With the recent sale of Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona, the sale of both Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy to Manchester City and the sale of Emmanuel Eboue to Galatasaray, Arsenal has sold its way into mediocrity.
Unfortunately, this pattern of selling proven players is not a new concept at the Emirates. Since the sale of Patrick Viera, many of Arsenal’s key players have been sold away.
The start of Arsenal's slide into mediocrity started with the sale of Patrick Vieira in the summer of 2005. Vieira arrived at the same time as Wenger, back in 1996, and together the two ushered in a time of unprecedented success at Arsenal. Due to his size and ability to control games, Vieira was key in Arsenal’s unbeaten Premier League campaign.
However, when Juventus came calling in summer 2005, Wenger let him leave for a fee of €20 million.
Vieira was voted the fourth-best player in the team's history on the Arsenal website.
Pires really began to shine for Arsenal in his second season at the Emirates. Even with the knee ligament damage that kept him out for part of the season, Pires would score 14 times in only 26 appearances. The next season, though, would be Pires’ best with Arsenal. The left side of the starting 11 consisted of Ashely Cole, Thierry Henry and Robert Pires. This trio would record 57 goals together in all competitions.
However, in the summer of 2006, Pires would be sold to Villareal. Pires was voted the sixth-greatest Arsenal player on their website.
Cole appeared for Arsenal for the first time as a teenager. For the early years of his time at the Emirates, he was paired with Tony Adams and Sol Campbell to form an excellent back line for the Gunners. Cole enjoyed a lot of success at Arsenal before leaving for Chelsea in the summer of 2006.
Fans have voted Cole the 25th-greatest Arsenal player of all time.
Henry was not only Arsenal’s captain and talisman, but he was also a free-kick specialist, penalty-taker, and playmaker. However, in addition to the assists, Henry scored a club record 226 goals in 380 games. His play on the field was accompanied by the many trophies that he helped win during his tenure at the Emirates. Every Arsenal fan was sad to see him leave for Barcelona in the summer of 2007.
Henry was voted Henry the greatest Arsenal player of all time.
Jose Antonio Reyes
Reyes arrived from Sevilla during the January transfer window of the 2003-04 season. While he was only at Arsenal for three years, he scored 16 goals in 69 appearances. Reyes was sold to Atlecto Madrid after a loan stint at Real Madrid.
Hleb joined Arsenal in June of 2005 from VfB Stuttgart. He enjoyed three seasons at Arsenal as a winger and attacking midfielder before leaving for Barcelona in 2008. Hleb has publicly expressed that he regrets leaving Arsenal numerous times since his departure.
Flamini joined Arsenal from Marseille in 2004 and enjoyed success at Arsenal as a defensive midfielder. Flamini helped to fill the gap of Patrick Vieira. Both he and Hleb helped the team to an impressive—but trophyless—2007-08 campaign. Flamini left Arsenal for Milan in the summer of 2008.
Adebayor arrived at Arsenal from Monaco in 2006. Many compared him to Kanu due to his resemblance to the former Arsenal striker. Adebayor enjoyed much success in front of the goal during his tenure at Arsenal, scoring 46 goals in 105 appearances.
His performance in the 2007-08 campaign earned him a place on the PFA Team of the Year as well as the BBC African Footballer of the Year. Despite his success at Arsenal, there was unrest at the end of his time at the Emirates before he was sold to Manchester City.
Fabregas came to Arsenal from Barcelona’s youth camp in 2003. While he did not see first-team action, he did get help by training with both Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva. Fabregas holds the Arsenal records for being the youngest first-team player and youngest goal scorer.
When Vieira left Arsenal for Juventus, Fabregas was awarded his place in the starting 11. Then in 2008, Fabregas got the captaincy. After years of trophyless but excellent play, Barcelona came calling to try and get their former player back. Even though Wenger tried to put off the sale of Fabregas as long as possible, he finally left on August 15, 2011.
Nasri joined the Gunners from Marseille in the summer of 2008. While his first two seasons were good, they were not exceptional. However, in the 2010-11 season, Nasri really began to shine. Both alongside Fabregas and during Fab's injury, Nasri was a vital part of Arsenal's starting 11. However, despite finally finding his place at the Emirates, Nasri refused to sign a contract extension at Arsenal and was subsequently sold to Manchester City.
Clichy came to Arsenal from Cannes in 2003. After the departure of Ashley Cole, Clichy took over as Arsenal’s everyday left-back. His play during the 2007-08 season earned him a place on the PFA Team of the Year. Widely regarded as one of the best left-backs in the world for a while, Clichy left Arsenal for Manchester City at the beginning of the 2011 summer transfer window.