Arsenal: 5 Players Who Improved After They Left the Gunners

Mikhail Turner@MikhailTurnerContributor IIIDecember 5, 2012

Arsenal: 5 Players Who Improved After They Left the Gunners

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    Players rarely leave Arsenal and improve their skills, but there are a few players who have bucked that trend.

    When senior players leave they usually fail to play at a higher level or even replicate their previous form play at a higher level. When youth players leave they find it hard to carve out substantial careers.

    The players on this list all had different experiences at Arsenal but have had a better time since leaving. They have improved individually and it shows in how their careers have progressed since they left the club.

    Whether they stuck around in England or moved elsewhere in Europe, these players have done well for themselves.

    Here are five players who improved after leaving Arsenal.

Honorable Mention

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    David Bentley—Bentley makes this list thanks to his time at Blackburn and his first season at Tottenham.

    At those clubs, Blackburn in particular, he became well-known for his crossing ability and technique. 

    During that three season span his talent became evident as he scored long-range bombs and provided beautiful assists.

    It's possible he could have produced similar feats at Arsenal but it would have to be said that the increased playing time at Blackburn helped propel him to those heights.

    Lassana Diarra—Lassana Diarra impressed during his incredibly short spell with Arsenal. His impatience saw him leave the club after only six months, but it proved a good move.

    It was his move to Portsmouth that really ignited his career as the increased playing time saw him improve his game.

    A big-money move to Real Madrid highlighted the defensive midfielder's continued growth as he made some solid contributions to the Spanish side. 

    While his playing time dwindled at Real Madrid in recent seasons, it wasn't due to a lack of skill on his part. The all-action midfielder, versatile enough to play right-back when necessary, is someone the Gunners could use right now.

Matthew Upson

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    Matthew Upson left Arsenal midway through the 2002/03 season after making over 50 appearances with the club. He joined Birmingham City, then moved to West Ham before finally stopping at his current club Stoke City.

    Upson was an integral part of various Birmingham and West Ham sides during his time at the clubs.

    What stands out in his progression after leaving Arsenal is his introduction to the English national team. Upson's England career began after his move to Birmingham, highlighting the benefit the defender received from increased playing time.

    He went on to make 21 appearances for his nation.

    Such was his improvement that Upson was even linked (via the Independent) with a move back to Arsenal.

Havard Nordtveit

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    Havard Nordveit has carved out a pretty solid career for himself since leaving Arsenal.

    Here's Arsene Wenger's comments on the player upon his departure as reported on

    He is a fantastic character, with great quality. He played last year because we gave him to Nurnberg [on loan], he came back and didn’t play and he needs to play now. That’s why we let him go.
    Yes [I had high hopes for him], but we have a number of centre backs and full backs so he didn’t get the games. I thought in December that it was the right moment for him to go and play.

    Nordtveit left Arsenal as primarily a defender but has featured prominently as a defensive midfielder for an exciting Borussia Mönchengladbach side.

    He's also another player who benefited from a move away from Arsenal on the international level due to his progression.

    Nordtveit started appearing for the Norwegian senior team in 2011, after his first full season in Germany.

Fabrice Muamba

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    The premature termination of Fabrice Muamba's career was unfortunate, but he made the most of his time on the pitch after leaving Arsenal.

    Muamba joined Birmingham City in 2007 after impressing on loan during the previous season.

    City was relegated in 2007/08 season but Muamba's performances resulted in a stay in the Premier League with Bolton Wanderers. Muamba was a consistent performer for Bolton and his playing style resembled that of Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira.

    He didn't pop up with as many goals as the Frenchman but his tenacity and all-round abilities in midfield made him a solid player.

    It's quite possible that, had his career continued, the 24-year-old could have donned an England jersey.

Ashley Cole

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    This one may hurt Arsenal fans a little.

    Ashley Cole was certainly a good player while playing for the Gunners but his move to Chelsea propelled him to even greater heights.

    The trophies alone speak for themselves, but the Chelsea left-back became the world's best in his position while with the Blues.

    Cole joined Chelsea while he was entering his prime and his defensive skills improved under the tutelage of Jose Mourinho. He still contributed on the attacking end, notching goals and assists as he had at Arsenal, but he became incredibly tough to beat on the defensive end.

Cesc Fabregas

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    Cesc Fabregas stated earlier this year that he felt he's improved since moving to Barcelona.

    When you join the best team in the world you would hope that's the case. In the interview Fabregas points out his renewed tactical awareness as a key component in his progression.

    His statistics haven't been hurt by not being the key player in his side either.

    Last season he contributed 15 goals and 11 assists, while this season he already has seven goals and nine assists.(statistics courtesy of ESPN Soccernet)

    Fabregas has fit into a team whose teamwork on both ends contributes to its success. Part of the reason for that is his own individual improvement.