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Arsenal’s history of selling their best players: A fan’s view

Arsenal’s transfer dealings are under incessant scrutiny almost year-round. Fans of the club and fans of football in general regard Arsenal as a club that hesitates to spend money.

They would seem to be correct based on the Gunner’s history in the transfer window. The 40 million and one pound bid for Luis Suarez in 2013 would suggest that all the scrutiny is fair.

Their history of selling their best players also provides football fans with all the more reason to criticize in suggesting to fans that the club does not believe in winning trophies.

Is this a just criticism?

If we consider the components necessary to win the Premier League, we should believe that it is indeed a just criticism. The most important component of a team is talent. If a team does not have the ability to win consistently, they will not last the course of 38 matches with the best record.

Arsenal has always been a club with good players and high expectations, but we should no longer regard them in this manner. Their history of selling the best talent suggests a closer examination of their true ambitions.

Arsenal Selling To Chelsea and Man City

Ashley Cole – At the time, the Englishman was one of the best left-backs in England. He was also only 25 years old—a player nearing the peak of his career. The decision to sell to a direct rival in Chelsea boggled the minds of Arsenal fans. Why did they sell him?  The reason for selling the player was to fund construction of the Emirate Stadium. Selling players does generate money and is a valid reason but not a valid reason to sell to a major rival.

Emmanuel Adebayor – Adebayor was the Gunners’ best scorer when he left in 2009. He was attempting to fill the shoes of Thierry Henry, a nearly impossible task. Even after playing well, however, that did not stop Arsenal cashing in on the striker. The departure to the Citizens happened amid anger and turmoil as it looked as though he wanted the move for more money. This deal was another calamity from Arsenal’s perspective with more strength going to one of their adversaries.

Samir Nasri – One of the side’s best players at the time of his sale. The Frenchman was coming off one of his best seasons with Arsenal, scoring 15 goals from his midfield position.

Another player sold to a direct rival. Manchester City went on to win the league the next year with the help of the player Arsene Wenger had developed. Again, we heard the argument of the stadium funding. At this point it was 2011, the stadium had been built in 2006 and 5 years had passed. The stadium cost 390 million pounds, but Arsenal generates enormous amounts of money every season. The club has the highest ticket prices nearly every year. The argument of stadium funding is becoming very tenuous at this point.

Arsenal Selling To Barcelona

Thierry Henry – Undisputedly Arsenal’s greatest ever player. This transfer was a little more tolerable. Henry is the club’s best player and every good player desires to win trophies. He judged the team he left to be too young and immature to win titles, so he moved to Barcelona. With Barcelona he had an extremely good chance of success. He did not merely move for an outrageous paycheck. Also, he did not move to a direct competitor. This transfer is easier to understand and does not suggest Arsenal is a “selling team”. Yes they sold their best player, but it wasn’t to a rival, and they did have a new stadium that needed financing.

Cesc Fabregas – A similar sale to that of Henry. He didn’t go to a direct rival, and he left to win trophies. Also, when Barcelona beckons, it is very hard to turn them down. Fabregas came up through the youth system at Barcelona, which made the decision to leave even more tempting. This transfer is more understanding because of its nature. It didn’t enhance the teams around us and we were sending a player back to his boyhood club.

Arsenal Selling To Manchester United

The worst departures of all, however, were the sales of Robin van Persie and Alexis Sanchez to Manchester United.

Van Persie is the best goalscorer at Arsenal since Henry. He had just come off a stellar season, scoring 30 goals, and winning the golden boot award. The summer was a very dark place for Arsenal fans, however. The Gunners faithful were outraged when they heard their best player would join Manchester United. How could they sell the best striker in the league to one of their biggest rivals?

It was a very difficult transfer to comprehend, and not just for Arsenal fans, but football fans in general. The stadium financing argument was thrown about again, but this did not warrant selling to a direct rival (who would go on to win the league with RVP as their top scorer).

The most recent sale of Alexis Sanchez has completely demolished the argument of paying for the Emirates. It has been 12 years since the stadium has been built. Also, according to all media, there was no transfer of money between the clubs. Arsenal received Henrikh Mhkitaryan in return for Alexis with no funds being exchanged. Once again, the best player in the side was sold to one of their number one adversaries.

Analyzing each major departure from Arsenal

The transfers of Ashley Cole, Emmanuel Adebayor, Samir Nasri, Robin van Persie, and Alexis Sanchez show us that Arsenal have been correctly branded as a “selling club”. Selling players to strengthen close adversaries is not something that happens frequently and is extremely rare.

With Arsenal it has become a regular occurrence. They have sold a player of high quality to a rival almost once every five years. This history of selling tells us all we need to know about the club’s ambition for the future. The hierarchy at the club is content with top 5 finishes. They are not a winning team. We have seen it for the last 12 years and we will see it in the future, unless some big changes are made and some big names are replaced.

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  1. Alan

    April 3, 2018 at 5:46 pm

    It is sad to say it but yes Arsenal are a selling club. A new manager may not change that. It does come down to the state of their finances. It is also sad to see how far they have fallen this season. I agree that changes are needed, but will they work? That is the worry I and many other fans have.

  2. Craig

    April 3, 2018 at 2:08 pm

    I agree with the article. It states the situation well. Arsenal is a top four club, one of the top teams not just in England but in Europe. They have often been a top two team in the past 10 years. But they have become a selling club. Van Persie and Fabregas left because they didn’t think they could win anything with Arsenal. Sanchez would not sign a new contract for the same reason. Selling your best players to the best teams is a bad policy. And Arsenal only took Mkhitaryan because they had no alternative. He will not be a success. Some of the other players bought were panic buys, because the fans demanded change, such as Lacazette and Xhaka, and it is no surprise that they are disappointing. Arsenal are not competitive in the Premiership, and have not looked liked winning it for many years. They are now unable to get into the top four. Changes are needed or next season will be the same. Fans can try to convince themselves that Arsenal are not a top team in England but that is not true.

  3. Daniel

    April 2, 2018 at 2:21 pm

    What an outdated view of a team. First, Sanchez was not sold but effectively traded, so your argument is ludicrous, especially when considering Mhkitaryan has produced more than Alexis since the swap. But you bundle a decades worth of transfers into one crudely constructed narrative about a “selling club”. Yes, they did sell players to fund the stadium, but since 2013 the team has been buying, and buying expensive, wanted players such as Cech, Mustafi, Lacazette, Aubameyang, Xhaka, Kolasinac (even though he was free), etc. As a writer, you should do a little research before making such claims. More important than the “content with top 5 finishes”, you should analyse team construction longterm and understand the context. In the last 10 years Arsenal have not had a top caliber roster, yet everyone is quick to point out their shortcomings when competing against teams that are clearly superior in talent and depth. Yet Arsenal manage to remain competitive in the most competitive league in the world. As a fan, I hated those transfers, but as a historian I can understand the logic behind most of them and can see a clear turn in the way the transfer windows are being managed since the purchase of Ozil. You just want to keep spinning an outdated and misconstrued narrative about a team that shouldn’t be considered in the conversation of top Premier League clubs for years. Shoddy writing, that is what you are producing with this kind of article.

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