Is Wenger’s transfer policy actually as daft as it seems?

In what seems like an annual event, the best player from Arsenal has left the Emirates for pastures new. Robin van Persie will be a Manchester United player on the opening day of the new season after the club’s agreed a £24m fee.

Is Wenger’s transfer policy actually as daft as it seems?

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August 16th, 2012

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For some Gooners, this is yet another sign of Arsenal’s and Arsene Wenger’s lack of ambition – symbolised by a trophy cabinet that has contained nothing but the Emirates Cup since 2005. However, others argue that getting shut of a 29-year-old, who was refusing to sign a new contract and had a chronic injury record is actually not that bad a deal – even if he did carry the entire team by himself throughout the season.

So what’s the deal with Wenger? Does his unique transfer philosophy make him an unlikely genius in the transfer market?

2012: Robin Van Persie (Manchester United, £24m)

The pros: RvP had a year left on his contract and made it clear that he wasn’t going to be signing to stay beyond 2012/13. Under those circumstances, getting £24m for a 29-year-old with a very questionable injury record is not, on the face of it, a bad effort.

The cons: The Dutch striker carried Arsenal throughout the season last term. Of the 74 goals that Arsenal scored in the league last season, he netted 30 and assisted 13. The season prior, van Persie’s injuries effectively ended Arsenal’s title hopes. Selling such a player will do little to quash the criticism that Arsenal’s ambition just doesn’t stack up against their rivals.

Verdict: Too soon to tell but at the moment, the transfer highlights just how large a shadow the club from Old Trafford are casting over the Emirates.

2011: Samir Nasri (Manchester City, £24m)

The pros: He wanted out after being tempted by the riches from Abu Dhabi and being frustrated by a lack of silverware – although that was no doubt partly due to seeing Cesc Fabregas leave just weeks earlier.

The cons: Nasri was an immensely talented player. In his final season at Arsenal, he was nominated for the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and PFA Young Player of the Year awards and was key to Arsenal’s Champions League qualification. At just 24, he was also at the prime age in his career.

Verdict: “They (Arsenal) should celebrate their third-place achievement and I’ll focus on winning titles,” said Nasri after winning the Premier League with Manchester City. How much of that success is down to Nasri is up for debate but the reality is that the moved worked out for City and for Nasri – and not for Arsenal.

2011: Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona, £30m)

The pros: Cesc Fabregas had made no secret of the fact that he wanted to re-join his boyhood heroes.

The cons: He was arguably the most talented player in the Premier League and, as Arsenal captain, critical to the club.

Verdict: Arsenal could have won every trophy for every season and Cesc would still have wanted out. Losing the Spaniard was a blow, but they couldn’t do a thing about it.

2009: Emmanuel Adebayor (Manchester City, £25m)

The pros: His attitude stank. Even if it wasn’t for the lashing out at Nicklas Bendtner, he clearly wanted out at Arsenal 12 months before he actually left and no amount of badge kissing could hide that.

The cons: He was a brilliant idiot, as shown by the spectacular nature of some of the 46 goals scored in his time at Arsenal.

Verdict: Since leaving Arsenal, Adebayor has spent much of his time sitting on benches or enjoying various loan spells. A loan spell at Real Madrid was followed by a season on loan at Tottenham. As things stand, he’s going to be partnering Roque Santa Cruz in the City reserves. All in all, not a bad bit of business.

2009: Kolo Toure (Manchester City, £16m)

The pros: Another player who wanted out, following a bust-up with teammate William Gallas.  Injuries also started to become a problem.

The cons: Toure was, at one point, the longest serving member of the Arsenal squad and often captained the side. He had also established himself as one of the best centre backs in the league.

Verdict: Despite winning the league last season, Toure’s career hasn’t taken off like many expected it would at Man City. A six month ban for failing a drugs test put his career on hold and he’s been reduced to a squad player ever since. He only just made enough appearances to pick up a league winners medal last season.

2008: Aleksandr Hleb (Barcelona, £11.8m)

The pros: A good player? Without a doubt. But was Aleksandr Hleb actually a world beater? No really.

The cons: He did impress during his two years at Arsenal, even if it did take him some time to establish himself in the first XI.

Verdict: After leaving Arsenal, Hleb became very familiar with the Barcelona bench. He played just 19 times in four seasons at the Nou Camp, with loan spells at VfB Stuttgart, Birmingham and VfL Wolfsburg. After a spell at Krylia Sovetov Samara, he’s now plying his trade in his native Belarus. A good deal for Mr Wenger.

2007: Thierry Henry (Barcelona, £16.1m)

The pros: Injuries were starting to show for the then 29-year-old (coincidently, the same age as RvP). A season-ending groin injury in 2006-07, one which Wenger attributed to a gruelling season the year before, led to questions being raised over whether Henry could last much longer in the Premier League.

The cons: Henry loved the club and the club loved him. He was their record scorer and very much the centre in the Arsenal side. His departure left a huge hole in the team.

Verdict: Henry failed to replicate his goal scoring form at the Nou Camp – something that was attributed to him being asked to take more of a wide position in the Barcelona team but reports also emerged that the Frenchman was struggling to adapt to life in Spain. That said, alongside Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto’o, he was part of the most potent attack in Europe (the trio scoring 100 goals between them in 2008-09). Honours came Henry’s way but the emergence of Pedro Rodríguez spelled the beginning of the end. He was transferred to New York Red Bulls but came back to England for a cameo appearance last season.

Was it a good move by Wenger? It’s hard to tell. Arsenal’s trophy record would say no, but there’s no guarantee that Henry would have kept up his form in the more physical Premier League.

2007: Ashley Cole (£5m)

The pros: After being left “trembling with anger” at being offered just £55,000 per week, Cole had to go. An illegal approach to Chelsea, for which he was fined £75,000, was also a pretty big factor.

The cons: He went on to become the best left back in the country – and has the medals to justify that claim.

Verdict: Had Cole been offered a salary that, arguably, was more reflective of his talents, then he may have stayed at Arsenal. Whatever did or didn’t happen, getting £5m for a player of such promise was a disaster for Wenger.

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