On Monday, Arsenal Football Club announced a pre-tax profit of £17.8 million for the first half of its 2012-13 fiscal year—an amount that added to more than £120 million in cash reserves.
In a statement intended for the club’s fans, chairman Peter Hill-Wood reiterated his commitment to a strong financial position but added that “whilst we have our sights set on a 16th straight season in the Champions League, our aims are higher; our ambition is to win trophies.”
Then, this line: “Let me be quite clear that our intention is to keep our best players and recruit new talent to make us stronger.”
Really? Because recent history would suggest the preferred approach at Arsenal is precisely the opposite. In fact, you could argue that a team comprised of players manager Arsene Wenger has sold since he last lifted a trophy would be considerably better than his present squad.
The following slides reveal what such a team would look like, and the final slide includes some substitute options and the amount of money Wenger brought in by moving these players on. (Hint: it’s not nearly as much as you think.)
Feel free to leave your comments in the section below as you browse through the Arsenal Sold-Since-2005 XI.
Lehmann is the only player in this team who is retired, but after being let go on a free transfer in 2008 (when he was still good enough to help Germany to the European Championship final) he was never properly replaced.
Consider the goalkeepers who have come in and out of Emirates Stadium since his exit: Mart Poom, Manuel Almunia, Stuart Taylor and Mark Howard, among others.
Current number one Wojciech Szczesny is capable, although hardly a superstar. And that he is often among Arsenal’s best players on any given day speaks volumes to the quality in front of him.
The 29-year-old was sold to Turkish giants Galatasaray in 2011 for €3.5 million.
He made 33 appearances for the club in all competitions last season, scoring twice, and helped Galatasaray to the Super Lig title.
He’s likely to win a second title this spring and will therefore be involved in the Champions League again next season—a level he likely wouldn’t have reached at Arsenal, who could well miss out on Europe’s premiere club competition.
Wenger did some reasonable business when he sold Kolo Touré to Manchester City for £16 million in 2009.
But the £10 million he spent on the bumbling Per Mertesacker two years later takes the glow off the transaction, especially when you factor in the FA Cup and Premier League title Touré has since won at City.
You can never have enough defensive depth, and Arsenal could surely use it these days.
He left Arsenal on a free transfer in 2010 at the age of 33, with two Premier League titles to his name. And he left for archrivals Tottenham Hotspur.
With Gareth Bale firing on all cylinders at the moment, Gallas might also pick up a piece of silverware before his time at White Hart Lane comes to an end.
Spurs are into the last 16 of the Europa League and are one of the favorites to win the competition.
Here’s where the math starts looking funny.
In 2006 Arsenal sold Ashley Cole, arguably one of the best full-backs in the world, to London rivals Chelsea in a £5 million deal that saw Gallas come the other way. So, when Cole joined Chelsea and Gallas moved to Spurs, all Wenger had to show for the two of them was the paltry £5 million.
Since arriving at Stamford Bridge Cole has won the Premier League, the League Cup, four FA Cups and the Champions League while continuing an England career that has taken him to a historic 100 caps.
But on the business side of things his exit was an absolute disaster as his contract was allowed to run out, leading to a free transfer in 2008.
In 2011 the Frenchman won the Serie A with the Rossoneri and has played more games so far this campaign than he did all of last season.
In 2011 Arsenal sold their captain and best player to Barcelona for £25 million plus add-ons.
He was never properly replaced (not that it’s easy to replace a player of his quality), but Wenger’s failure to adequately rebuild his squad following Fabregas’ departure led directly to the £27 million he blew on transfer deadline day to acquire Andre Santos, Mikel Arteta and Mertesacker.
Thankfully, Jack Wilshere has every look of a player who can boss the centre of the park for Arsenal. But you’ve got to wonder: how long will they be able to hold on to him?
Lost in the hysteria over Robin van Persie’s move to Manchester United last summer was Alex Song’s switch to Barcelona.
It was a needless, needless transfer.
How Wenger could have not properly valued the importance of a 24-year-old defensive midfielder is mystifying, especially as he is exactly the sort of player the current Arsenal side is crying out for.
He hasn’t had that great a season at Manchester City so far, but in 2011-12 he scored five goals and added nine assists as a blue moon rose over a historic title at Etihad Stadium.
When he was sold—for £25 million in 2011, after Fabregas’ exit—he was coming off his best season at Arsenal: a 15-goal campaign that had oozed promise.
But, like so many of his Gunners predecessors, the allure of a competitive pay packet and the chance to win trophies was too much to pass up, as was the transfer fee to an Arsenal board that continued to pad their cash reserve.
In 2009, having bagged 46 goals in two seasons for Arsenal, Adebayor was sold to Manchester City for £25 million. (Notice a pattern with the prices?)
Wenger didn’t buy a single forward to replace him, although the following summer he’d go the cheap route and sign Marouane Chamakh on a free transfer from Bordeaux.
While on loan at Real Madrid, Adebayor won the Copa del Rey, and now, like Gallas, he represents archrivals Spurs, for whom he tallied 18 times last season.
Robin van Persie enjoyed the best year of his career last season, when he scored an incredible 37 goals for Arsenal and was rewarded with the Premier League’s Golden Boot, the PFA Player’s Player of the Year award, the PFA Fan’s Player of the Year gong and the prestigious FWA Footballer of the Year award.
He then packed up and joined Manchester United after Arsenal accepted a £22.5 million offer for him.
In just a few months he has become a fan favourite at United and has so far scored 23 goals in all competitions, including 19 in the Premier League. And with the Red Devils well on top of the Premier League as the season enters its final stretch, he’s likely to add a league title to his CV as well.
The bench: José Antonio Reyes; Thierry Henry (why not); Anthony Stokes; Sebastian Larsson; Eduardo; Lassana Diarra; Havard Nordtveit.
The math: This Arsenal Sold-Since-2005 XI was disassembled for approximately £12.4 million per player. The players in this squad, including the substitutes, have gone on to win 33 major trophies at their new clubs. That works out to 1.8 trophies per player.