5 Players Arsenal Sold Too Soon
Arsene Wenger is regarded as a very astute judge of a player’s career trajectory. The Arsenal boss is renowned for his ability to tell when a player is past their peak, and thus should be allowed to leave the club.
However, he cannot always get it right. In this piece, we identify five players who Wenger allowed to leave north London too soon. These men could have made significant contributions had they stayed on, and their premature departure may still give Wenger cause for regret.
Robin Van Persie
Arsene Wenger might argue his hand was forced when it came to the sale of Robin van Persie. However, the Dutchman did have one year remaining on his contract, and he was obliged to stay in north London.
In the end, Wenger agreed to sell him to Manchester United. Although his form petered out over the length of his contract, that first year was spectacular. Van Persie’s goals and performances fired United to the title, and Arsenal were left to ponder if they might have been wise to keep him for a further 12 months.
They would have lost out on a hefty fee, but they may have prevented United from winning the league at a canter.
The fact that Robert Pires is regularly spotted on the Arsenal training ground these days suggest Wenger could well have done with him sticking around.
Instead, Pires left the club on a Bosman free in the summer of 2006 after six years with the Gunners. He enjoyed a couple of decent seasons with Villarreal before returning for a swansong in the Premier League with Aston Villa.
Pires was past his physical peak when Wenger let him go, but he is still an inspirational presence on the training ground to this day. Wenger and his squad could certainly have done with his influence to guide them through the first few years at the Emirates Stadium.
How Arsene Wenger must wish he had Lassana Diarra on his books right now. With Francis Coquelin and Mikel Arteta out injured, Arsenal are desperately short of cover in defensive midfield. Diarra, meanwhile, is starring for the French national team.
When Arsenal snatched the diminutive midfielder away from Chelsea in the summer of 2007, it was seen as a major transfer coup.
However, he quickly grew unsatisfied at a lack of first-team football with the Gunners, and pushed for a move to Portsmouth when the January transfer window reopened.
Arsenal should have forced him to stay. Come the summer of 2008, they lost both Mathieu Flamini and Gilberto Silva. Diarra would have been in line to be first choice with the Gunners for years to come.
In the summer of 2007, William Gallas was surprisingly named as the new captain of Arsenal. That was deemed a snub to Gilberto Silva, who had been expected to assume the role having been vice-captain under Thierry Henry.
Within a year, Gilberto was sold to Panathinaikos in Greece. However, he left Arsenal far too soon. When he departed, there was no obvious replacement for his effective screening style. Alex Song was too raw, and his countryman Denilson too short of quality.
Gilberto was a natural leader and ought to have been granted the opportunity to continue to lead a young Arsenal side.
Ashley Cole is not the most popular man at Arsenal. However, few would dispute that he was an outstanding defender.
His move to Chelsea is clouded in controversy, but ultimately the Gunners lost a world-class left-back and homegrown academy product who went on to become a multiple-time Premier League champion. That has to be regarded as a mis-step.
Had Cole remained with Arsenal, he might have become a club legend. Instead, his betrayal means he is loathed by the supporters.