With the dust finally settling on Alexis Sanchez’s long drawn transfer saga, unexpectedly, Arsenal fans for a change have come out of the window satisfied and excited. The arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan and their instant connection has given the Gooners plenty of reason to be positive.
There is substantial evidence that questions the transfer policies at the club over the past decade, however. Despite quashing the label of being ‘a feeder club’ to the European elite, Arsene Wenger has more than often found himself at the end of a selling decision that the club would come to regret.
#10 Robin van Persie
Whether Sanchez will be able to replicate his feat at the Theatre of Dreams remains to be seen, however, the transfer of Arsenal’s lethal marksmen, Robin van Persie, to Manchester United just when he hit his prime is arguably the most irksome transfers out of the club.
Van Persie would go on to net 26 league goals in the subsequent season to help Sir Alex Ferguson land his 13th league title. One is only left to wonder what the title challenge would have been like with the Dutch striker at the helm along with the addition of leading midfielders Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla.
#9 Alex Song
If there is one position on the field which Arsenal have still not been able to replenish with the same quality, it is the defensive midfield. Having to fill in the large boots of Patrick Viera, Alex Song had slowly but steadily established himself as the rock of a young Arsenal midfield developing all attributes that allowed others to express themselves while he would hold the fort.
His role in the team became even more critical when he added to attacking side of his game when he could find the space between the lines and be the extra man to play the final ball.
Post his departure to Barcelona, Arsenal have had a whole lot of options to try in the form of Abou Diaby, Francis Coquelin and more recently Granit Xhaka, but no one has been consistent enough to lay claim on it like the Cameroon international once did.
#8 Cesc Fabregas
It is not for all teenagers that Arsene Wenger would cut down his vacation time to ensure personally that the deal goes through. For Fabregas, one would say it was all worth it. To address the void in creativity left behind after the exit of Bergkamp, Pires, and Ljunberg, the club needed new blood and to that respect, Fabregas was the building block.
His vision, technical ability, and leadership glued Arsenal’s young squad together. Notably, in the five years leading up to 2011, Fàbregas created 466 goal-scoring chances, made 86 assists and scored 48 goals.
Just about hitting his best years, he was sold to Barcelona for a fee close to €33 million. Three years on, Fabregas would return to London, albeit in the blue jersey of Chelsea, for his second stint in the premier league.
Despite cry outs from the fans and a buy-back clause, Arsenal chose to let him pass only to see him win two league titles in three years with their London rivals.
#7 Samir Nasri
For his short frame, Samir Nasri’s playing style came closest to his legendary compatriot Zinedine Zidane. Nasri’s slick passing, ability to play wide as well as centre and close control made him a quintessential Arsenal player.
After a start-stop life in the Arsenal colours in the first two seasons, the young French international, re-captured form in the 2010-11 season. His consistent performances were rewarded by three Fans’ Player of the Month awards and also earned him a place in the Team of the Year.
The inevitable happened again when cash-rich Manchester City would lay eyes on him and he was sold off to the Citizens for a reported £25 million. Plying his talent, Nasri would secure two Premier League titles with the blues of Manchester, presenting another case of lost opportunity for Arsenal.
#6 Serge Gnabry
Arsene Wenger’s much-known eye for talent under the scanner with the transfer of teenage German international Serge Gnabry to Werder Bremen for around £5 million.
The availability of competing players in a similar position might be the one argument in Wenger’s favour but the fact that Bayern Munich snapped him up at the first chance after his impressive haul of 11 goals in 27 appearances with Bremen speaks volumes of his qualities.
While there are claims that there were efforts to retain him and Bayern influence behind the scenes, Arsenal might be left kicking themselves as he takes up more prominent roles in Bayern and German national career.
#5 Ashley Cole
If selling to a title rival was not already highlighted as a frowned upon policy, Ashley Cole’s departure to Chelsea ends that argument. The talented full-back of England’s ‘Golden Generation’ left Arsenal in rather unceremonious circumstances considering he was an integral clog of the ‘Invincibles’ winning two Premier League titles and three FA Cups on the way.
More than a decade has passed, yet Arsenal have not been able to satisfactorily able to plug the hole. Cole went on to win seven major honours with Chelsea including a Champions League winner’s medal.
In the meanwhile, his understudies namely Gael Clichy, Kieran Gibbs, and Armand Traore have all tried unsuccessfully to nail the spot down for themselves. In the more recent past, Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac have arrested the fall to some extent but Cole’s services both in defence as well as in attack have been missed.
#3 Wojciech Szczesny
Once identified as a “future great, great goalkeeper” by Arsene Wenger, there seems to be little surprise in the fact that today, he is lined up as a potential long-term replacement for the legendary Gigi Buffon at Juventus.
One could argue that his concentration levels on the pitch and discipline off it always were a cause for concern, however, being loaned-out and subsequently sold right after jointly winning the Premier League Golden Glove award for 2013-14 season does question the management’s decision as well.
Putting in perspective that Cech is past his prime, Ospina’s inconsistencies and that Arsenal have failed to keep a clean sheet for over two months now, point to the fact that a keeper of Szczesny’s calibre could have been the answer to Arsenal’s defensive woes.
#2 Thierry Henry
Arsenal’s all-time record goalscorer spent eight glorious years at the club where he won two league titles, three FA Cups and led the club to their one and only Champions League final.
He averaged an unbelievable 28 league goals a season for five consecutive seasons for the Gunners and looked set to stay at Arsenal when an unexpected turn of events saw him move to Barcelona for £21.60 million.
In some quarters one would suggest that it made business sense to cash in on a player entering the twilight of his career, but isn’t retaining the likes of Steven Gerrard, Ryan Giggs and John Terry that helps a club remain relevant.
The prodigal son did return for a short loan spell and rolled back the years with his first touch goal against Leeds in the FA Cup fixture. Its now only a figment of imagination what Arsenal could have achieved with him to build the team around with.
#1 Harry Kane
If only Arsenal could choose to undo one thing from their past, without doubt, it would be to not let go of a nine-year-old Harry Kane. Little did they know he would come back to haunt them as the most lethal striker across Europe and that as part of their greatest rivals Tottenham.
He has a 100% record against Arsenal and is at the heart of the power shift that North London is witnessing. Liam Brady, former academy chief and legend at Arsenal, admittedly said ‘it was a mistake’ when Arsenal let Kane go for his chubby physique.
Still only 24, Kane’s growing stature is next only to Messi and Ronaldo and the goal machine’s efforts in almost single-handedly leading Spurs resurgence is only going to grow more irksome for Arsenal fans.