"It's better to go..." Really?
Some of the best players in the Premier League have had some form of connection or other with Arsenal—Nicolas Anelka, Ashley Cole, Kole Toure, Yaya Toure, William Gallas, Emmanuel Adebayor, Samir Nasri, Gaël Clichy, Patrick Vieira, etc.
Others like Alexander Hleb, Marc Overmars, Mathieu Flamini, José Antonio Reyes, Thierry Henry and Cesc Febragas moved abroad to other clubs informed by one reason or the other—homesickness, ambition or greed, which—greed, that is—when tempered by the fundamental end of professionalism shades its most negative connotation.
There's sufficient argument to support the claim that a better yield in trophies would have been possible at Arsenal had a number of these players been retained longer than they were at Arsenal.
A huge factor, beside sheer inability to keep the player, is the profit that could be made in the sales of a number of these players, a factor necessary in the furnishing of the huge loan the club took to build its state-of-the-art stadium.
This came at a cost of a trophy or two, or even more.
In the following, I examine 10 of the players that could have made a difference—trophy-wise at Arsenal—had they stayed longer at the club.
Yaya Toure never really signed for Arsenal; he only trialed there—just a slim leg in as the photo would say.
What a miss.
The only consolation would be the certain knowledge that Arsenal wouldn't be able to keep him in the current atmosphere any way.
Again, it is amazing how some of the best names in football have had some form of relationship with Arsenal.
I start with him to state the principle of the situation.
The Bosman Rule, which allows a player to leave a club for free after his contract expires, was the culprit here. Otherwise, it isn't inconceivable that Flamini would still be at Arsenal and a very positive thing that would be.
He was very important to the AC Milan team in the 2010-11 season. Only a serious knee injury prevented him from being in the just concluded season.
Were he still here, his experience would count for much, an ingredient that hasn't been present at Arsenal in sufficient enough dosage since 2005.
Samir Nasri had just one solid season with Arsenal and then...vamoose; he was gone, claiming that Arsenal lacked ambition, never mind that Manchester City had offered him a bucket-load of money.
The regret here is that he was part of Wenger's plan for the future. Also, had he not left at the same time as Cesc Fagregas, his departure wouldn't have been so painful or disruptive.
I want to move on from Nasri, but the arrant ingratitude inherent in the situation is hard to take, despite the fact that I know an argument can be made in Nasri's defense.
Imagine that Kole Toure and Ashley Cole were still in the Arsenal back four. What a prospect. What solidity. Regrettably, though,they are not.
One only needs to remember Toure's partnership with Sol Campbell, Senderos and, later, William Gallas to recall how valuable he was for Arsenal.
What mitigates the loss of this player is that it came at the end of his contract and also that he seemed to have genuine affection for Arsenal and didn't appear eager to leave, either.
The presence of Patrick Vieira at Manchester City must not cease to rankle Arsenal fans. It is surely a blot on his Gunner and Goonership. He actually is working for the enemy, no matter that he was once one of Arsenal's best and most dedicated players.
It is a quandary.
One the one hand, there's the temptation to want to hate Vieira for being part of City, a club that seems bent on destroying Arsenal by luring away its best players, just because it can.
On the other hand, the love Arsenal fans have for Vieira transcends this awkward situation.
Players that become life-long fans of a club are always a positive.
They often do unpaid PR jobs, which ineluctably follows their status. Reporters naturally cannot cease to question them on whatever subject that happens to be their item of fascination at a given time. A club can bank on positive spin on these inevitable questions and interviews.
Now, Vieira speaks for City rather than for Arsenal. How annoying is that?
He himself has said that he would have preferred to work at Arsenal, but nobody asked; whereas, at City the asking and the process were smooth and natural.
At a time when some fans insinuate lack of ambition, it wouldn't hurt to have former players involved with the club, decidedly because they'd be rendering their service for reasons other than financial reward. Such could even be instrumental in persuading our wantaway players to stay put.
Cesc Fabregas, for example, is urging Van Persie to stay put at Arsenal. Ironic, but may be more so.
Ashley Cole has been the best left-back in the Premier League in the last 10 years. He is arguably the best in the world at this position, certainly one of the best.
What if he had never left Arsenal to Chelsea?
It was his claim at the time that Arsenal didn't value him according to his worth. But it doesn't take a rocket-science-brain to see how.
So long as wages remain comparative across clubs, the incentive to move from club to club reduces.
Inflect the wages structure at one of the places and suddenly that's where ambition lies, where trophies can be won.
And who can argue that Cole hasn't won trophies? He has won the Champions League medal for goodness sake.
