Players who leave Arsenal don’t normally do very well elsewhere. Will this year’s departures?

By Tony Attwood

Many of our top players leave Arsenal towards the end of their careers.  Some however leave earlier – a thought brought about by events this summer.

But what happens to such players?

I started to wonder this, in reaction to the talk  of players leaving  in the summer of 2011, and the seemingly universal assumption that players like Nasri, Fabregas and the like will do brilliantly well at their new clubs.

Maybe they will, and yet not everyone who has left Arsenal with a bright future has done so well, in recent times.   Here’s four examples…

Flamini was one of those players tipped to have a great future at the club, and the manager was very roundly criticised by the anti-Wenger press and bloggers for letting the player go.  And yet his record at Milan after leaving was not great and he struggled ever to get a place in the first team.  He made 20 appearances last season, and did indeed win the league with Milan, but many of these were as a sub, as has been the case during his three years with the club.

Alex Hleb has stated (July 2009) that his decision to leave Arsenal was a mistake – in fact the biggest mistake of his life.  In his first year with Barca the club won the treble, and Hleb started five games.   He then went back to Stuttgart on loan before going to Birmingham City again on loan.  He has said he would like to remain in the EPL – ideally at Arsenal, but at the moment I am not sure where he will play.  I believe Barca are still paying his salary.

Patrick Vieira

On 14 July 2005, Arsenal took €20 million from Juve for Vieira.    It was however a bad move, not just for the arguments with Zlatan Ibrahimović, but also because Juve were found guilty of match fixing, stripped of their championships and relegated.  Patrick left.

In August 2006 Vieira signed for Internazionale for less than half the fee Arsenal got for him just one year earlier.   Here Patrick was not a regular starter in the team that won the league three times, and became a backup to others.  In January 2009 Patrick started just his fifth match of the season and after the match José Mourinho publicly humiliated the player, saying he had played his last game at Inter.  

Thierry Henry

On 25 June 2007 Henry went to Barce for €24 million.  After leaving he said that uncertainty over the future of Mr Wenger, following attacks on his management style in the press and by press-followers in blogs had influenced him.  He said also, “Because of my seniority, the fact that I was captain and my habit of screaming for the ball, they would sometimes give it to me even when I was not in the best position. So in that sense it was good for the team that I moved on.”

At Barca Henry couldn’t reproduce his goal scoring form and he stated publicly that he was fed up with the club.   Speaking to the BBC he said how much he missed England, although he was top scorer for Barca in his first season with the club.

However after the success of 2009 Henry was deemed a backup player and only started 15 games and the President said Henry could leave.  He eventually signed with New York Red Bulls.

I would welcome some other suggestions of players who have left and done well or badly.  Obviously Brady and Stapleton come to mind – two players who left and not only ripped the heart out of the club but also did well in their new roles.  Who else?

Ideas welcome.

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24 Replies to “Players who leave Arsenal don’t normally do very well elsewhere. Will this year’s departures?”

  1. I love your articles. They usually bring me comfort in dark times, but I have to disagree with you at this time. Your article represents probably the reason why Arsenal is in the “denial” that it is in this period.

    We AKBs seem to want to blame everyone else but our players or coach/manager or selves. Your article looks to me like you are grasping for straws. Let’s look at your list a bit more critically. Flamini, just won the Italian league with AC Milan (please correct me if I am wrong). Alex Hleb, just won the Carling Cup with Birmingham. Before that, he won trophies with Barcelona (albeit on the bench most of the time). Patrick Viera just helped Manchester City win the FA Cup. He was highly instrumental to their success. Thierry Henry won a champions league trophy with Barca. He may not have been as instrumental as he was in Arsenal, but at least he won a trophy. Thierry has nothing to prove to us or to himself for that matter. It’s like saying Messi would suffer if he left Barca, everyone knows Messi’s got it.

    They don’t have to play regularly, they just want to be part of a winning team. That’s the whole reason why we had a lot of players wanting to play for Arsenal in the past. Everyone wanted a part of the invincibles. Players may moan, because they at some point realise that there’s more to soccer than trophies, but try telling that to a skillful player who’s never won one before! It’s human nature, we’re driven by the things we don’t have, and once we have it, we create more targets.

    Arsene has to start setting targets for his players. They have to understand what it is they are playing for. Don’t just play for all tournaments, have a priority set and let your players know. That way they are driven. Once they achieve that, you set a new target. This way, there’s always a reason to stay, there’s always something to play for. Mourinho always aims for the lowest/cheapest/easiest cup in the league, once he moves to a new league. He ensures that his players win something and taste what it feels like to win something. Then the winning mentality is nurtured.

