Arsenal: 7 Best Gunners the Team Sold Too Soon

Charlie Melman@@charliemelmanCorrespondent IIFebruary 5, 2013

Arsenal: 7 Best Gunners the Team Sold Too Soon

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    One of the most common accusations leveled at Arsenal these days is that the Gunners are a selling club.

    But the club selling its' best players not just a recent phenomenon: Several greats have been sold before or during their primes.

    It's always painful for fans to see one of the team's best players walk out the door, but the disappointment is especially acute when it's obvious that the athlete has so much more to give.

    Let's take a mournful trip down memory lane and remember seven of the best players that Arsenal sold too soon, for any number of reasons.

Honorable Mentions

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    Thierry Henry

    Henry looks to be a strong candidate for this list, considering that he is Arsenal's best-ever player and was shipped to Barcelona before hitting 30.

    However, his departure signaled the beginning of a new era at the Emirates. It was time for the team to be built around a new core of younger players, without being dominated by one massive personality. Even Henry later admitted that his sale was best for the team.


    Samir Nasri

    The Frenchman broke out during the 2010-11 season, systematically shredding defenses with brilliant dribbling and carrying Arsenal on his back for a five-month stretch.

    But his brilliance in red and white proved to last just that long. Nasri has done well with Manchester City, but has never scaled the heights he did in late 2010 and early 2011. Arsenal needed him most when their title challenge that year was beginning to slip away—but so did Nasri.

Liam Brady

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    It is astonishing to think that, for all the greatness associated with Liam Brady's tenure at Highbury, he was sold to Juventus at the age of 24.

    Despite 207 appearances, 59 goals and countless moments of brilliance from his silky left foot, Brady could have achieved so much more as an Arsenal player. 

    When Liam Brady left in 1980, the entire club seemed deflated and struggled to recover for years afterward.

    After all, this was the man who had served as the team's talisman for years, was the oil in the Gunners' engine and embodied the beautiful football that the team played back then.

    It is extremely hard to recover from the blow of losing not only your best player, but one who was so ahead of his time and drove the whole team forward. It was almost surreal to see such a legend leave so abruptly.

Anders Limpar

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    George Graham selling Anders Limpar in 1994 was one of the final nails in the coffin of his time at Arsenal.

    During the latter years of the Scotsman's reign, the club was known as "boring, boring Arsenal" for their extremely unexciting, negative, defensively oriented style of play. There were a couple shining lights up front, however, who got the goals that made it 1-0 to The Arsenal.

    Limpar was one of the brightest.

    Fleet-footed, versatile and creative, he often teamed up with Ian Wright to create wonderful goals in the absence of a forward-thinking midfield. Without him, Arsenal became even more uninspiring and difficult to watch.

    Shipped away before he even turned 30, the Gunners' ensuing decline would make it easy to fire Graham a year later.

Kolo Toure

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    It is now plain to see that Arsene Wenger made the wrong decision in choosing William Gallas over Kolo Toure in 2009.

    The two center-backs hated each other, and Toure eventually demanded a transfer away from the club due to his displeasure. Wenger could have ended the row by offloading the older and less effective Gallas, but in one of the few terrible transfer decisions the Frenchman made, he let Toure go to Manchester City instead.

    When someone brings up the occasional problems with leadership and toughness that Arsenal have at the back, it invariably makes one think of the Ivorian, who is still a top-level defender at 31.

    Gallas later disgraced himself at Arsenal and is now fading away at Tottenham.

Patrick Vieira

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    Arsenal's towering midfield maestro and vivacious leader put in nine years of wonderful service to the club before he left in 2005, but there was a feeling that the team changed when he left.

    Patrick Vieira had marketed himself almost every summer for years prior to his move to Juventus, and his footballing powers were definitely on the wane. However, his indomitable spirit and imposing presence in the center of the pitch embodied Arsenal and all its success during his tenure.

    One can make the argument that Arsene Wenger sold him at the right time, but even with a promising lad named Cesc Fabregas ready to assume the master's mantle, Vieira's presence has never been replaced.

    It is no coincidence that Arsenal have not won a single major trophy since he last kicked a ball for the club.

Ashley Cole

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    Ashley Cole was a London boy who was brought up at the club and had become arguably the best left-back in the world at Arsenal. If anyone looked likely to become a one-club man, it was him.

    Then Chelsea came around.

    When he was working out a new contract with the Gunners, he found himself "trembling with anger" after hearing that he had only been offered £55,000 per week and decided to see what rivals Chelsea had to offer.

    Since agreeing a contract with the Blues in 2006, Cole has continued to dominate the Premier League and the international stage, remaining one of the most feared left-backs in the world and recently earning himself another contract at Stamford Bridge.

Cesc Fabregas

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    We all knew it was coming at some point, but seeing Cesc Fabregas finally go to Barcelona was a collective punch in the gut for the entire Arsenal fanbase.

    In the transfer saga that dominated the summer, many supporters held out hope until the last day, and when Fabregas did go, his initial £29 million transfer fee was regarded as appallingly low.

    Nevertheless, we paid our respects to the man who defined Arsene Wenger's beautiful but trophyless footballing style for some many years and who had contributed so much to Arsenal at such a young age.

    Only 24 years old when sold, Fabregas could have spent his prime footballing years with the club built specifically around and for his talents, but decided to return home to his childhood club.

    The drama that had been building up for years and which climaxed in August, 2011, only made a transfer more difficult and more painful.

Robin van Persie

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    Say what you want about Robin van Persie and his condemnable character (in the comments, for example), but there is no doubt that Arsenal lost one of its most talented players ever in his prime.

    Perhaps the most frustrating part of the saga that eventually resulted in his move to Manchester United was the fact that he had finally put together his first season of full fitness since joining the club. There was so much lost time in his Arsenal career to make up.

    Maybe the fact that a man who "want[ed] to win trophies with Arsenal, not with anybody else" (ESPN FC) defected to such a bitter rival was more heartbreaking. Maybe it was the blatant display of greed and dishonesty.

    Maybe what makes the Van Persie situation the most painful is that the man who Arsene Wenger practically raised over the course of eight years is now the Premier League's leading scorer for Manchester United.