Some fans loyal to Arsenal Football Club will be fervently hoping the last couple of days have been a really bad nightmare, most probably caused by something you ate. They'll be hoping that Robin van Persie has not borrowed Fabio da Silva's number 20 jersey at Manchester United. Others will fervently hope that the injuries the Dutchman suffered at Arsenal come back to haunt him.
Whatever the reaction suffered by Arsenal fans, I'm sure you're all feeling sorry for yourselves. You've seen a man who was in such scintillating form last season he made Batman look like his sidekick. He scored thirty goals in the Premier League and a hatful more in Arsenal's cup competitions.
You were, I'm sure, hoping he would backtrack on his statement released on the fourth of July, with the ardent wish that he would commit to a new deal at the Emirates.
Well, don't feel sorry for yourselves. Feel sorry for Arsene Wenger.
The Frenchman has seen some of his Club's best talent leave North London for greener pastures for several years now. Indeed, so predictable has it now become that fans of rival clubs now tell Gooners that new Captain Thomas Vermaelen will be on his way out next season.
Over the last few years, Arsene Wenger has seen the likes of Kolo Toure, Gael Clichy, Ashley Cole, Francesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Emmanuel Adebayor, Robin van Persie and now Alex Song leave Ashburton Grove in pursuit of 'ambition' and 'success'. Alexandre Song seems to also have made his exit from the UK, with Barcelona his apparent destination.
What hurts is not that these players left the Club. What hurts is that these are players Arsene Wenger hand-reared to make them the footballers they are today. What hurts is the manner in which they left the Club. And though there are exceptions to the rule, not many have gone on to win accolades away from the Ashburton Grove. Ironically, had these players stayed at Arsenal, instead of trickling out the exit door, they could've actually won something: a statement that is oft-repeated by fans loyal to the Red and White Army.
While the above statement may not be absolutely true, football is, more often than not, what lies beyond what is immediately tangible.
Yes, Samir Nasri has won the Premier League title (on goal difference), but so insecure is he about his place in City's starting eleven that he takes a jab at Arsenal every now and then. Is he really worth the £25 million City forked out for him last season? As Arsene Wenger says, football rules are made such that a player can be worth a lot today and nothing tomorrow. Nasri seems to be acutely aware of that fact. He may have tasted success on the field, but judging by the way he behaves off it, few will remember what he's done on the turf. His behaviour at the European Championships in Poland-Ukraine was atrocious, and the French Football Federation have handed him a two-match ban as punishment.
Emmanuel Adebayor is now forever on-loan, and it is quite evident that he moved to Manchester only to significantly increase his earnings. Tottenham Hotspurs recently wanted to buy him after he had spent last season on loan there, but he was not willing to take a pay cut to move to Arsenal's hated rivals. As the Togolese himself put it, he was content to earn money while playing on the City bench.
Kolo Toure was once captain of the Citizens, but the arrival of Vincent Kompany has seen him forced out of the starting XI. Toure then took a slimming pill which contained a banned substance (possibly in an attempt to keep himself fit) and tested positive for drugs. Toure was banned for six months, in which time Joleon Lescott had made the centre-back berth his own and Stefan Savic had been signed.
Despite making 14 appearances and winning the league last season, Toure is no longer first choice, and doesn't see eye-to-eye with Roberto Mancini. This was clearly seen when Toure flung his Community Shield winners' medal into the crowd in anger after City had beaten Chelsea 3-2 at Villa Park recently. Toure had spent the entire game on the bench, with the young Savic being preferred to him.
There are many other examples I can provide you with. Arsenal's talisman Cesc Fabregas has failed to win anything of note - with the exception of the Spanish Cup - against Athletic Bilbao. Victory in the UEFA Super Cup, Supercopa Espana and the Club World Cup were expected. Alexander Hleb was frozen out of Barcelona's squad, and today is playing for his boyhood Club BATE Borisov, after loan spells at Birmingham City and VfB Stuttgart and a short stint at Russian club Samara Sovetov. Even today, he regrets leaving Arsenal.
The King of Arsenal, Thierry Henry, like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, was excluded from Barca's plans towards the end of his time with the Catalan giants. Like Zlatan, he was not given an explanation as to why he wasn't featuring for the Camp Nou side. He remained a Gunner for life, though, having returned to Arsenal for a loan spell from New York Red Bulls last season. He has also expressed a desire to join the coaching staff at Arsenal once he retires.
What of Mathieu Flamini at AC Milan? The other half of the Fla-Fa combination at Arsenal, Flamini was third choice behind Massimo Ambrosini and Gennaro Gattuso at AC Milan. He has recently signed a contract extension, but that will see him take a significant pay cut.
Only Gael Clichy has gone about his business quietly. So Ashley Cole to a lesser extent. Because the truth is that Wenger made them who they are today. They would not be capable, proven players who had the audacity to command such high wages had it not been for Wenger. They left Arsenal just as they were about to peak, and have gone on (for the most part) to regret it. Because the truth is, that had they stayed at Arsenal together, their careers would've definitely flourished.
As ex-Gunner Paul Merson puts it, few players leave Arsenal and live to regret it.
First Published On : Aug 21, 2012 14:27 IST