As thoughts turn to the January transfer window, and countless blogs and press stories begin to link us with transfer targets, and link other clubs with our players, I thought I would take a look at 5 recent high profile exits from the club and ask the question whether the grass was, in fact, greener away from the Emirates. And on this basis, its a wonder that anyone thinks spending lots of money on a player is a good idea.
(1) Kolo Toure / Emanuel Adebayor.
A joint entry for Man Citeh's double signings, which saw around £40m being paid to Arsenal in return for their services. Its early days for these two, and perhaps slightly unfair to lump them together like this, since Kolo was a loyal servant who played 225 games for Arsenal, whereas Adebayor was neither loyal nor did he give any air of gratitude towards the Club that put him in the big time. However, in the money rich world of Man Citeh, these two will largely be lumped together, along with the rest of the over-priced dross that Hughes signed. Adebayor had a bright start to the season but has faded fast, and is now relegated to the bench (although who knows what Mancini will think of him), and Kolo is doing his best alongside Lescott, as usual, but the Citeh fans are used to strong defenders who can head the ball, like Richard Dunne. Likewise, after only a few months of watching Tommy V, most Arsenal fans think we look better at center back this year without Kolo. Its been a bit of a struggle for both of them, and as things stand, Arsenal are laughing all the way to the bank with this deal.
(2) Mathieu Flamini
Probably one of the most controversial moves in recent years, the 30 Premiership appearances that Flamini made for Arsenal in the 2007/08 season saw him catapulted into the limelight. Whilst many were shocked at his decision to leave, the money on offer at Milan was apparently two good to refuse. The Flamster's involvement at Milan has been patchy. Whilst 29 appearances in Serie A games last season sounds pretty good, the majority was at sub, or right back. This season is not much better, and his recent outings for Milan are as a late sub in midfield. Similarly, he seems no closer to being a regular player for the France international side. If he had stayed at Arsenal, I would have expected him to make their World Cup side, whereas he must now be an outsider. Arsenal missed the Flamster last year, but Alex Song now looks a more than capable replacement. So if he was still at Arsenal, I am not sure he would be a regular first XI player.
(3) Alex Hleb
This one is much easier. Alex's dribbly no-score routine did not go down that well in Barcelona, and found it difficult to displace some over rated ugly kid from Buenos Aires on the right wing. He made 39 appearances for Barcelona, mostly in the cups, and was an unused sub for the Champions League semi and final, whereas he played both equivalent games in Arsenal's 2006 campaign. The return to Stuttgart in the Summer of 2009 was inevitable to a player who seemed unable to settle elsewhere, although it is technically a loan of the player who Stuttgart sold to Arsenal and can no-longer afford. Would Hleb still be a regular in Arsenal's XI? Almost certainly in my book. Despite being an infurariating dribbly bastard, he was damn good at it. Leaving Arsenal was a bad move for Alex, no doubt about it.
(4) Jose Antionio Reyes
A disaster. Jose left Arsenal for Real Madrid in 2006 ( I can't believe it was that recent) in a doomed for everyone swap deal with Julio Baptista. Never has it been clearer that playing Football Manager was no way to tell Arsene Wenger what to do. Baptista was crap, Reyes did nothing at Real - although he scored some critical goals in their successful 07/08 league campaign, and ended up being signed across town at Atletico Madrid in the Summer of 2007. Jose's first season at Atletico was a disaster and he was sent to Benfica for the 08/09 season, where he also failed to impress. He is now back at Atletico and on the fringes of the team. Jose was a big star at Arsenal and a regular first choice for Spain at the time under Aragones. However, after leaving Arsenal, he did not even get into their Euro 2008 squad and is highly unlikely to be in their World Cup 2010 squad.
(5) Thierry Henry
There can be no doubt that this move went well for TT. I was one of many people who thought that the £17m we took from Barcelona in the Summer of 2007 was too good to be true for a player who had lost his form in a big way since the Champions League Final in Paris in 2006, at which time Henry was one of the best in the world and the subject to several bids reportedly at the £50m mark. However, he proved every one wrong, won his place in the side at Barca ahead of Ronaldinho (who then left in 2008 for Milan) and was a major force in the treble winning Barca side of 2009. Unless Fifa make a mockery of him, he is a shoe-in for the France 2010 side. Handball scandals aside, TT is one of the few examples of a player who has left Arsenal and gone onto bigger and better things. And well done to him.