Why shouldn't it be a thing of annoyance that other clubs seem more and more to barge into our midst to snatch away our players and then reap the benefit thereof?
Annoying. Regrettable: just look at how he's taunting us with that cup!
Business-wise, it was a savvy move to let Henry go. Trophy-wise, a very bad idea.
Not a few have said Wenger disbanded the Invincibles too quickly. Had he kept the bulk of the players for a couple of more years, Arsenal probably would have won more trophies.
It is said that one of the reasons that convinced Henry to move was because he wanted to win the Champions League, a possibility more possible with Barcelona. And so it became.
But what if he had stayed for two more years, even three?
The way Henry speaks of Arsenal often seems to carry a hint of regret, regret at leaving.
I'm sure the feeling is mutual as far as Gooners are concerned.
No sooner had Adebayor departed from Arsenal for more money at Manchester City than he soon ran into trouble.
Roberto Mancini didn't seem to like him and still doesn't, apparently.
It was rather pathetic when, at the beginning of the just concluded season, Adebayor practically begged Real Madrid to sign him, having had a brief loan spell there during the second half of the previous season.
Now he is doing it again: He is begging Tottenham Hotspur to sign him.
The situation is steeped in heavy irony.
Who would have thought that when Adebayor left Arsenal in a rather rancorous circumstance that he'd end up playing for Arsenal's most bitter rival?
Career-wise it hasn't been progress but regress for him—arguably, of course. Oh, he's had more money, but seeing as he is desperately treading water just to survive now, wouldn't it have been better if he had remained at Arsenal?
Had he done so, the striking situation Arsenal found themselves in in the just concluded season wouldn't have occurred.
It is with this in mind that Adebayor's departure from Arsenal is a regrettably thing indeed.
With Pep Guardiola's departure from Barcelona, it's possible that Cesc Fabregas may regret his own departure from Arsenal. It may be one of the reasons he is urging Robin van Persie to stay on at the club.
Consider this report from Michael Cox:
It hasn't been plain sailing, despite some impressive performances. Guardiola's comment about the "anarchy" that Fabregas brings to the side was a backhanded compliment—he also pointed out that he needed to hold his runs more. Other Barca insiders pointed the finger at Fabregas when the team's form started to slip. He had become too "English" in his style of play, they believed, too eager to attack quickly. This urgency was contagious and made Barca's passing patterns too obvious; they lacked the calmness they've become renowned for. Like Zlatan Ibrahimovic before him, Fabregas was brought in to provide "something different," but ended up making the side play to his own strengths.
There's little doubt that Fabregas was one of Arsenal's most talented players, or that Wenger had hoped he would be part of Arsenal's future, probably part of another great team, in the order of the Invincibles, say.
It was Arsenal's and Wenger's unfortunate luck that Fabregas' other love happened to be his hometown club, which just happened currently to be the greatest team.
It means Arsenal couldn't keep him any longer. What's more, he even chipped in with his own money to facilitate his transfer to Barcelona.
So this wasn't Cashley Cole or Na$ri as some like to say with a glint in their eye. No matter, it is Arsenal's loss.
David Dein is not a player, but the effect of his departure is as equal to the departure of any of the above players, if not more.
His departure from Arsenal has coincided with the club's trophy drought. It is well-known that his departure followed a power struggle between him and other members of the Arsenal board, Peter Hill-wood, especially.
Normally one would hope that the advent of Stan Kroenke as the majority share-holder in 2010 would herald the return of Dein, who, after all, was the one that introduced Arsenal to Kroenke.
Dein's demise at Arsenal seemed to have been precipitated by his collusion with another shareholder, the billioinaire, Alisher Usmanov, whom apparently Dein thought would be more liberal in spending than signs indicated Kroenke would be.
In the power struggle that followed, Dein lost and Usmanov would not be the majority shareholder as Dein apparently had hoped.
Having brought Arsene Wenger to Arsenal, when Dein was shown the door, Wenger, himself wanted to resign, but Dein told him to stay put.
Every indication seems to be that Dein has always had Arsenal at heart, and even if albeit making money was part of being at Arsenal, he genuinely wanted Arsenal to succeed and to dominate English football in terms of trophies.
Majority of fans would bring Dein back if they could, but having apparently fallen afoul of Kroenke, this is unlikely to happen.
Beside Wenger, his other major contribution was in facilitating the signing of Ian Wright, beside being the main reason Dennis Bergkamp, a Spurs fan, came to Arsenal.
Moreover Arsenal's metamorphosis from a Cup and middling club to a dominant club in England all happened during Dein's time at Arsenal.
It is why many fans are still convinced that the departure of Dein has had a lot to do with Arsenal's trophy drought in the last seven years.