    I feel sorry for Arsenal players these days. You can’t say they’re playing for tradition, there’s no tradition in Ashburton Grove, or as it’s popularly called – The Emirates. You can’t say they’re playing for money, they’re definitely the least paid of the top 4 (or 5 or 6). And you certainly can’t say they’re play for trophies. They used to play the most beautiful football, but they’re now much slower, most of the time overrun by lower table teams. Three seasons ago, I was almost sure that Arsenal would score from the 70th minute. Why? Because at that time they’d have run their opponents ragged with their speed and touch, and they’d be easy pickings. These days, it’s the complete opposite. I’m not a football player or expert, but I love my Arsenal. I love it when they play well (and they can play well when they want to) and I cheer louder (at my TV screen) than any other fan out there, but it’s time to lay the blame squarely on the guilty party – Arsene Wenger.

    No it’s not the board. If the board was not playing ball, as a man of integrity, he should have resigned or taken the case to a higher party. If your players are not showing the spunk that they need to, then you should make the right changes to get them back to life. During the invincibles era, I heard a lot of noise being made about the psychological preparations made before every match in addition to physical. I heard that was instrumental to their success. What now?

    This reply should have been an article of its own. Not sure it’ll be posted, given its length. Hope it does though. Got lots more to write, but I’d stop here. My heart hurts badly enough.

  2. What about Pires And Reyez, they both left Arsenal for greener pasture but they were unable to perform well in their new respective clubs.

  3. To attempt to paint PV4’s post Arsenal career a failure is a joke. He has one at least one piece of sliver ware each and every season since he has left Arsenal. Arsenal have won nothing since he left. Wenger should him to make room for Cesa and that now looks even more short sighted than ever.

  4. Adebayor – rotting in Mancity hell, this is the most recent case that you forgot to mention.

    I have a talent for fortelling, here are my prophecies

    1. Cesc would go to Barca and spend half of the season on bench and next summer we could hear him saying the same old lines that leaving Arsenal was the biggest mistake of my carrier

    3. Clichy would make mistakes after mistakes at Eastlands that Mancini would ponder loaning him to West Ham paying his whole wages

    3. Nasri would find that the grass is not always greener on the other side and would get deservedly punished by gradually moving to the Mancity bench for he would never be able to be consistent and also punished by Him for betraying Wenger and Arsenal

  5. Another example is Jose Antonio Reyes. When he was at Arsenal he was even got a call to play in the Spain national team. He struggled at Real Madrid until he left. Its difficult for him to regain his best form he once had while playing at Arsenal.

    Obviously, Clichy has reduced himself to the subs at Man City. He should have learnt a lesson from what Adebayor has experienced. I dont think Clichy is better than Kolarov. He should forget to play for France just like Flamin, remeber he once played for France when he played at Arsenal also.

  6. I think thats a bit unfair on Henry. He has 1 not bad season and Barca and one brilliant season where he scored something like 28 goals playing on the wing and was very instrumental in their treble winning team that year. Two goals at the Bernabeau in El Classico to boot! Injuries and age caught up with him after that though

  7. Quite wrong Highway. Patrick did not win silverware with Juve – all their trophies were removed and the club relegated to the second division because of their match fixing.

  8. Yes babyhulk, Flamini just won the Italian league. I think I mentioned that (sorry in a rush at work but I will check later – I certainly meant to mention that). But my point with him was that when he left, he left after a superb season, and then had one hell of a time getting into the Milan side. He ended up coming on occasionally for the last five minutes in a number of games, and got a very limited number of starts. I remember him playing in the Europa League side of Milan – he started those matches, but it was very much a reserve side. That’s really my point – Wenger was castigated for letting Hleb and Flamini go, and yet neither was able to secure a place in their selected teams having left Arsenal.

  9. Cashley..
    Anelka went to Real.finally came back to city and now has won things with Chelsea

  10. If the statistics I checked yesterday are correct Flamini had one season at Milan where he only started 1 (one) game.

  11. We have forgot about Toure as well. His success rate is moderate and finally took to drugs. Not sure about Merida.

  12. This is absolutely farcical and superstitious even as consoling as it might be for the fickle-hearted. Its also a big disgrace and disrespect that you mention these guys who gave their all for Arsenal and stretched Arsenal to her *winning* elastic limit. Players come and go, attempts by people like you to suggest that there is no success without being in an Arsenal shirt is quite wrong. At a big-club, players win things because they give their best but when they give their best and don’t win anything, they can leave. How sad is it that two of the best players that played for Arsenal (one her record goalscorer) would not be getting testimonial because the club could not afford them the success and they had to leave. Henry’s CV would not have been complete without the champions league at Barcelona. P.V4 won at Inter Milan.
    When you leave a big team that has achieved some measure of success, you have reached the peak of your career; anything onward is a slide down the ladder. Now that Arsenal are not having players at their peak and selling players just about to peak, these superstition of yours would change and it has already.

