender age of 21.
Kolo Toure to Man City £16M (2009)
Arsenal’s ‘feeder club’ status is something which has haunted them for the past couple of years as their mercenaries went off in pursuit of bumper paychecks at the Etihad. One of the first was Kolo Toure who has recently been released on a free transfer to Liverpool where he is starting to resuscitate his career, at the age now of 32.
Arsenal’s defenders Per Mertesacker who arrived in 2011 for £10M, and Laurent Koscielny who arrived in 2010 have now become one of the most formidable pairings in the league as well as club captain Thomas Vermaelen who has fallen from grace since his £10M transfer in 2009 but nonetheless is still better than Toure. Vermaelen is valued at £14M, Mertesacker at £14M and Koscielny at £15M.
Emmanuel Adebayor to Man City £25M (2009)
That same summer Arsenal sold their striker to the Citizens for a hefty fee just a year and a bit later he was being tossed back out the exit door – first on loan and now on a permanent deal at Tottenham where he rarely gets a game, never mind a start and is valued around £8.8M. To be honest, I don’t even think Spurs fans rate him or even like him.
Olivier Giroud, however, has really found his feet since his arrival in 2012 for £13M from Montpellier. He does ever so well for the Gunners, not just in front of goal where he has really gained confidence and composure but also holding the ball up, bringing his teammates in, assisting their goals, and even defending. The Frenchman is now valued at £14M and has proven to be an excellent addition. His work rate and attitude is fantastic and much better than Adebayor's, never mind his goal tally.
Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona £35M (2011)
Along with Cole, this was another one of Wenger’s worst sales – this departure effectively decapitated Arsenal or, at the very least, cut the heart out of the club. The former captain remains a fantastic footballer even though he perhaps isn’t appreciated at the Camp Nou and I have no doubt he’ll continue to be one of the best midfielders in the world for the next decade.
Arsenal’s recent record signing Mesut Ozil, however, is probably the only playmaker who could even get close to replacing the former skipper in terms of his creativity and inspiration. Ozil is probably at a slightly higher technical and physical level – he’s faster and sharper (just) when he’s at his best.
I think in their original attempt to replace Fabregas with Mikel Arteta, Arsenal probably failed (admirably) but the Spaniard does have something Ozil doesn’t which is that leadership capability and determined mentality of his compatriot. Ozil is now valued at £44M and Fabregas at £39M. I do think, when in form and confidence, Ozil is probably the better player.
Samir Nasri to Man City £22M (2011)
When Samir Nasri defected to City in the fire sale of summer 2011, he was one of the most dangerous attacking players in the league and certainly one of the most audacious and inspired but after almost three years at City, he’s fallen down the pecking order, made some high profile mistakes, some high profile comments, and generally looks like an average to good player on a weekly basis.
His value has decreased to £15.5M which is rare for a player of his age – he’s just 26 but you’d have to say the best years of his career looks to have been well behind him. Who knows, maybe he’ll regain his form but I think the competition for places at the Etihad doesn’t help him and, in fairness, neither does his attitude.
Santi Cazorla signed for £20M in 2012 and is undoubtedly better at Arsenal than the current Nasri at City – I might even go as far as to say the pint-sized Spaniard is better than the Arsenal version of Nasri was at his peak. Cazorla’s value has risen now to £26.5M and even £12M signing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is now worth £15M and looks (when fit) to be a real handful in that same mould as Nasri – the energy, the tenacity and dynamism. I would probably take the youngster over the Frenchman as well, given the choice.
Gael Clichy to Man City £7M (2011)
Clichy is another former Arsenal man who’s not exactly set the world on fire at City – he’s been okay, not too bad or particularly good and, overall, £8.3M arrival in January, Nacho Monreal is looking at the moment like he’s going to give Gibbs a good run for his money this term.
He was splendid on Tuesday and I think he’s probably performing at a higher level than Clichy, although to be fair to the Frenchman, he’s got more experience in England.
Monreal’s value has increased to £9.7M since his arrival and Clichy’s has increased to £14M since joining City. Given time and a run of games, I would expect Monreal to be as good as Clichy if he isn’t already. There’s not all that much in it on present form. The only certainty is they’re both light years ahead of Andre Santos.
Alex Song to Barcelona £15M (2012)
This signing at the time was overshadowed by another high profile departure and, in fairness, Song had been in fine form at Arsenal that season but upon his arrival in La Liga he was voted one of the worst signings of that year – he is expected to leave in the next transfer window or the summer as he hasn’t really impressed at all and, in all likelihood, probably regrets leaving Arsenal now.
Any concerns over his exit were quickly put to bed by the astounding performance of Mikel Arteta last term who was converted into that deeper-lying holding midfield role. He really surprised a lot of people – so much so that it’s easy to forget he is one of the most creative and talented attacking midfielders.
The return of Mathieu Flamini on a free transfer has also proven to be very astute business by Wenger – the pair of them, together or individually offer the Gunners’ back four far more protection than Song ever did and really have made a massive impact in that position – I think both of them are very underrated as defensive midfielders. Song is now valued at £16M, Arteta at £7.9M and Flamini at £4.4M but, pound for pound, Arsenal have the better deal I reckon.
Robin van Persie to Man United £24.5M (2012)
This is, along with Fabregas and Cole, the most disastrous departure in Wenger’s reign – what he was thinking when he let the Dutch striker sign for United, I have no idea.
He brought in that summer Lukas Podolski who is a very sharp finisher and, when he plays and he’s fit, has a killer left foot not far off Van Persie’s but, let’s not kid ourselves, he’s not a 30-goals-per-season striker and he is not Robin van Persie.
Podolski signed in 2012 for £11M and is now valued at £20M so that’s pretty good and Van Persie is now valued £39.5M so not so good on that front. It’ll be interesting to see how Van Persie feels now after Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement and Rene Muelensteen’s departure – I wonder if, come the end of the season, the little boy inside him will be feeling a little homesick. Or just sick in general, maybe. We’ll see. Patience is a virtue, they say.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald