Despite the arrivals of Petr Cech, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil in recent years, it wasn’t long ago that Arsenal were very much a selling club. As Arsenal’s lengthy trophy drought continued, the core players of a generation gradually began to filter out of the Emirates.
But with former Arsenal skipper Robin van Persie reportedly close to exiting Manchester United after just one trophy in three years, how many of Arsenal’s former stars can justify their decisions to leave?
The Togolese striker left the Emirates in 2009 following an impressive final campaign for Arsenal. Adebayor scored 16 goals in all competitions during the 2008/09 season, attracting interest from Manchester City. In the season which preceded his £25 million move to the northwest, City had only managed a tenth place finish, while Arsenal finished fourth.
However, whether it was the allure of the ‘project’ at the Etihad or the opportunity to increase his wage packet, Adebayor jumped ship. His departure caused outrage amongst Arsenal fans and in his first game against his former club, every touch of the ball was met with a chorus of boo’s. Adebayor then angered Gunners supporters further when he scored and subsequently ran the full length of the pitch to parade in front of the away fans.
After scoring 14 Premier League goals in his first season for Manchester City, the former Monaco youngster was sent on loan to Spanish giants Real Madrid mid-way through his second campaign. He managed five goals for Mourinho’s side before returning to his parent club. A second loan spell would soon follow. This time, he signed for Arsenal’s north London rivals Spurs, fanning the flames of Arsenal fans’ animosity towards him. After impressing in his debut campaign at White Hart Lane, scoring 18 times, Adebayor signed on a permanent basis. Although still on the books at spurs, he has endured a tempestuous private life in recent years, leading to a steep decline in his form. Perhaps things might have gone better for Adebayor had he elected to remain under the guidance of Arsene Wenger.
Having enjoyed his most impressive season at Arsenal, Song followed Robin van Persie out of the Emirates in the summer of 2012/13. His destination was Barcelona, for a fee of £15 million. In his first season at Camp Nou, the Cameroonian midfielder struggled for game time, with Sergio Busquets the first choice no.6. Despite lifting the La Liga title in his first year, Song joined former Spurs rival Luka Modric in being awarded as the worst player in La Liga.
While Modric’s fortunes improved significantly in his second season at Real Madrid, Song’s role became even more peripheral at Barcelona. Last summer, West Ham beat a host of clubs to secure the services of Song on a season long loan and despite initially impressing in east London, his form dipped significantly in the second half of the campaign.
Song nonetheless attracted plenty of interest again this summer before recently declaring that he would remain at the Boleyn ground next season. While West Ham appear to be heading in the right direction, Song would have probably been better served remaining at the Emirates.
A former La Masia youngster, Fabregas returned to his boyhood club Barcelona in the summer of 2011 following another excellent campaign for Arsenal. In his first Season, largely deployed as a false no.9 in Guardiola’s side, Fabregas scored 15 goals as the Catalan giants finished behind Real Madrid in La Liga. Guardiola, a former idol of Fabregas, left Camp Nou at the end of the season. The former Arsenal captain’s form soon began to dip and he became the subject of fan criticism.
After spending another two seasons in Catalonia, winning six trophies in total, Fabregas decided to return to England last summer. Arsene Wenger reportedly rejected the opportunity to re-sign his former skipper, citing the fact that he already had a world class playmaker in Mesut Ozil.
Jose Mourinho took full advantage and brought Fabregas to Chelsea for £27 million. His first season at the club was a huge success. Operating alongside Nemanja Matic in a deep role in midfield, Fabregas racked up a total of 21 assists as Chelsea won the Premier League and the Capital One Cup. His Barcelona dream may not have played out exactly as he would have liked, but the sheer number of trophies he has won means a departure from the Emirates has been justified.
After a brilliant 2010/11 season at the Emirates, Manchester United and Manchester City engaged in a bidding war for the French midfielder. City came out on top, securing Nasri’s services for £25 million. His decision to leave Arsenal was initially justified as he helped his new club secure their first ever Premier League title.
City were Premier League Champions again in Nasri’s third season in Manchester but despite the club’s success, the former Marseilles youngster has only managed to score 16 goals in his four years at the club. Compare that to his final season at Arsenal, in which he netted 15 times, and it’s fair to say Nasri hasn’t lived up to his biling at the Etihad.
A member of the Arsenal squad that went unbeaten in the 2003/04 campaign, Toure decided to leave north London in the summer of 2009 to join Manchester City for £14 million. The Ivorian soon became an integral part of City’s team, being appointed Mark Hughes’ captain upon his arrival. When Roberto Mancini was appointed Manchester City boss, Toure’s team-mate Carlos Tevez was announced as the new captain ahead of the 2010-11 season.
However Toure continued to play an important role. In March of that season, it was revealed that Toure would be banned for six months after failing a drugs test. Upon his return to action the following season, Jolean Lescott was preferred in centre back alongside Vincent Kompany as City won the Title.
The following season saw Toure become a fringe player and at the end of the campaign, he joined Liverpool as a replacement for the retiring Jamie Carragher. He remains at Anfield but has never really managed to become a regular in Brendan Rodgers starting eleven. Despite winning three trophies since leaving Arsenal, Toure has had mixed fortunes.
Yet another player who left Arsenal to join Manchester City, Clichy has had similar fortunes to Nasri since departing the Emirates. The French left back has had to share game-time with Alexander Kolorov ever since arriving in Manchester for £7 million. Having joined in the same summer as Samir Nasri, Clichy boasts the same trophy tally of four.
Often criticized by fans and pundits for underperforming, the 29-year-old faces an uncertain future, with the likes of Layvin Kurzawa and Ricardo Rodriguez being linked with moves to the Etihad in recent weeks. Clichy would have likely been a more important player had he remained at Arsenal.
While some of their departures have offered a fast route to success, many of them have been troubled by inconsistency. Their trophy cabinets may be that bit fuller, but had they stuck it out a little while longer at Arsenal, sustainable success, legendary status and fulfilled potential might have followed.