Here’s a chart you’ll probably hate me for making:
This chart is an abstraction of just top name players that Arsenal have sold or let go during Arsene Wenger’s tenure. From right to left, the list is broken down by season and only the following player’s sales were considered:
van Persie, Song, Clichy, Fabregas, Nasri, Eduardo, Adebayor, Toure, Hleb, Flamini, Reyes, Henry, Cole, Cygan, Campbell, Vieira, Pires, Keown, Edu, van Bronkhorst, Seaman, Sylvinho, Overmars, Petit, Anelka, Bould, Winterburn, Wright, Helder, and Merson.
Before I go any further, a note on accuracy. Arsenal do not divulge player sale prices and anyone who tells you that they know or have a more accurate transfer fee table than someone else is selling you snake oil. Don’t get bogged down on the numbers, if we use one source and stick to it, while there may be some inaccuracies, the point is that the whole picture becomes clear and perhaps we can see a trend at Arsenal. I also included many players who left Arsenal on a free. The point wasn’t their sale price, but rather if they were a big name. Pires and Campbell both left for free and both were big names. Arsenal made a killing off Bentley but I didn’t include him because he’s a rat-faced chav. Etc.
Even if I’m off by a pound or two here and there, the trend is obvious. Since moving to the Grove, Arsenal are cashing in on the crazy marketplace and consistently selling off their top names for top dollar. This is in direct contrast to Arsenal’s most successful seasons in which they made very little or no resell value off their top named players. The big bump in player sales (Overmars, Petit, and Anelka) at the turn of the century coincides with Arsenal’s three year League title drought. The dip in player sales in 2007-2008 coincides with the year that Arsenal finished just 4 points off the title. And so on.
But really, this is hardly earth-shattering news, is it? You can’t be a title contender if you sell off all your best players year after year. Right?
Here, let me illustrate with one simple aid: imagine if Sunday’s match against Liverpool featured a starting lineup with Podolski, Giroud, Cazorla, van Persie, Song and Cesc. For me, that’s a title contender right there. But as it stands, we don’t have three of those big named players and while Arsenal have a good team with an exciting front three I am not going to consider this a title contending team. I’m looking forward to the season and the fight for a Champions League place, the FA Cup, an the Youth Cup. And I’m not hating on the club: I’m like Dennis Bergkamp, I love Arsenal, not just Arsenal with trophies. But I’m also realistic, and I think it’s a bit of a stretch to think of this team as a title contender.
I’m not saying it’s as simple as waving my hand and keeping Cesc, van Persie, and Song at Arsenal and there is obviously something going on with the players over the last two years which necessitates these sales. But the point is that selling our best players year after year almost certainly decreases the Arsenal’s title chances. Somehow the trend needs to be reversed and I’m holding out hope that the club and manager are aware of this. The last person I’d want to be is Ivan Gazidis at the AGM if Arsenal reveal that the club made record profits again and are sitting on a mountain of cash.
One final thing, you must give huge credit to what Arsene Wenger brings to Arsenal FC. The fact that he has kept the club not only in the Champions League places but had the team nearly win a title all while consistently selling off the top talent is practically unfathomable.
It would be completely unfathomable but for the fact that he’s done it.