Arsene Wenger: Economic Genius, Zen Guru, and Voodoo Master, all rolled into one.
Wenger is known for his uncanny eye in the transfer market. The ability to spot and sign a future footballing maestro for next to nothing, before the rest of the world has heard of him is masterful.
His far-flung network of scouts has attained legendary status, and the list of "unknowns" reads like a who's-who of Gunner greats—Patrick Vieira, Freddie Ljungberg, Ashley Cole, Kolo Toure, Gilberto Silva, Cesc Fabregas, Robin Van Persie, Gael Clichy, Alex Song, Bacary Sagna, Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny, Chu Young Park.
Oh, so you object to Park, do you? On what basis? Have you seen him play? Me neither.
Furthermore, in addition to his ability to spot a genius from across the ocean, he has also built up a reputation for knowing exactly when to let a player go. I can put together another list of greats who, when released, had us all saying, "oh surely, we could get another year or two out of him!" Ian Wright, Steve Bould, Nigel Winterburn, David Seaman, Freddie Ljungberg, Robert Pires and Kolo Toure, to name just seven.
As Arsene Wenger himself said earlier this season—and for the life of me, I can't find the source—it is better to let a player leave the club one season early than one season late. Genius!
Then there's the other lot—players who he let go of because he believed they couldn't cut it at the very top. David Bentley, Jermaine Pennant, Matthew Upson, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Eduardo (unfortunately), Eboue, Denilson, Senderos, etc. Look at where they are now. Nowhere. Or at Stoke. Which is pretty much the same thing, really!
And then there's the final lot. Those who want out of Arsenal, against the manager's wishes. Players who use their agents, other clubs and a host of silly excuses to engineer a move away from North London. For money. Or, as is the current fashion, in search of "trophies."
And as Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri (barring a miracle on Monday) near the end of their respective first seasons away from Arsenal without the pots of gold they left desperately in search of, I decided to put together a list of other players who Wenger wanted to keep, but stubbornly left anyway. And whose careers meandered into nothingness.
One regret—couldn't put Ashley Cole on this list...