    Besides how many players go on to make it after leaving Manchester United. These statistic is not unique to Arsenal alone, it is for all winning teams in the major leagues in Europe; sadly arsenal are falling out of that league too.

  13. What an odd reply Fcast. I am saying this is what happened to these players, and it did happen to them. Next time I’ll look at some more like Ashley Cole who had huge success after leaving, and Adebayor who didn’t. What you write doesn’t distract from the fact that the players I mentioned left, and these events happened to them.

  14. That would be nice. while you are at it, please be very objective.
    Henry’s life after Arsenal was not a failure. Same goes for Patrick. May be they should be on the list of successes like Ashley Cole that you are planning to write because they don’t deserve to be on here.

  15. Emmanuel Petit did all right team-wise, if not stat-wise, at Real Madrid and Chelsea. Marc Overmars was the reverse, scoring a few goals for Barcelona but not getting team success. Sol Campbell and Nwankwo Kanu were two big (and I don’t just mean tall) reasons why Portsmouth won the 2008 FA Cup, the only time they’ve won it since The War.

    Going back a ways, Charlie George went to Derby after their 1975 League title season, and helped them get through a couple of rounds in the European Cup — at a time when ONLY the defending champions of the various national leagues made it. That same season, 1975-76, ex-Arsenal captain Frank McLintock helped QPR to nearly win the League title, the best season in the club’s history. Pat Rice closed his playing career as a part of the one brief shining moment at Watford.

    Seeing what Spurs “stars” have done after leaving might be an interesting study.

  16. I think you missed the point though Tony, it isn’t so much that they haven’t done great elsewhere, the point was, they fitted into the team very well and we let them go. Tactics differ at other clubs, but they were important for us.

    If they stayed, History could have been another story. They worked well in our team. And we replaced them, with fresh blood. We need some foundations.

  17. Tony,why don’t you say the truth as it is.Most of the good players that left Arsenal have won trophies at their various clubs,something they wouldn’t have if they had remained at Arsenal.Lets take a look.VIERA: Leagues at Inter and FA cup at Man city.HENRY:Quadruple at Barca(and his most desired champions league trophy) and at least a trophy per season spent.FLAMIN:League.ASHLEY COLE: Leagues,FA Cups and Carling cups.HLEB:Same as Henry.CAMPBELL and KANU:FA cup with Portsmouth.TOURE:FA cup with Man city.ADEBAYOR: Kings cup with Real madrid. What do all these players have in common?it is certainly trophies!If they had remained at Arsenal they would have been trophyless for 6 years on the trot.If Henry had not left he wouldn’t have won the champions league he had wanted for so long;do u think Henry is regretting his decision of leaving Arsenal now?If all these players all travelled back in time to the time they were about to leave,I believe they would still leave all over again!This is because after their playing days as players is over,the only souvenirs they have for their career are trophies not a philosophy!No wonder Fabregas is willing to take the chance of seating on the bench yet winning trophies over captaining a trophyless side with an inferior wage structure.Trophy winning beats playing time any day!

  18. Just ask Hleb Yj, just ask Hleb.
    About winning the CL at Barcelona and all the other stuff he said later : “I celebrated but it felt not as I had been part of it. It went pass me”. And he called leaving Arsenal the biggest mistake of his live. Despite winning things.

    And if they all had remained at Arsenal who can say we wouldn’t have won things with them?

  19. Yj:

    Your view that players leave Arsenal because they believe that Arsenal will not win things, and they will elsewhere is at best wholly selective.

    To suggest that Sol went to Portsmouth to win something is bizarre – one might say he went there to find a club that was about to go bust.

    And what of Anelka and other players of his kind – he left and so was not part of the ultimate team that went undefeated.

    The notion that players actually know where a club is going assumes pre-cognition, and I am neither superstitious nor religious enough to believe in such things.

    Good luck though with your belief – the notion that players really know what is going to happen next. Quite a thought. I could write a novel on that.

  20. Good point there Tony and Walter,but my fear is that some of our current crop of players will always cite the example of these former Arsenal players that left and won trophies elsewhere as the reason why they should leave Arsenal and do likewise;remember some of them have never won a trophy in their life.

  21. Erm…

    – Ashley Cole left Arsenal and won the premier league and now the champions league
    – Cesc Fabregas left and has won 6 trophies already with Barcalona
    – Samir Nasri left and won the premier league with Man City
    – Gael Clichy left and won the premier league with Man City
    – Emmanuel Eboue left Arsneal and won the Turkish title with Galatasary
    – Alex Manninger left Arsenal and won the Serie A with Juventus
    – Kolo Toure left Arsenal and won the Premier league with Man City
    – Lassana Diara left Arsenal and won La Liga with Real Madrid

    And on and on… But alas I need to crack on and head out. Just a few that sprung to mind

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